By Julie Ballard and Mitzi Brabb
It was the summer of ’82 and the Boles family was headed for the woods, attempting to build on the memories of past camping trips. Once again, we were headed to River Rest Campground, hoping for more adventures of the type our family had enjoyed there in past years. River Rest was located close to the forlorn town of Washington, California, and as the name suggested, it rested along a river… though the river hardly rested. The swift current was perfect for tubing, and eventually lead to a quiet swimming hole, just right for cliff diving or lazy picnics. A short hike a few miles downstream brought us to our secret place; it was truly the heart of joy of our youth. The woodsy, tropical lagoon was nestled amongst small caverns and ferns. Surrounding the lagoon were unique rock formations that, through years of erosion, had created incredible natural water slides. Here, we would wear ourselves out, refusing to leave until we could only barely handle the wearisome trip back to camp, or until we were kicked out for trespassing on private property! Either way, we had Mom to contend with upon returning late to camp. Julie, being the eldest, was a master at working that situation. Her younger brother and sister would remain silent and let her do all the talking. Mom’s anger never lasted long. It was as if she was reminded of her own exuberant past, living vicariously through our adventures. Hoping, in fact, to be included in the next one.
Nighttime entertainment included swing dancing in the campground square, and guitar solos by the campfire, accompanied by mom singing Kumbaya unbearably off key. But the best moments from that summer vacation were the quirky little episodes, the most memorable of which is certainly the Porta-Potty debacle, starring Julie, Mom and little sis. At that time, the most convenient outhouse was located on top of a grassy hill, just up the road from camp.
Unfortunately for Mom, she happened to be making use of that particular John at a time when her children were keen on making practical jokes. It seemed like such a good idea at the time… Julie, having only recently gained possession of a drivers permit, would back our truck against the door of the facilities currently being used by Mom. Her younger sister, eager to be in on the fun, would do her best to navigate. Mom, of course, was furious. It was unpleasant enough to be stuck in there for a few seconds, but imagine her despair upon the realization that the door wouldn’t budge. From her shouts, it was clear that this joke was over. One problem. Julie, who had effortlessly backed the truck into position, couldn’t get the gears to work to move it forward. When Mom realized the seriousness of the situation, she certainly let us know! She was pinned in a potty on the side of a hill, listening to her inexperienced daughter grind the gears of her truck, never knowing when she might throw it in reverse and send the potty tumbling down the hill! She quickly made it clear, and in no uncertain terms, that we were to quit attempting to move the truck. We scrambled out and headed down the hill looking for help. Luckily good old Jim came to our rescue. He was a local man, a little slow on the uptake, but always quick with a smile. We had always been a little leery of crossing his path, but in this dire moment, with Mom in desperate need of a breath of fresh air, he swiftly got the truck in gear and freed her. We were forever grateful to him.
Mom never forgave us for that little stunt, but we did catch her laughing about it some time later. She wasn’t the type to hold a grudge. She also wasn’t the type to “take any crap” so to speak. Hopefully our children don’t yield to similar impulses during their practical joke years! Karma can be a dangerous thing. All that we can say is God bless you Mom!