Campfires

Campfires

Andy Dear | Sunday, 17 November 2019

The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness.
---Henry David Thoreau

  November in Texas is a beautiful season. It's cool enough to make life interesting, but not so cold as to want to make you stay inside. Although we probably could have started earlier, tonight will mark the first campfire of the fall season here at our house. These days we have a fancy metal outdoor fire pit with legs and a screen top. However, my time spent around campfires hasn't always been so gentile.


  Back in the mid-1980s, my parents owned a 5-acre parcel of land about 40 miles north of San Antonio. It was raw and undeveloped, and back then considered fairly isolated. As luck would have it, my favorite Bass fishing hole was also conveniently situated about 3 miles down the road. For a period of about five years, I probably spent more time Bass fishing in the afternoons at that lake, then around campfires in the evening on that land than I did at home around the dinner table with my family.


  If my memory is correct, my buddies and I went through at least three or four different campfire rings throughout our time spent there. At one point we had a ring that would contain a borderline bonfire. Adjacent to it was a large above ground rectangular cooking pit that we constructed out of local limestone rocks. It was a beautifully rugged, yet sophisticated set up that allowed us to eat, drink and celebrate the days angling experiences in a primitive but no less profound way.


  Our culinary fair usually consisted of grilled skirt steak and peppers cooked over an open flame and served Tex Mex style in flour tortillas with salsa or Pico de Gallo. Pinto beans and Spanish rice almost always flanked the tacos to round out our south Texas redneck cuisine. On more than one occasion we camped overnight, so the open-air grill served double duty to cook breakfast as well as lunch and dinner.


  On those extended stays I would break out the cast iron dutch oven my grandmother had given me before she passed away, and slow cook a large pot of venison chili over the fire. I cant speak for the rest of the world, but in my opinion, there is absolutely nothing in North America that touches a breakfast consisting of fried eggs cooked over medium, then smothered in venison chili and sharp cheddar cheese served with a fresh cathead biscuit (with honey of course) and campfire coffee. In my personal case I like to follow it up with an early morning pipe to watch the sunrise and contemplate the days activities.


  The point of this is to say that the meme above is correct. We've lost our connection as a species to all of the benefits that a contained open flame provides. In addition to safety and security, and a way to prepare sustenance, it also provides a unique environment for members of the tribe to come together and bond in a way that simply isn't possible any other way. The world would be a much better place if we all spent less time gazing into our smartphones, and a lot more time gazing into a campfire.


Hope you all have a great week,


Andy