Campfire songs in Big Bend National Park

Moonrise over the Rio Bravo del Norte.

Campfire songs follow a hard day paddling, a great meal, and a little wine, or bourbon. We couldn’t have a real campfire on the ground, but Far Flung had rigged a metal pan up about a foot with a tray for the fire. We had plenty of driftwood to burn, because of the floodthree and a half years ago.

Raphael singing Champagne on Ice.

It came in September 2008, from tropical storm Lowell that stalled over the Rio Conchos watershed. It turned our sleepy river into a raging cataract of 50,000 cubic feet per second, 30 feet deep, according to the park service. We saw signs of it everywhere in bent trees and debris high up.

The river was low now, so we camped on the gravel and looked at the stars. Besides our voices, we had a ukulele that Raph had brought. Our group sang some songs that were known, but the best ones were invented, perhaps long ago. Our friends each had their own. Raph sang Champagne on Ice, accompanied by his ukulele. Joni sang The White Birch Tree with her lovely voice. Brian sang Cheap Perfume, which had quite a rhythm. Someday maybe we’ll hear all these songs on our phones. I wondered how many of us out there in the starlit night sing our own songs instead of those from our youth.

Philip working out a new song.

Honestly, I don’t even think about writing songs, lyrics or music, and that is a shame. It is as if I don’t even realize you can make your own food instead of buying it ready prepared. It is one of the advantages of a group to have new songs to sing around a campfire. On the last night we even got insights into each other’s characters by seeing who burned their marshmallows and who toasted them evenly, then crushed them between two chocolate-coated graham crackers. S’mores were a great treat, though perhaps less amazing than the cakes and brownies Tony was able to cook in a Dutch oven with a few coals on the lid.

I’m ready for another campfire, some singing, and sleeping under the stars.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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