M. SCOTT MORRIS: Camping with the Jaybird



Jay Bell, my good friend from “Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida,” wanted a vacation from 82 degrees in December.

“I need to visit winter,” he said. “It’s my Christmas present to myself, even if I’ll be stuck with you, Morris.”

He had no interest in visiting the house or a hotel.

He wanted to camp.

In December.

More than a decade ago we had a December camping trip, when I packed everything but my winter coat.

I felt like a first-class idiot, but the temperature never dropped below 55. I didn’t need my coat, and the Jaybird borrowed a pair of shorts for sleeping.

“We can do this,” I said.

“Of course, we can,” he said.

We had two months to enjoy the idea of a camping trip. As months and weeks became days, the Weather Channel forecast included rain and freezing temperatures.

I texted Jay Bell: “We need to have a sober conversation about this camping trip.”

We scheduled a phone call, and I told him about the forecast. He asked if I was wearing women’s underpants.

“All right, then,” I said. “That’s how you want to play it? We’re camping.”

“Now you’re talking, little girl,” he said.

When he lived in “Hotlanta,” we often met at Oak Mountain State Park south of Birmingham. A week ago Friday, I picked him up at the Birmingham airport. We headed to Walmart for supplies, then we were ready.

It was like old times, except we’re old. Rain and cold were promised, so we collected as much wood as possible. Both of us have bad knees, but oddly, I was the one stepping in leaf-covered holes.

“That’s because I made sure you walked in front,” he told me later by the fire.

We didn’t exactly rough it. If the gear had to fit in backpacks, they would’ve crushed us to nothing. My car overflowed with everything from a George Foreman grill to the fluffy pillow Jay demanded.

“Got to have my pillow,” he said.

I was tucked into a warm sleeping bag that first night, when Jay Bell’s tent-shaking snores woke me up. He also made weird “mooing” sounds.

“Allie the dog, she does that. Must’ve learned it from her,” he explained.

“Too bad you don’t smell as good as she does,” I said.

We’re too old for winter camping. We know that.

Our muscles, joints and bones ached. Jay Bell threw the tread off one of his hiking boots, and made a “scoot-flap” sound back to the site.

We griped and complained, then griped and complained some more. We called each other names that can’t be repeated here.

All told, we couldn’t have asked for a better time.

He texted this after landing in Florida: “Trip almost surreal. It will grow with the years!”

I’ve no doubt about that because I know how much it’s grown in the past week.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

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