How a Coleman camp stove became a gift of treasured memories
Dawn and the scent of sizzling bacon in the open air
The other day someone mentioned the old Coleman propane cook stove we used to take camping, and a flood of memories, sounds and scents poured over and through me.
When my kids were growing up, we lived in one of the Rocky Mountain states, and camping was a routine part of our summer. My favorite part of the day was sunrise.
Waking before first light. I couldn't wait to get into the fresh air. Grabbing my boots and a warm jacket, I slipped from the tent to sit in utter silence under the trees.
That early in the morning in the wild country, as the stars faded and first light began to peep over the mountain tops, barely audible sounds shu-shued through the forest--rodents scampering under the pine needles, bigger critters stealthily moving through the brush, and sometimes, the snort of a nearby elk.
Scents of pine and ripe berries wafted across our rustic campground--no running water or amenities there, other than the nearby brook or stream. Sometimes I got a whiff of something wild--coyote, or maybe a mountain lion.
By the time a rounded tip of the sun began to slip above the tallest mountain peak, I had a fire going in the pit, the propane stove running and water boiling for coffee.
One by one the children dragged themselves out, hair all mussed, smelling like wood smoke and sweat, the corners of their eyes crusted with sleep. They gave me limp, half-hearted hugs, stumbled closer to the fire and huddled there, cuddled under a woolen blanket, staring into the flames.
Soon enough, they came to, and I set one of them to stirring up pancake batter from the homemade mix I brought along. Even then--especially then--homemade and fresh mattered.
As soon as the coffee was ready, I put the two-burner griddle on the stove, heated it through and laid the bacon. Oh how it sizzled. And oh, how good it smelled!
By that time, their dad was out, fetching firewood so we wouldn't have to do it after a long day hiking and playing in the river or picking berries.
A thoughtful gift, a treasure-trove of memories
His parents, who had gifted us with the propane stove for Christmas before the second child came, popped out of their trailer, wakened by the smell of fresh-brewed coffee.
"How'd you sleep last night?" "Oh, we slept fine. This new trailer is a gem. You should think about getting one."
That's one reason that little cook stove meant so much to us--because they gave it to us, to make our camping trips easier and to leave us more time for playing in the forest and exploring the granite hills.
It did all that too. No pumping and worrying about whether we could get the stove lit this time. I quickly became a big fan of cooking with propane.
With the bacon crisp and sorted between two warmer plates at the edge of the grill, I let the oldest child pour the batter and flip the flapjacks on one side of the grill while I cracked eggs next to her, so close I could see the dead gnat in her hair, normally dark brown, but summer-sun bleached now to a tawny golden color.
We liked our eggs over easy. While we cooked, she chattered about the fish she caught the day before and how good they tasted last night at supper, and whether we would have the hot springs all to ourselves today.
The littlest one, getting ready to peel oranges for our something-fresh, cried out as she washed her hands in the tub, The water was bitter cold. I know, because I'd washed up there earlier.
Soon enough, she had warmed her hands and peeled the oranges, their citrus scent mingling with pine, bacon and fresh air smells.
"I'm hungry!" Grandpa said, "Let's eat!"
That was my favorite part of the whole day, every day in the woods. It's strange to imbue an inaniminate object with such sentiment, I suppose, but I miss that propane cook stove and all the memories it carried.
This one is pretty much like it, and that is the griddle we used. I can smell the coffee and bacon now!
This looks exactly like my little camping cook stove. It was my first experience cooking with gas, and boy did I love how easy it was.
This is the griddle we carted on all our camping trips.
What kind of camper are you?
If you're a camper or outdoors enthusiast, do share one of your favorite memories. If the outdoors doesn't do it for you, maybe you have another memory you would care to share.