Sounds of the Night
The last day of May, and we finally felt like running the air conditioner for a time, to cool off the upper rooms of the house. This house retains heat quite nicely, which is a virtue in the long, long winters, but not during the brief summers.
The day was warm and the night quite cool at the Marshall State Fish & Wildlife Area over the weekend. The camping area was divided into two lobes, one with electricity, one without. RVs parked in the electrified area, tents sprouted in the other; $12 per night for one, $8 for the other. A gray-haired park employee -- ranger might be too fancy a description -- showed up late in the afternoon to collect the fee. When we pitched our tent in the early afternoon, there was only one other inhabited site, occupied by a young couple. A young childless couple. According to Yuriko, they eyed us grimly at the introduction of noisy kids to the site.
Turns out, though, that the real noise that night was produced by three middle-aged fellows -- a little older than me, I think -- who showed up after we did, set up a tent that looked too small to hold all of them (someone was sleeping in one of their cars, it seems), and promptly turned on a radio.
A radio. At a campsite. This is like taking a ViewMaster to the Louvre. I’m not going to yammer on about missing the marvelous sounds of nature, the song of the whippoorwill, etc., but really. Whether or not you care anything for birdsong or those throaty bullfrogs we heard at sunset (away from the campsite), you’d think one of the pleasures of camping is to get away from items like the radio. I’d think that, anyway.
It wasn’t a bad station. It was playing all ’80s. And it wasn’t all that loud—just background noise. We turned in an hour or so after dark, and it was still on. We all drifted off anyway. Then a big crack of wood woke me up, and the damned radio was still on. The men were breaking wood for their campfire, talking, drinking, and listening to the radio. It was about midnight.
I fumed for a few minutes, but eventually unzipped my tent door. Being rude would have backfired, of course. So this is exactly what I said, in a measured tone: “Gentlemen, could you at least turn the radio down?”
Other than nodding hello, that was the first thing I’d said to them. Sure enough, they turned off the radio, almost at once. Then I had the sound of their fire to fall asleep to. Which I did. Perfect.