We could hear the truck coming up the camp road long before it arrived. An ancient pickup with three men squeezed in on the front bench seat, rumbled past our campsite in the mountains of Tennessee. Through an open window, one of the men gave us a nod and a subtle two-finger wave. The truck pulled a rusty trailer, hand-made from an old pickup bed, with “FORD” barely discernible on the dented tailgate. The bed of the truck and trailer were piled high with boxes, bags, chairs, tables, tarp, and a kitchen stove. They pulled into the campsite next to ours.
From the comfort of our folding camp chairs underneath our trailer’s retractable awning, we had a good view of our new neighbors. The men looked to be a father and two grown sons. They wasted no time to empty the truck and trailer and set up camp. First, they unrolled a large trucker’s tarp, threw ropes over surrounding tree limbs, and hoisted it up to cover the entire campsite. They pitched several small tents under the tarp, creating a little camping village. All three men were needed to unload the heavy white kitchen stove, which they placed in the center of the camp.
A dated Chevy Impala, with missing hub caps, arrived at their campsite about an hour later. Out hopped a handful of excited barefoot kids, who buzzed around the campground looking for adventure. A Lazyboy recliner was retrieved by the men from the open trunk and placed near the stove. From a third car came Grandma, who was gingerly guided with her walker to the Lazyboy, where she sat.
The kids grabbed their fishing poles and headed out to the nearby stream. The men found a variety of chairs and stools to drink a beer or two; the women busied themselves around the stove. And then it started to rain.
The summer monsoon season in Southern Appalachia had begun. The skies turned dark. Sheets of rain drove other campers to find shelter in their trailers and tents. Thunderclaps echoed across the hollow. Trees swayed in the wind, and campfires were quickly extinguished.
Then I caught the scent of frying trout and apple pie. Looking through the downpour, I could see all manner of activity underneath the house-size tarp next door. The women were setting dinner tables, the kids danced around the kitchen stove, and the men had moved on to stronger drinks and cigars. Grandma, still seated in her Lazyboy, picked up a fiddle and began to play; and then it rained for a week.