Daddy's Camp Stove
Peaceful camping memories feed reader's body and soul.
Shelby Lee Oppermann, Mechanicsville, MD
One of my father's most treasured possessions was a portable propane stove. And from that stove came some of my most treasured memories of him.
Our family owned a half acre of land at Maryland's Golden Beach in the late 1960s and early '70s. To reach it, we'd hike down a well-worn path. Daddy would set up the stove, along with a small aluminum table and two lawn chairs, right in the center of our plot. It was my job to pull sassafras roots from the ground, and his to boil them slowly into tea. Even today, I think nothing compares to the scent of sassafras tea brewing!
I'd walk through the neighborhood and visit one of the three nearby beaches on the Patuxent River. Meanwhile, Daddy would relax under the trees in his lawn chair, taking advantage of a few quiet moments to read a book. When I tired of exploring, I'd return to find Daddy grilling us hot dogs and heating up a can of pork and beans—a truly delicious feast.
But even when we were at home, that stove got a workout. Daddy would set it up under our large oak tree out back and boil up those sassafras roots at dusk, just when the fireflies were starting to light up the night. I'd sit in the sand at the base of the tree, making little roads for the ants to travel. Daddy would lie in his hammock, just enjoying the quiet. Then we'd each have a cup of sassafras tea, drinking it very slowly.
Although I lost my father when I was just 18, he left to me his love of trees and solitude. Whenever life's responsibilities threaten to overwhelm me, I recall those summer and early fall evenings with Daddy.
And just like Daddy and I used to do, I visited parks with my sons when they were small, teaching them to enjoy the tranquil beauty of nature.
Though we no longer own the property, I still visit Golden Beach. There, and on every walk through a park, I feel Daddy's presence, and a sense of comfort that makes me smile.