A camping trip gone wrong; life lesson learned

Published 8:03 am Wednesday, January 25, 2023

In between Oak Drive and the airport there is an old Civil War embankment, perfect for us boys to camp out in.  So, in the fifth grade it was time to try it out and we had a plan. We packed our tents and headed that way, with food and cigarettes.  That is right cigarettes!  We had seen others smoking and had to try it out and what better way than camping out.

The late Bill Litchfield, Jamie Weatherly and I, headed north on Market St. after stopping by Raymond Jolly’s to purchase our Pall Malls.  Little did we know that Raymond knew our parents and was not afraid to call them. Our mothers knew that we had purchased cigarettes before we arrived at our camp site.  We pitched our tent and were getting ready to start our camp fire for dinner. We did not have a staple for dinner but we had plenty of Pepsi and peanuts.

Now, I was the only one with experience smoking because I had smoked with the older boys while I lived in Raleigh.  I had smoked rabbit tobacco also because it grew in the broom straw fields beside our home.  Once, I had been caught smoking rabbit tobacco but my dad did not do anything to me because he taught me how to do it.  He told me he had done it growing up as a young boy living on the Terrapin Track Road.

Bill lit the first cigarette and passed it to Jamie and then to me.  We heard something in the brush and to our surprise it was Big Tomp and my Dad! They took the cigarettes from us and informed us to get home. I do not know what happened to the others, but when I got home, mom was crying and worried about her son being a juvenile delinquent. Mom and Ms. Betsy knew before our dads got home and Ms. Betsy was at my house calling Big Tomp at the Mill. She was crying also and that made matters worse!

Our dads told us not to say anything about what we had been doing but after seeing our moms crying, I knew we were in big trouble. I was not allowed to leave my yard for two weeks and could not ride my bicycle.  I mowed the yard and worked in tobacco for two weeks.  That is why I have never smoked tobacco in my life.  Working in tobacco will do something to a child that will not make him not ever do wrong again.  All us were disciplined in different ways.  We never smoked cigarettes again and we never went back to that embankment until this day.

Raymond did what other parents did back in the days of my growing up.  I do not know what the silent code was in my youth but parents always knew before we did it!  Young people of today; always know that your mom and dad are right and they have lived longer than you have.  Thank you, parents for always being in the KNOW!

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.!  The Original Washington!

Harold Jr.