Tuttle Creek Reservoir, circa 1964. Brand new beautiful lake. Summertime. Most of our family loved to fish. The few who didn’t (MOM!!) at least loved to be outdoors. My sister had a super nice red ski boat that she had recently purchased.
So it just seemed natural that the whole bunch of our family should take a fishing trip to beautiful Tuttle Creek lake near Manhattan. We could fish, we could ski, we could just have a grand time.
And, really, why not make it a camping trip??
Well, there was one glaring reason why camping probably should never have been on the agenda. We had no camping gear. A couple cots, a few lawn chairs, maybe a lantern or two…. that was about it. No tent. No trailer. No nothing really.
We had heard from others that this lovely new lake boasted large sturdy picnic shelters with cement floors and roofs. So the family member(s) responsible for planning this momentous event determined that we could take a large supply of military tarps and cots and sleeping bags from our soldier friend who would be joining us. And we would enclose one of those picnic shelters with tarps, which would give us a large “tent” for our cots, lawn chairs, etc. I think we even used picnic tables for sleeping perhaps.
I was only 9 or so at the time so my recall may not be perfect, but I can tell you it was an epic family event. Epic, I tell you.
None of the details of the daytime fishing or skiing or whatever else we may have done stick in my memory. But oh my, when the sun dropped from the horizon things got pretty memorable. It was not a peaceful starry night. There was no full moon for illumination.
|“panel wagon” from the 1950’s
Mom and I ended up sleeping in our car. One of us in the front bench seat, the other in the back. I’m not sure where everyone else chose to sleep. One of my sisters and her husband owned an old “panel wagon” so maybe they slept there.
I’m not sure anyone else actually chose to sleep. It’s likely the fishermen & fisherwoman (Lois) thought fishing all night in the boat was a splendid idea.
And it might have been a splendid idea except for the fact that Tuttle Creek lake is in Kansas. And it was a summer evening. And in 1964 there wasn’t such a thing as radar or smart phones with weather apps.
Sometime during the dark of night, of course, a monstrous storm hit. Was it a tornado? I’m not sure. But it was wicked awful. Lightning popping very nearby, high winds tearing up the army tarps, and torrential rain. Good times. If you’re in the basement of a sturdy home. We were not.
The brave family members fishing in the boat had a fight for their lives getting to shore. While the rest of us were pretty sure we’d seen the last of them. There was wailing, I feel certain
there was loud wailing by at least a couple of us on the shore. Or maybe just one of us. The 9 year old. Me.
It was a muddy struggle, but finally they all made it up the steep bank to shelter. And honestly, I use the term “shelter” loosely. In fact, we all quickly determined that we needed to get in our vehicles and get outta Dodge. Maybe a park ranger told us to leave….I’m not sure.
But we left. In the dark. Through the pouring rain. The only light being headlights and flashes of lightning. I believe we all chose to leave and divided up into separate vehicles and headed out. But some of the men may have stayed behind.
Mom and I and my sister Lois ended up in one car and I’m pretty sure Lois was driving. Our exodus was complicated by the fact that we weren’t familiar at all with this area of the state. We lived 90 miles or so west of the lake and this was our first trip to Tuttle. I believe our main objective was to drive quickly away from the direction the storm was traveling. Brilliant. We could do that.
But it continued to rain heavily and the roads were unpaved and of course we had no map. Three females in a car? Of course we urgently needed a restroom stop. The sound of the rain pouring on our car magnified our needs, causing us to “dance” a little in the car. I’m certain I whined a bit. It’s what I do from time to time. Wailing, whining….I’m just a human symphony of unpleasant sounds.
We drove on, dancing our way through vast areas of nothingness. Well, nothing that we could see in the dark of night. The storm abated some eventually. Finally we were able to see what we hoped was an actual sign for the city limits of a town. Ah. Relief.
The sign read Flush. So we immediately thought “this is some weird sort of sign that a restroom must be near”. But sadly that was the name of the town. Really?? This caused the 3 of us to start laughing until we cried. Oh, the irony of finding a town named “Flush” while having painfully full bladders. But this tiny little unincorporated stop in the road provided no relief for our bladders. I’m not sure there was a public restroom at all in this tiny village.
As it turned out we had traveled around 25 miles from our campsite. I believe after the rain stopped we found somewhere to stop and squat. I don’t really remember, though. And I don’t remember anything else that happened after that. Age 9? I probably fell asleep in the backseat once my bladder was empty. Not sure how, but we did make the 25 mile trip back to the lake at some point. Possibly right as the sun was rising.
It didn’t take long for us to pick up all the debris, all of our camping “gear”, and listen to Dad declare that this trip was over. History. Bye-bye camping. Never again.
Well. Never again for my mom and dad. It was their first and last camping trip. But remarkably, every one of us girls ended up completely hooked on camping. Our children and their children are hooked on camping. We started with tents, we graduated to regular hard sided campers. WE CAMP!!! Happy campers, every one of us.
Pretty sure not a one of us have camped at Tuttle Creek Reservoir again. Not that it wouldn’t be safe…. maybe… maybe not…. too many haunting memories of the night we ended up in Flush.
Though if we did choose to camp at Tuttle again, we would by now surely realize that the city of Manhattan is a mere 5 miles or so away from the lake. Toilets galore. Abundance of shelter. Good grief.