A couple of weeks ago while camping with my grand kids I was introduced, once again, to the concept of the tent.
Not that I slept in one or much less walked into one. I was comfortably situated in my fifth wheel thank you.
But I watched as the kids and others struggled to get the tents they had hauled to the mountains up; you know sorting out all the bars, attachments, loops and rain flies that most of them hadn't seen for the last year since the enclosures were put up the last time.
Their struggles, and my standing back and marveling at others in such a momentous undertaking brought back some good, and not so good memories of my tenting days. But particularly of my first real tent.
Like all kids my first tents were a couple of blankets thrown over some chairs in the living room. It was cool marveling at the colors things turn when you use blue and green blankets and the light filters through them. It seemed safe and secure there, thus my ideas grew that being in a tent was a very safe place to be.
When I was nine years old, I decided that I needed a real tent. My father actually paid me for work I did on the farm in the summers and I had about 40 bucks in my hand as I rode a mile on my bike to Allied Development in Murray. I had seen in the Murray Eagle they had an Army surplus 12X6 wall tent for only $29.95.
The sales guy saw me coming (a nine year old with cash in his pocket). He showed me an example of the tent all set up. It was a real Army tent, green and everything. I happily laid out the $30 plus dollars for it.
Now to get it home. It was rolled up in a box that was about four feet long a foot square. A friend had gone with me and the first thing out of his mouth when we tried to balance it on my handlebars was "Where are the poles?"
I was sure they were inside the box; I mean the thing must have weighed 90 lbs. about 20 more pounds than I did. In those days there were no tents made with the kinds of materials that are available today; they were almost all heavy canvas.
He and I took turns shuttling that tent home. I would lose it off my handle bars, then he would lose it. Luckily it was all downhill riding toward the Jordan River on 6400 South or we never would have made it.
At one point while transporting the box it fell off my handle bars right into the road. An oncoming car darn near ran over it and me trying to save it. The horn on the car displayed the drivers displeasure about me jumping into the road to save my new purchase.
Finally we were home. It was a hot July day and we were both so thirsty when we got home we drank a whole gallon of Kool Aid.
Then it was time to set it up. I asked my mom where we could put it. She looked at the box.
"Where are the poles?" she inquired.
"I am sure they are in the box," I responded. She pointed to a spot behind the garage that used to be my sand pile and was some bare ground.
"Don't put it on the lawn," she said pointing out that my father would not like his beautiful grass killed.
Just as we were opening the box my father showed up. It was 4 p.m. and he always came home for a snack before he went to round up the cows on our dairy farm at 4:30 for milking operations.
"What did you buy/" he asked.
"It's an Army tent, dad," I said. "It's green and everything."
"What did you buy something like that for?" he asked, obviously irritated.
I shrugged my shoulders.
"Where are the poles?" he asked.
I couldn't figure out why this was such a big question on every one's minds. I was sure they were in the box and I said so.
He went in the house.
Finally we did get the box open and pulled out the tent. I unrolled that glorious Army green canvas. I imagined us playing Army and having a real tent. I imagined my friends and I having a sleep out in the enclosure. I imagined camping right in our back yard.
But what I couldn't imagine was the fact there were no poles.
I wondered if we would have to go back to get them; I thought the salesman must have forgot to give them to us. I saw my friend and I taking another ride with long poles in our hands riding happily home.
"It don't think it came with poles," said my friend as he stared down at me as I sat in the grass looking at the directions. "I think they sold you a tent without poles."
In a nine year olds head that was unimaginable. That would be like buying a bike without tires or a board game without the board.
My mother came out of the house and my dad followed her. I told them the tent had no poles.
"They sold you a tent without poles," my dad stated just like my friend had. He got this disgusted look on his face, but I wasn't sure if he was upset with me or the store or both.
My mother went in the house and called the store. The salesman told her that the ad specifically stated that the tents were being sold without poles and to get poles it would be another $49.95. He also reminded her there were no returns once the box had been opened and the tent taken out of the container.
So that was the way it was; I now owned a tent without poles. I had about $7 left. I would either have to wait until I got paid in August or come up with some other idea.
Within the next couple of days my depression left as my friends and I found some old 2X4s and made a center pole and cross beam for the tent. Of course in the construction there were Alpha test failures. Joints came apart and once the cross beam fell and beaned me in the head pretty hard.
Eventually we learned that we could hold it up by tying some of the ropes to a big cottonwood tree that was behind our house. It didn't exactly look like a wall tent, more like an A frame, but for the next three summers we had a great time in that tent, even though I never bought poles for it.
Over the years I owned other tents to go camping, but none hold as dear a place in my heart as that one does.
It was my first, yet imperfect, tent.