Campfires are a magical thing. It’s a rare outdoorsperson who doesn’t find something restful and pleasing about a crackling fire that dances about and licks at the cool night air. The fire warms your body and soul, and lights the faces of your campmates who share stories and good memories of other times and other campfires.

Some campfires are more memorable than others. Two spring to my mind.

During a February Boy Scout campout, my job as scout leader was to teach proper campfire starting and safety. At the end of the day, once all my scouts were in their pup tents and hunkered down in their winter sleeping bags, I piled the wood to my campfire, which was built against a towering flat rock in front of my one-man tent. The heat reflected off the big rock. The flames flickered. The heat felt good. Lingering before the mesmerizing fire, I delayed turning in and let the inviting fire carry me off deeply in thought. It had been a long day, but a satisfying one in having helped a few youngsters learn some winter woodcraft.

My eyes got heavy. As I was about to throw some more wood on the fire and turn in there came from the inky darkness behind me a gentle tap on my shoulder.

“Mr. Reynolds, I’m cold,” said a soft young voice.

“Timmy, what are you doing out here?” I asked the young scout. “You should be in your sleeping bag where its warm,” I counseled.

“I want to go home,” Timmy said.

“You can’t go home, Tim,” I said firmly. “We are in the woods and it’s dark. You need to be in your tent like the rest of the boys.”

He began to cry.

“I want to be in your tent where it’s warm,” he said sobbing.

“Well, alright, Tim,” I said with some resignation. “Go ahead, climb into my sleeping bag in there. I’ll keep the fire going out here. You get some rest.”

For me it was a long February night. But the fire never went out and scout Timmy slept like a baby.

The other campfire that is a vivid memory was of the challenging variety. Have you ever tried to build a camp fire in a driving rain?

We were camped out. My son-­in-­law’s mother, a first-­time Maine visitor from the Florida Keys, wanted to know if it was possible to “build a fire under such conditions.”

I assured her that it would be very difficult without a lot of Boy Scout Juice (gasoline) but not impossible.

Putting my foot in my mouth, I said, “Of course, if it were a matter of life and death, a seasoned Maine woodsman can get a fire going under the most adverse conditions.”

“Well,” she said with a smirk, “You’re a Registered Maine Guide, are you not?”

The gauntlet had been flung. Tossing the hood up on her rain slicker, she stepped toward the truck in the downpour. Over her shoulder she smiled and shouted back over the hissing rain, ” I love a campfire. Come and get me when you get it going and we’ll have a toddy, OK?”

I surprised myself and did manage to get a blaze going that even the rain couldn’t snuff out. The Southern lady seemed impressed. We shared a toddy around the campfire.

I was silently thankful that the image of the Registered Maine Guide would still be intact as far away as the Florida keys.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co­host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News­Talk Network (WVOM­FM 103.9, WQVM­FM 101.3) and former information of icer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e­mail address is [email protected] He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”


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