As we grew older carefully constructed lectures prevailed. Originally they were parable in form. The infamous "Fran and Nan" stories where a description of each character was provided along with a specific incident after which the following question was posed, "And who do you think loved her mother the most?" Fran was a spiteful mean child whereas Nan was loving and kind. (Probably the reason no child of ours will ever be named Fran in any way shape or form.) We knew to answer, "Nan, mom." And then the ultimate question and the reason for the story, "And which one are you?” to which the answer was equally as obvious, "Fran, mom."
These Fran and Nan stories always resembled the incidents for which we were being disciplined. It amazed me that these two girls could possibly have been through the exact same situations as we.
And situations we had!
In the late 60's my parents purchased a camper that nested into the bed of the truck and extended out over the top of the cab. It came complete with stove, oven, refrigerator, and closets with ample storage space for food, clothing, and camping supplies. The couch/dining table combination sat four comfortably and could made into a bed at night where my parents could sleep. A wooden sliding door partitioned the top bed off from the rest of the living space. Kathie and I could lie up there and look out over the road as we went on our family excursions. The only thing it lacked was a toilet.
Our first adventure in our new camper was a weekend trip to Shakamak State Park, 60 miles away. Close enough for a weekend trip, but far enough away to acquire a true "trip experience.” Shakamak (Kickapoo Indian for “river of the long fish”) sounded so fascinating. There were two lakes, a swimming beach complete with diving tower, and a saddle barn!
That Friday evening we loaded up the camper. Kathie and I took our positions looking out the window above the truck cab and off we went. Dad decided to stop on the way at a hardware store in Oolitic to pick up a few necessities on the way. It was the stores Grand Opening. "Free Pepsi" the sign beckoned.
"I bet Mom would like one of those," I said to Kathie in a rare moment of Nan-likeness. "I'm going to get her one." Kathie decided she wanted one as well. The store was full of people. I wove my way around, past Dad, over to the Pepsi (which was of the fountain variety), and waited to be served. When I got my two over filled cups I headed back to the camper, Kathie close behind. I was about ten feet out the door when I saw the back end of the camper as it was leaving the parking lot. I yelled, but they couldn't hear me.
"What are we going to do?" Kathie asked.
I thought for a few minutes.
"Well, we're not far from Aunt Marie and Uncle Harvey's," I said. "Let's walk to their house." It was only a half a mile walk up the hill.
This would have been an excellent solution to our predicament had they been home. We sat on the porch and waited. The sun started to go down.
"When do you think they'll realize we're gone?" Kathie asked.
"I don't know, " I said. "Let's walk down to Mawmaw's before it gets dark." (Mawmaw was our father’s mother.)
Mawmaw Hillenburg's was a three-mile walk down a steep road, across a wooden bridge at Salt Creek, through the flats, and over into "Spine Cob" (also known as East Oolitic).
I was relieved to see the light on in her living room. Imagine her surprise when she answered the door and saw her two young grand daughters standing alone, unaccompanied by their parents.
“Where’s your folks?” she asked.
“They left us,” we answered.
"Well then, I guess you’d better come in,” she said. We went into the details over glasses of “Big Red” cream soda and a bag of store bought cookies.
On the other end, my parents weren't aware of our absence until they arrived at Shakamak later that night. After parking at the campsite they entered the camper. Their initial thought was that we had fallen asleep, but when mom opened the sliding wooden doors she realized we weren’t there! They began going back over the trip in their minds. They had stopped several times to ask for directions because of construction detours. What if we had gotten out in a strange place? How would they find us? They jumped back in the truck and retraced their steps.
In the meantime, grandma began calling our house every half an hour or so. Late that night she was able to reach them and explained what had happened. By now we were fast asleep from hours of looking at old family photographs as Grandma carefully explained each person in detail.
They picked us up the following morning.
"How did you feel when you watched the camper pulling away?" mom asked?
"Well, " I said, "I drank one Pepsi . . . and then I drank the other."
"But, how did you feel?" she repeated.
"I felt, why waste a perfectly good Pepsi?"
I wasn't the type of kid to be frightened by such situations. The World was a friendly place to me. Things had a way of working out in the end.
That Saturday afternoon we were sitting in the front yard laughing about the events of previous night.
"Too bad we have to waste a perfectly good weekend," Dad said. We all agreed. Within the hour we had packed everything back in the camper and were on our way to Shakamak again as if nothing had happened.
This episode did serve one purpose. Not long after, Dad installed a telephone hook up between the truck cab and camper. Whenever we stopped some place they would "ring us up" to make sure we were there in the back before leaving.