Tent Living

In the late spring, summer and early fall of 1979 I lived in a Coleman tent with my father and our Irish Setter.  This was when we first began building our log house.  Living in the tent allowed us to get up early each day and finish the day’s work as the sun set.

This was the same tent that we used to camp with every weekend when the family lived in Great Falls, Montana.  Lovingly cleaned and put away by my father we were still able to use it 10 years later.

This photo was taken by Dad the summer before we began work. That summer we spent camping on both sides of the property. The campsite is on what we called the “backside” of the property. 

After seeing both sides during the winter though, Dad said we were going to build on the other side because of the southern exposure. Even though this was the prettiest side and was next to the water. 

When we began work, Dad pitched the tent downhill from where the house would one day stand on the other side of the mountain from this photo.  He explained as he unrolled the tent that he chose this particular location to maximize the coverage of shade as the sun moved through it’s daily route in the sky.  After the tent was up and staked, Dad got out his military issue folding shovel (one with the shovel and pick axe that could be positioned in multiple ways).  He then dug a little trench in front of the tent door (which faced uphill) and around the sides.  The trench would ensure that any rain that fell would be directed around the tent instead of flowing under it.

For the fire pit in front, Dad used a much larger shovel and I took my turn too.  We saved any rocks we came across and used them to ring the fire pit.  Dad wanted it big so that we would have plenty of space for a large fire.  Placement of the fire pit was also part of his planning for the tent placement such that the fire pit would not be under any trees.

Next it was time to make the latrine.  Dad and I headed off into the woods a short distance from the tent, but far enough away for privacy and dug out a hole.  The hole was dug behind two trees that were about 4 feet apart.  At the time I didn’t pay attention to this placement, but it became clear when the hole was completed and Dad cut down a tree and nailed it to the other two trees crossways to provide a place to rest your butt.  Got the visual now?

On weekends, Mom and Jen would bring baby Charlie out and we would all camp on the property.  Filling the tent to capacity.

Mornings we would often unzip the door of the tent only to startle deer as they grazed in the meadow. Dad pointed out the path that they had worn through the woods as they came so often over the years.

At night we would let the fire die down and as we fell asleep we heard coyotes in the distance howling their messages across the valley.

Not every day was a work day. Some days Dad had to drive to Denver to pick up building supplies. On the days that I didn’t go with him, I was left a mental list of things to work on. Sometimes these were tasks to work on for the house like skinning the logs, or gathering rocks. Other days I had basic camp chores such as gathering wood and water for the next few days.

No matter what I had to complete, I always worked hard to get the tasks done early so I had the afternoons off. Many were the hot afternoons spent in the shade of an Aspen tree, absently swatting horseflies and turning the pages of whatever Sci-Fantasy novel I was enjoying at the time.