Campsite tales include another chicken joke

Friday, February 26, 2010

Picture this: You're camping at a state park, enjoying the tranquility of the forest and the woman who collects campsite rental fees rolls up quietly in her electric golf cart with her pet chicken seated next to her.

"It was hilarious," explains a camper at the Henry Horton State Park whose name really is Glenn Miller and so, no, he's not going to play the chicken dance song, but he has more tales from the state parks where he's stayed during several winters.

Miller, 58, of Davenport, Iowa, has seasonal employment in road construction, so after paving stops because of cold weather, he and his wife, Gina, pack up their big recreational vehicle, walk her parents on board, and hit the road south.

"One had a stroke," Miller said at his campsite picnic table on Sunday afternoon when the weather was calm and the temperature was approaching 70 degrees.

"The other has dementia," he said as a matter of fact while his mother-in-law walked across the brown leaf-covered campsite, circled a few trees and went back into the RV.

"I applaud my wife for taking care of them," Miller said. "I get to go to work" when they're at their home in Iowa.

Here, leaders recently discussed their concern for the homeless, wondering if some had found the state park as a place to live on less as they looked for better accommodations.

"I've talked to a lot of disabled people who can't afford a home," Miller said. "That's the feeling I get.

"Last year I didn't see that," he continued. "This year, a few said so," about disability and camping. "I can't tell you they're homeless because they've got an RV."

Another such camper had a big dually truck with a fifth wheel and a 40-foot camper trailer, said Miller, noting the prices for such a truck and camper are high.

"I've also met a lot of people who have decided to do this year-round."

Earlier this month, Jim Fyke, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, was asked about spending almost $1 million on nearly 400 acres north of the campgrounds.

Miller didn't know if it was needed and he compliments Henry Horton State Park. Last weekend was his second visit.

"Last year, we found really nice shower rooms here," Miller said. "And here, you can have a campfire and the sites are far enough from each other so you can't hear someone belch."

Miller's wife joined the conversation at a picnic table and was asked if they've seen campers there who might be homeless.

"I don't see anybody who looks homeless, not that homeless looks some way," Gina said.

She wonders whether a homeless person could afford a tent.

"Although, if I was homeless, I'd camp out."

The conversation ends when her parents are rustling in the RV and she goes to tend to their needs.

Miller says the pet chicken was at Lake Thunderbird, Okla.