For as long I can remember, I’ve loved woodcraft. I dreamed, constantly, of camping. I didn’t discover the landmark works of Sears, Kephart, Beard et al, though, until later in life. My spark came from a much more ordinary book.
I don’t recall ever not having The Golden Book of Camping and Camp Crafts. Typical of Golden Books it’s a primer, equal parts inspiration and information.
It was my favorite bedtime read well before I was a Boy Scout, even before I became a Cub Scout. If I added up all the hours I spent poring over Gordon Lynn’s words and Ernest Kurt Barth’s illustrations, I probably invested a year of my boyhood in this simple book. I was hooked.
I imagined and planned, studied and dreamed. For the first seven years of my life that’s all I could do, since my own family was all Holiday Inn, no KOA.
Scouting changed that. Suddenly I was taking real hikes, sleeping in real tents and cooking over real campfires. Boy Scouts also came with an official handbook, though I found myself still measuring my experiences against the wellspring of my dreams — the scenes in a dog-eared Golden Book.
I haven’t laid eyes on my original 1959 edition in years. I’m sure it’s packed away somewhere. Recently, however, I was tickled to stumble across a website featuring images from The Golden Book of Camping and Camp Crafts.
Seeing those pages again, in an instant I was a kid pulling the covers over my head and clicking on my flashlight, imagining that it was me in colorful pictures I’d seen a hundred times before and to which I’d return for inspiration a thousand times more.
I don’t consider a kids’ book to be sine qua non on the subject of bushcraft or camping, of course. I share these classic pages here simply as sentimental snapshots, suspecting that others who grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s will appreciate them as much as I do.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.