Camping has become an extremely popular activity. Look at any given highway on any given summer weekend and you will see an endless parade of campers, ranging from a tarp and some sticks to luxurious mobile mansions. You could probably walk the entire length of this great land of ours on the roofs of travel trailers.      
    Here’s what I think: you can have them all.      
    I often share this sentiment with my wife, much to her dismay. This is because she actually likes camping. She has even tried to talk me into partaking in outdoorsy outings.  
    “C’mon,” she would say, “Wouldn’t it be fun to experience the Great Outdoors?” I would point out that the Great Outdoors is a farmer’s workspace and that I was already experiencing as much of the Great Outdoors as I could stand.
    “But wouldn’t you like to wake up to a change of scenery?” she might ask. I’d reply that I could rearrange the bedroom while she’s asleep if that would make her happy.      
    How did I come to hold camping in roughly the same esteem as hemorrhoid surgery? To answer that, we must travel back in time to when I was 7 years old and was bitten by the camping bug.      
    One summer afternoon Mom was hanging the wash out on the clothesline. She had laundered bedding, and I couldn’t help but notice how the sheets nearly touched the lawn. With a bit of finagling and some help from a few sizable rocks, I was able to secure a sheet to the ground on both sides. Ta-da! Instant pup tent.      
    By the time Mom came back to retrieve the laundry, I had settled into my new digs. I had pillaged the kitchen, ransacked my bedroom and had lain in a supply of food, blankets and my favorite pillow. I pleaded with Mom to leave the sheet, telling her that the makeshift tent was my new permanent residence.      
    It was glorious to watch the sun sink slowly in the west as I settled into my outdoor digs. But then I began to notice some spooky shadows out in the grove. The same benevolent trees that had been my playground during the day began to look rather ominous. The darker and dimmer the world became, the harder my imagination worked.    
    A peculiar rustling sound reached my ears. Just the wind, I told myself. Or was some deranged axe murderer skulking about, searching for his next victim? And what was slinking around out there in the deepening gloom? That looked a lot like a tiger.     
    I quickly decided that I’d had enough of the rugged outdoor life and headed for the house. I was calmly strolling along when I suddenly noticed that a ravenous wolf was close at my heels. I made a mad dash for the house, shattering the land speed record for sprinting 7-year-olds.      
    I breathlessly burst through the front door of our farmhouse. Only then did I notice that the wolf was our happy-go-lucky farm dog, Skippy. She had thought that we were playing tag.      
    That terrifying experience plus the fact that I had to spend an entire night without my favorite pillow soured me on camping. I didn’t try camping again until I was an adult.      
    My wife, our two young sons and I were visiting my wife’s aunt and uncle in California. We were offered the use of their camper to help save on lodging expenses. By the time it was over, I would wish that we had ponied up for a nice hotel.     
    The travel home wasn’t especially spacious. Its main bed, where my wife and I slept, took up much of its middle portion. Our boys were assigned to a bunk located above the main bed.      
    That evening, my childhood nighttime terrors revisited me. I was snoozing soundly when, without warning, a heavy something-or-the-other whumped me on the chest. My wife was startled awake by my loud OOF. She and I both assumed that I was being attacked.      
    My wife leapt up in alarm, switched on a light and discovered that our slumbering 6-year-old son had rolled off the top bunk. “Good thing you were there to break his fall,” she said. “Otherwise he might have gotten hurt.”
    “Yeah,” I replied, rubbing my bruised sternum.
    The boy didn’t even wake up. The next morning, he was highly embarrassed to learn that he had slept between Mom and Dad.      
    And that’s why I have such a low opinion of camping. Although maybe I would feel differently if I were allowed to bring along my favorite pillow.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.