There should have been a picture of my very first campfire here, but my scanner has moved on to the greener pastures of technological death.
A campfire may not seem like much, but there was hella lot of aggravation involved in its creation. In 1998, I was a single mother of a beautiful and terribly precocious four-year-old daughter. (Who is still very beautiful and precocious. But now she is 13 and I'm oft inclined to spit and roast her because precociousness just isn't very amusing on a 13 year old who thinks I am an idiot. However, I digress.) 1998 was the year we went camping with my best friend and her three year old son who was very handsome and also very precocious. If you ever put two terribly precocious small children in a car for a five hour joy ride, then that's a whole lot of precociousness in a very small space and never enough Valium to go around.
At that time, my best friend and I were right tight. Our kids played together, we went out together and over that summer we lived in her Mimi's lake house. We were both decidedly manless and were women set on conquering the world. We didn't need no stinkin men! Men were hell! Men were useless! They didn't help with kids! They couldn't keep jobs! Or they were dead! Let's go camping!
At the time, camping seemed like the logical thing to do when you were setting out to prove women could do everything men could do a million times better. We were mostly right in the assumption. Except for the campfire.
We set up camp in a light rain the first afternoon we arrived. Or maybe I set up camp because I was much more anti-man and infinitely determined to prove I was just as handy as any testicled-being. I taught my friend how to lay old blankets on the ground to absorb some of the moisture before setting up the 6000-pound 8-man tent I'd borrowed from my parents. Then we created a windbreaker and a porch-of-sorts from the plastic canvases we'd purchased from the evile, world-dominating Walmart.
After putting our things away in the tent, there was really nothing left to do that evening. Except build a campfire. No camp is complete without a fire and I wasn't about to let my camp be outcamped by those mancampers around us. Hell no. Of course, we didn't bring firewood with us on a five hour trip to go sleep in a dirty tent in the rain, but that was okay because the camp store gladly offered firewood for a relatively low price. I purchased my wood and set about creating my little campfire. I cleaned all the debris from the previous fires created by mancampers, arranged my little fire rocks in a nice circle and set up my firewood in a nice stack that I deemed to be worthy of a woman campfire.
Now in truth, I'd never really played with fire of any kind before other than the bic lighter necessary in lighting my cigarettes. My house burned down when I was 17 and I'd always been a little cautious in dealing with fire. But I wasn't about to let a little psychological disturbance stand between me and the perfect campfire. I gathered up a few pieces of pine straw that had managed to stay dry through the summer shower and twisted them up into what I considered a nice, tight little bundle. (I'd learned this bit of a trick from my Little House on the Prairie books when I was seven and had filed it away for future reference.) I lit up my little straw bundle and placed it under my stacked firewood and waited with all the confidence of a 22-year-old woman who knew everything.
When that bundle didn't work out, I lit three more bundles and strategically placed them under and in my firewood and blew gently. When I'd worked my way up to 8 bundles of pine straw, a few pieces of scrap paper and an empty toilet paper roll, my friend suggested I should ask the guys across from us how they started their fire. I gave her a firm, but polite, grunt and a"hell no" and went about my business of Creating Fire. There is something very neanderthal about Creating Fire and I found myself in favor of protecting my fire and my fire-starting secret. Except I had neither a fire nor the secret to creating fire. Yet, nearly every campsite around me had a fire. What in the hell were these idiots doing that could possibly be smarter than my pine straw bundles learned especially from Pa Ingalls? WHAT?
Some 45 minutes later, with our young and terribly precocious children waiting with their bag of marshmallows and straightened coat hangers, I swallowed my very unevolutionary pride and walked to a campsite just across from us.
"Hey, uh, so how did you start your fire?"
And that is when I learned about Magic Fire Sticks.
This guy, with all the calmness of an experienced fire starter, pulls out this . . . thing and told me he used it to Create Fire. In all my years of camping as a child, no one had ever shown me this Magic Fire Stick. I knew from its magnetic pull and the special glow of the yellow and red greasy paper wrapping the Magic Fire Stick that it had to be very special.
This Master Fire Starter explained to me that the Magic Fire Stick was a quick way to create the perfect campfire and walked with me back to my own cold, dark and miserable camp to show me how it worked. He showed me how to stick the Great and Mighty Magic Fire Stick under my little logs and light it. I Had Fire. Then he left me with my very own Magic Fire Stick for later use.
My friend clapped in giddy delight over the Magic Fire Stick as I calmly filed it away for future reference. Never again would I be fireless. This man, this fellow compatriot of humanity, had shown me the light. While I was still pretty anti-man for some months after that, it gave insight into my own stubborn attitude and I spent some time marveling over how I have spent my entire life determined to never ask for help, spending hours, day, weeks, or even months proverbially creating useless straw bundles to prove myself right when all I really had to do was admit I was wrong and let some guy give me a Magic Fire Stick.
That sounds a bit dirty rather than thought provoking.