Summertime Camping and Dandelion Wine

I turned 13 that summer. It was the most glorious time of my life. It began the day after school got out. Papa had us load up all our belongings into a trailer which he drove to his sisters house. Then we loaded up a tent, the pots n pans and enough clothes for a week and headed up into the mountains.

Papa found a camp ground out in the national forest near a pond. It was a special campground, set back deep in the woods down an old dirt logging road. I had never been to a campground like this. Normally you had other families around you. Our camp site was seclude and special. I felt as if we were pioneers out in the wild.

Each morning Mama made breakfast over the fire and we would explore our forest kingdom. Papa would head off to work in our old station wagon. During the day we would swim in the pond and catch fish for our dinner. As the sun sank behind the mountains Papa would come home from work. We would all sit round the camp fire as Papa told tall tales and Mama sang songs.

One day, Tess and I slipped down the highway to an old barn we had found earlier that week. Inside we found some dusty old bottles of dandelion wine. The taste was awful and the headache the next morning was worse. But Papa’s tales around the campfire never seemed so magical. I think mama knew, but she just smiled her special smile and offered us another serving of campfire potato stuff. Tess and I valiantly held down a second serving for as long as possible. Then we ran off to the bushes to lose it all.

I could tell the days that passed by our Saturdays. Mama would take our clothes into town to be washed and we would shower at the YMCA. On Sunday we put on our Sunday best and went to the local church. Papa, with hat in hand and head bowed in prayer, counted his blessing and tithed as the good book told us.

The potluck lunch would follow. Mam always brought turnovers baked on her iron skillet over the fire, stuffed with wild berries picked during the week. They were the hit of the potluck, people wondering at the authentic taste. We would stuff and gorge ourselves like ticks. The church folks always made sure we had a few baskets of left-overs to bring home with us. We loved Monday and Tuesday lunches and dinner because we didn’t have to eat fish or the wild game Papa caught.

It was the best summer of my life. I didn’t realize until I was much older that we had lost our home when Papa lost his factory job. He had gone off to the logging camps to work that summer and we were squatting on government land. I never knew we were poor. I never knew we were homeless. I just thought I was the luckiest girl in the world.

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Written based on a prompt

The only rule: start your story with the above sentence.
Take it Away, Tuesday :I turned thirteen that summer.
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