What turns an evening by the campfire into an unforgettable experience? For me, it takes a forest lake, a chilly night, a crackling fire, lots of friends and family, plenty of hot dogs and marshmallows for roasting and, of course, campfire stories.
Even today, I vividly recall the autumn evenings from my childhood when the "old folks" would tell stories by the fire. After dinner, when everyone half dozed on sleeping blankets around the dying flames, Grandpa Bud would clear his throat and say, "Did I ever tell you the one about . . . ?"
That was the signal: we were in for a fun evening. The best, most memorable stories were the ones that made us gasp and giggle. They usually involved an escaped lunatic/murderer/monster, lots of sound effects and, at some point in the narrative, getting grabbed by the person next to us.
Sometimes, there’d be a blood-curdling scream from Aunt Claire, too, or the hair-raising sight of Uncle Dave, arms stretched overhead, groaning like a creaky coffin lid as he staggered from the underbrush (probably on his way back from taking a leak in the woods).
No, the stories weren’t great literature. Some of them were downright silly and others didn’t make much sense, but they were fun. And they were a great way for us to relax by the fire after a long day of boating and fishing on the lake.
If I didn't replicate those campfire evenings with my own family, I would miss them. It’s lucky for me that I don’t have to. Instead, these days it's my turn to lean back against a log, stretch my feet in front of the fire and say, "Did I ever tell you the one about . . . ?"