If the weather was going to be cool enough to actually enjoy camping, each person required a sleeping bag or the equivalent and some kind of pad or ground cover to lay it on. There needed to be a tent as well, and there definitely had to be food – nothing foments mutiny faster than a food shortage. A flashlight would have been nearly mandatory and, of course, enough dry, warm clothes to stave off hypothermia. Beyond that, everything else was a creature comfort.
One thing that straddled the fence between comfort and critical, though, was the campfire coffee pot, a huge, mostly-blue enamel number that boiled up a temperate version of liquid courage. Immediately after the tent was set up, work establishing the fire that would serve the camp for the trip’s duration began. Flames would have barely begun to singe the bark on the larger pieces of kindling before the coffee pot was loaded and placed as near to the heart of the blaze as thermodynamics and common sense would allow.
There the pot would stay, being reloaded from time to time, day and night throughout the trip. Temperature control was managed by altering the pot’s proximity to the fire, and how well – or even whether – it was rinsed out depended on how much spare water was available and the urgency of the pot rinser’s need for more coffee. By the latter stages of the trip, the general product’s consistency more resembled asphalt hot patch than anything meant for human consumption, but that was part of the charm.
Because of the uniform lazy nature of boys everywhere, the person on firewood detail always sought to fetch in the largest piece he could move, eliminating the need for further fetching. Each time more such wood was heaved into the fire, then, a dusting of ash went down the spout of the pot as a byproduct. Eventually, due to the thickness of the brew, it would be possible to serve up a steaming cup of goodness topped with smoking embers still somewhat alight.
The pot remains in my family’s possession somewhere and when my son is old enough to embark on real, overnight, outdoor camping, I’m going to make sure it comes along, to percolate courage for me and memories for him. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even rinse it out first.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.