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HomeNL-2016-06 My Camp

My Camp
No-one at the VA hospital has ever asked before, about my struggle. I’m here for my meds - I’m not here for administration. 

Not just me: a lot of people don’t like sleeping under roofs. A lot of people slept under canvas when they were deployed, and they won’t sleep under canvas. Or tin. I don’t like tin or canvas
 
If it rains you just pull your wet blanket over your head and the raindrops don’t hit as hard. You can sleep wet if you’re sleepy. And a good thing about me, I can sleep on an empty stomach. “As long as I have water,” I used to say.
 
Yeah my camp got flooded out by the December rains. And then the January rains. And then the March rains. 

Yes well if you must know my camp was up northeast of Houston in El Franco Lee Park between the San Jacinto River and a line of coves called Big Eddy. The coves were hitched to the river at only one spot. If you went way back, poked through some low brush and looked real close, you might find my camp. 
I took a long time building that camp and I had it the way I wanted it.

I rigged up a hammock out of a couple ropes, plastic sheet and blankets. Nothing over my head but waving tree branches.

Next thing I did is haul in some black plastic fencing with holes in it from a construction site, and made a perimeter fence. Maybe 30 feet in diameter inside the fence and then I had a folding chair and some stones for a fire. 

Most of the time I just came home from a long day and went to sleep in my hammock. But then I got my camp so nice that sometimes I just sat in my chair, watching. 
 
Snakes are part of nature, and if I wasn’t tromping around, they’d slither through holes in the fence on one side, crawl across my camp and go out the fence on the other. The biggest snakes are water snakes. They can bite pretty good but they aren’t poisonous. Poisonous snakes don’t bite as hard. Snakes are part of nature. 

I’d see squirrels, armadillos, raccoons, deer and nutria and near the river I’d see alligators but I didn’t go over there much. My plastic fence came to be kind of camouflaged by dirt and spanish moss, and I’d stay inside of it. Pigs are part of nature, but I wanted pigs outside. Me in camp.

I brought food back there sometimes and had a fine time, luke-warm hamburger right out of the bag, and then throw the bag over the fence. Plates and forks are administration. I didn’t show anybody where my camp was. You show somebody where your camp is and they start bedding down there sometimes, then your stuff starts moving around and you can’t ever find it. I was married once, when I came back from overseas.

I’d lay in my hammock and think about what would happen if I got myself a fishing rod and a boat, and caught fish and ate them. I also thought about what would happen if I found a rifle somewhere and could shoot a deer. I’d have to get a cooler to keep all that deer meat, ice. Ice is administration though.
I was down a little ways from my camp one time when two guys walked up to it who must’ve landed their kayaks on the river. I guess they figured if they couldn’t see anyone, no one was around. They climbed over my fence and looked all around in there, talking it over. They went through my clothes, and one of them tried out my hammock. They didn’t find anything they wanted. Before they left one of them pissed on a parka I had.

I’ve slept in the smell of piss many times in my life. You can’t hurt me with piss. Piss is part of nature. 

The big December rain wasn’t much good for my camp. 

I saw a headline the rain was coming, and didn’t go back to my camp. Then for about five days I couldn’t get in there. And then when I got back to it, the fence was still there, and my hammock was still there, but all the stuff I’d gathered was washed up against the downstream curve of the fence. The clothing wasn’t good anymore so I just left it as part of the camouflage. 
In January it rained again just the same kind of heavy and what little replacements I had gathered ended up in the fence. I’d found a new parka and so there were two parkas in the fence and my other pair of pants. 

The third time it rained hard I wasn’t expecting it, March. I was in camp. The river rose and rose and I was living on a little lump of land with just my camp. Snakes, water snakes but also a couple poisonous ones inside the fence and a family of pigs stuck outside the fence snorting. I saw this wasn’t going to work so I walked and waded out of there and walked out through El Franco Lee Park. The pigs and snakes and so forth didn’t give me any trouble. Part of nature.

I think the March rain washed my camp away completely and I haven’t gone back. It was a pretty nice place but three times being flooded is too many times being flooded even for someone who lives outside. 

Yes I still live outside now. There’s administration if you go to a shelter.

I wouldn’t call it a struggle though, if that was what you’re asking. Floods is part of nature. You need to live with the flood or get away from the flood. That’s the two ways of living in nature.

Administration you don’t have to accept. Nature is what you have to accept. I don’t call it struggling, against nature.
 
 
by David Portz
May, 2016


The author, David Portz