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  • J. F. Rowan

Being A Good Neighbor


We recently visited our 9th Texas state park, Cap Rock Canyons. For the most part, it was a great experience. Seeing wild Bison meander through our camp, listening to the coyotes call at dusk, the chatter and antics of dozens of prairie dogs as they go about their day keeping their town in order. We hiked almost every day and sometimes biked in between. So much to see and do and it was always nice to retreat back to our campsite nestled among the juniper and mesquite. We could unwind and relax with our favorite beverage. Or could we?

Bison on the move, even through camp. Caprock Canyons State Park, TX

When you camp anywhere, there are rules and laws. Most of us are all adults and I don’t think I need to explain why there are rules especially in a setting such as a campground. We all want to have fun, a good time and relax. Without rules, ultimately things run amuck and someone gets hurt, or worse. Speak to any state or national park ranger and they’ll be the first to tell you that when someone gets hurt, it’s usually because someone was not abiding by some of the rules or park policy. And the weekend seems to be the time when rules get tested and bent the most. And who are these people that seem to be the culprits? I call them the “Weekend Warriors”, those campers that arrive on Friday (usually in a group) and then leave Sunday morning. Now granted, not all campers that arrive on Friday and leave on Sunday fall into this genre, but the ones that do really really stick out from the rest.

Let’s use “Bob” as an example. Bob arrives on Friday with his tribe and two dogs. After getting his trailer squared away, he ties both his dogs to his picnic table and heads across the street to visit the rest of his pack who arrived earlier that day. The larger dog, noting that he has been separated from his master, calls (barks) that he wants to be reunited. His master, now 4 ounces into his newly acquired beer, ignores his dog. Naturally, the dog doesn’t take kindly to being ignored and continues to bark for the next…two…hours…straight. Yvette and I just happened to be one of Bob’s neighbors. I love dogs but after an hour, the non-stop barking begins to get on my nerves. But since your not allowed to interact with fellow campers with issues such as these, when we reached our limit, we contacted the “Camp Host” (a volunteer who works and lives in the camp area). But since the camp host in this particular park isn’t allowed to confront fellow campers in matters such as this, he calls the Ranger. But, since the cellular phone service is bad, the Ranger doesn’t really get the gist of what’s wrong and apparently, never shows to address the problem.

The dog issue temporarily fixes itself because Bob eventually locks up his dogs in his families trailer so he, his family and several other members of his pack can meet across the street for a nighttime of conversation livened up by layers of libation. Weekend Warriors can be loud especially after the sun goes down. Sometimes there is no cure except to turn on an electric fan for some white noise and don a set of headphones. Thankfully, Bob and his entire pack retire just before the bewitching hour, 10 PM or in camp speak, “Quiet Hours.” Bob and his crew were at least very consistent about this one rule, for which we were thankful. As it would turn out though, there would be a repeat performance with the dog barking the next day, and then again Sunday morning.

We happened to meet another neighbor of Bob’s on Saturday and discovered that he had approached Bob directly about his barking dog on Friday only to have Bob respond, “Yea I know about it, I’m okay with it.” whereupon Bob turned and walked away satisfied that he stood his ground leaving the neighbor somewhat dumbfounded. Later, the same neighbor that approached Bob was admonished by a Ranger for approaching Bob directly about the issue. So, this is the kind of thing that you have to adapt to when dealing with campground issues. Sometimes it means you have to find ways to get away from, yes, your own camp in order to not let others get under your own skin. We knew that come Sunday, Bob would have to check out by 2 PM so there was a light at the end of the tunnel. You see we know this because Bob, like the rest of us, has a permit on our vehicle’s window that you can generally read from the road. It gives the site number and the date of departure so it’s usually pretty easy to know who is leaving and when. And, since there is a 2 PM check out time, you know the latest they can possibly leave.

Incoming camper waiting on access road while "Ralph" continues to load past his checkout time.

But when there is one red flag, generally there will be more. Case in point, take Ralph. Ralph is Bob’s father in law and is parked across the street from Bob. Ralph was the host of several pow-wows held nightly right up to the bewitching hour. On Ralph’s day of departure, I noticed that even though the rest of the pack was packing up and leaving about mid-morning, Ralph was less concerned about packing and more concerned about boating. By the time Ralph returned from the lake, it was about 1 PM and after a quick bite, he commenced packing his gear like a bull in a china shop. As he did, new campers began arriving, filling up the now vacated spots in the order that they were assigned. Yvette and I noticed that pretty soon, Ralph’s spot would be the next assigned spot for a new arrival and sure enough, in comes a 45-foot fifth-wheel trailer being pulled by a one-ton dodge crew cab pick-up. Now imagine you’re this camper arriving after being on the road for 3 or 4 hours, wrestling this behemoth of a trailer only to get to your campground and your assigned spot and find Ralph is still there, still packing his gear. So you stop, get out and ask Ralph if he’s leaving. He barks yes, and your only recourse is to wait, which the new arrival did, for 15 minutes.

"Ralph" finally pulling out of his parking spot long after his 2PM checkout time.

So what’s the lesson here? Well, the good news is that the lesson doesn’t just apply to campers, it applies to all of us, every day. You and I are not the centers of our own respective universes. There will be times that if we become unaware of what goes on outside of our own space, we can make more work and most times make life a bit more miserable for those around us. It’s natural to get so focused on our daily tasks at hand and to forget sometimes, we all do it. The problem escalates when we never take the time to consider how our actions, our kids' actions or our pets actions affect those around us.


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