Old School


Ashley and I will be moving shortly and we've already begun the process of digging out old junk from every dark corner and closet where it has remained since the last move. It's a judgement day for all manner of items to determine if they still retain enough value to be packed and loaded onto the truck, or if over time, should be banished to the dumpster. Books on how to pick up women, throw out. Novelty Smoking Monkey received as a gag gift at the office Christmas party four years ago, that's a keeper.

One of the many items that most definitely will be making the move is a plastic file box with all of my collected writings since high school. Honestly, it's embarrassing some of the stuff I have in there. Actually, all of it is. I think I kept it in the false hope there would be some hidden gem that someone from the year 2075 would find in their astro-attic. The discovery would either posthumously confirm me as one the greatest romantic poets/writers of the last century, or prove to future scholars their theories that America's education system started to fall apart in the late 1980's and 90's eventually plunging the planet into apocalyptic destruction.

Every time I sift through this box, which contains mostly old homework, scattered journal entries and original poetry, I read through it and evaluate it's place in the history of the written word. And that place should be in tucked away in a little Rubbermaid file box under the stairs or in a forgotten closet. The school work is at least tolerable, but the poetry and journal entries are so stomach churning the producers of Fear Factor have requested they be read as part of an event to weed out contestants on the show.

I briefly flirted with the idea of sharing a snippet of the poetry, but I don't think I can inflict that kind of trauma on the general populace - not in an election year anyway. Instead, after many beers, I convinced myself that posting an autobiographical essay from my sophomore writing class might not too bad. So here it is, my 698-word story called "Camping Out" in it's original and unaltered text.

Camping Out

Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill and men such as these - men who were rugged, outdoorsy, and adventurous - always inspired me in my boyhood. Any reading material I could find, I would devour like a vulture picking at the carcass of a dead animal. Sometimes I would even try to imitate their heroics, only, when you're twelve, they're not called heroics; they're called antics.

One of these antics found my cousin Mike and I planning a camping trip in the woods behind our houses. Just he and I under the same spacious expanse of nighttime sky as Davy Crockett once did. However, when the day came, my illusions of a star-filled night were dashed by the simple reality of rain. But that didn't stop me.

I'm sure Daniel Boone spent many a night in the rain. He didn't just call everyone together and say, "Gosh, guys, it's really raining out here, and my moccasins are getting wet. Let's stop working on this here trail." If he had the Wilderness Road might not have been completed.

Although reluctant at first, Mike agreed with my reasoning, and we set out on our expedition. The rain had ceased, only increasing my vigor. After tramping over rather drenched terrain, we found a suitable spot and set up camp. An hour latter we figured we were pretty hungry.

To remedy the situation, Mike chopped (or clubbed) down a small maple tree with a hatchet that wouldn't have held a candle to a sterling-silver butter knife. He then began a fire. I meanwhile, pulled out a can of Campbell's mushroom soup, and read the directions for preparation, which were rather simple except for the required cup of water.

Dumping the can's contents into the pan, I mulled over this slight perplexity, and then as if a light had been turned on, it came to me. Without my cousin's noticing, I dipped the empty can into a nearby puddle, filled it up, and dumped it into the concentrated soup. When the soup looked as if it was ready, my cousin and I divided our dinners between us and commenced to eating.

After a few sips of his soup, Mike asked in a rather unconcerned manner where I had gotten the water for the soup, and I replied in the same casual manner, "from the puddle." My cousin abruptly offered his soup to me. This was rather unusual for him, especially when he has never refused food before, and has even eaten food meant only for animals.

Sometime later, Mike stated that he felt a wiggling sensation in his stomach and attributed it to the mosquito eggs in the water that I had put in the soup. Next he suggested we should spend the rest of the evening at his house. I must admit that the whole situation was beginning to wane in interest for me. Both of us trekked to his house, ate a hot meal, and played video games. I'll bet Buffalo Bill would've loved Space Invaders.


Attached to my story was the grading slip from one of the best teachers I ever had - Miss Phillips. The scoring was divided into two parts, general merit and mechanics. On merit (ideas, organization, wording, flavor) I earned a 29 of a total 30 points. However, for the mechanics (usage, punctuation, spelling and, get this, handwriting), I received a 12 out of 20 possible. I also lost 3% for something referring to a "repetitious sentence." Added together, it was a B minus, which for me, was a stretch. At least she remarked that it was funny. That's what I was going for.

As long as I retain this box of collected works I never have to worry about having an inflated ego.

Anyone else still have their old writing assignments out there?

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