STORY BY DARREN DONALDSON
ILLUSTRATION BY SAM MORTON

Some men do some pretty stupid things to impress women, when all they have to do to woo her is buy flowers, make dinner, and watch any movie with her other than Blood Sport. Yet, we go out of our way and generally fail. Point in case: the time I tried to convince my girlfriend at the time, that I was manlier than any of those Dallas city boys she was used to. To do so, what better way than to take her camping? I mean nothing ever happens that can adversely affect the happiness of a woman in the great outdoors…

Pointing my six-speed Mustang north, loaded down like the Beverly Hillbillies, we embarked upon our adventure. She was already a bit flustered, crammed in the front seat and surrounded by gear precariously balanced around her spewing from my car’s tiny backseat. But, there still was a smile on her face, and I was well on my way to winning her heart (in my opinion.)

Hours later, we pulled into the state park. The stress of the cramped ride seemed to melt away with the cooler air, tall trees, and earthy smell of the outdoors rolling through the windows. Breeze in our faces, we cruised past the first indication that things may not go my way, but she didn’t notice, and I wasn’t going to say anything.

“Burn Ban in Effect,” the sign read. “Whatever,” I thought. “They probably forgot to take that dang ol’ sign down, it just rained.”

Settling into our campsite, on the water’s edge of Broken Bow Lake, I could see her smile fading. It was July in Oklahoma. Not only was she starting to sweat, but the sweat was also attracting gnats and mosquitos. Quickly, channeling my inner woodsman, I sparked a fire to make smoke in hopes of keeping the bugs away—using the old pioneer method… lighter fluid and a Zippo. She seemed impressed again, and I thought, it’ll be no time until we’re “snuggling.”

One singed arm later, it was dinner time. Nothing more manly than cooking over an open flame. That was when the park ranger decided to stop by. “Did y’all not see the burn ban sign when y’all entered,” he squawked. “No fire permitted, put that out, or you’re getting a ticket.” Her smile faded. I quickly extinguished the fire and tossed her a can of Off.

“Not to worry,” I thought, “I grew up watching MacGyver. I’ll figure out how to make my lady dinner.” Like Kenny Rogers said, “You gotta’ know when to hold them and when to fold ‘em.” And being the manly man I am, folding them was not an option.

Wrapping our burgers and hotdogs in foil, “MacGyver” I did… “What other heat sources do I have,” I pondered? “THE CAR!” So, I popped the hood, placed the aluminum foil wrapped meal on the engine block, and decided to circle the parking lot for a good 45 minutes until the heat from the engine cooked the meat. Not sure if she was smiling at this point or laughing at my dumb ass, but from my point of view she was impressed.

Running low on fuel, I returned to the parking spot. Popping the hood again, I removed our romantic campfire meal. Needless to say, my interpretation of her was a bit off, and that was confirmed by the disgusted look on her face at the realization that not only was the food half cooked, but also had the distinct taste of exhaust.

The sun was setting, and I was still going for the “snuggling” portion of the trip. No fire, no problem! I had a lantern… actually four of them, as I overpacked to impress her with all my manly gear… We weren’t going anywhere, no matter if that lantern attracted every moth in the county.

Hungry, itchy, hot, and sweaty, I noticed my lovely date opening up the cooler. She was making herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as it was the only food we had that didn’t require a fire to make … or an engine block. A few bites later, her hangry scowl relented. “Snuggling, here I come,” I thought again.

Retiring to the tent, away from the swarm, we laid down to call it a night. I had my hopes up; she was just hoping to make it through the night without an incident. I could hear something outside, but again, I kept it to myself. Feeling her nudging me, my male mind rushed, “here it comes, she wants a piece of this mountain man.”

To my disappointment, what she really was trying to tell me was she could care less about me and more about the racoon raiding our camp! I looked out the tent window to see it running off with our only loaf of bread that I mistakenly left out after the PB&Js. Running after him in the darkness, I finally caught up. The loaf was shredded and strewn about. Gathering it, I balled up the half-eaten, rodent slobber-soaked bread, and fired it into the lake out of frustration exclaiming, “If I can’t have it, you ain’t getting none either!!!”

To which I could hear a sarcastic response from the tent, “That makes two of you.”

I never got another date with her, but if I ever do, I think I am going to stick to take out and a movie… maybe a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick perhaps?