Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Past Tent–Present Tents

I grew up with Scouting in my blood. My dad was scoutmaster when I was an 8-year old Cub Scout and he let me hang around with the older scouts, even going on camp-outs.  I loved camping so much that I took advantage of every opportunity to go camping both with the Scouts and with my friends just for fun.  This continued into adult life with Explorer Scouts and family, when …finally I was asked to be Scoutmaster 35 years ago in the Bountiful 8th Ward.  I was so ready for this that I mounted a charge for a hike-in wilderness camp in the Uinta High Wilderness Area for my first summer camp with the boys.  Our preparations included careful planning for food, back-pack stoves, sleeping bags and….light-weight tents.  This is really where this story begins.

I MADE A TENT!  Yup, I had found a company known as Frostline Kits from Broomfield, Colorado, who supplied the best of materials and patterns to make outdoor gear.  The fabrics and materials - light-weight rip-stop nylon, mosquito netting, zippers, velcro (which was new, state of the art), thread, folding tent poles and pegs, nylon cords – were all first class, and the patterns and instructions were impeccable.  All it took was a little time from a beginning seamster (as opposed to seamstress) and Barbara’s sewing machine and I had a top-notch 6-lb. back pack tent. 

Jim's TentThe generous size 2-man tent shown here was complete with rain fly and rubberized bottom for rough weather and a vestibule for ‘indoor’ cooking.  Easy to set up, light to carry.  What more could you want for a week in the Uintas.  We hiked from our starting point at East Fork of the Bear River half-way to our destination the first day and camped overnight, planning on completing our trek to Norice and Priord Lakes the next day.  Milt Anderson (Ass’t Scoutmaster) and I shared this cool new tent.  Since it wasn’t raining, I didn’t put up the rain fly.  Hmmmm…. when we awoke in the morning laying there on the ground we could see hundreds droplets of water all over the top of the tent.  I thought that was interesting and reached up to give it a flip.  Much to my surprise – and education – the droplets were all on the inside of the tent and we were drenched by a cascade of condensation that would have been prevented through the use of the rain fly.

My ‘Frostline’ has served me (and my family, who has also used it) well for 35 years – summer camps, winter camps, backyard camps – with never a leak, never a rip, never an open seam (good sewing even if I say so myself).  Now, back with the Scouts, I’ve had occasion to use it again.

After a recent loan-out for an overnighter, I thought it would be a good idea to throw it in the washing machine seeing as how it had somehow missed this opportunity for…. well 35 years.  Ooopps… not a good idea.  The rubberizing material flaked and came off in little pieces.  Amen to my Frostline TENT.

Wait … maybe there’s some life still in that old tent.  Out came the scissors and back to the sewing machine.  Out of one Frostline backpack PAST TENT came two more PRESENT TENTS.




TENT #1 – Here’s a new use for the rain fly – a rip-stop nylon cover for an air conditioning compressor.  What could be better!








TENT #2 – Here’s a new use for the tent – a rip-stop nylon cover for a 6 HP Troy-Bilt Roto-Tiller.  Perfect!





Frostline Label




My FROSTLINE lives on!!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Just In Case

The natural way of things is to ‘accumulate’. A new pair of shoes, new socks, maybe a new sofa or mattress, even a car, but sadly they wear out, get used up or, heaven forbid, just become ‘old’ and need replacement. Like me. Some things however ‘stick’ to us. They become part of us – in a way our identity. Then we can’t bear to throw them away. Things like, well… a pair of shoes or some old Levi’s we just can’t part with. This is a short story about one such thing.

When I reached the magic age of 18 (1957), I was old enough to sign-on as a brakeman at the Southern Pacific Railroad in Ogden, Utah. Being a rookie I was assigned to the ‘extra board’. This meant that I was on call with my name working up a list of other extra-boarders to fill in as needed in a train crew to run the SPRR freight trains from Ogden to Carlin, Nevada. As with any new job there are ‘things’ you need. Some jobs need pencils, some need hammers, but a brakeman needed good boots (not safety shoes in those days), overalls, warm shirts, a lantern, the ‘Book’ (safety rules to literally live by), extra clothes (the run to Carlin was an overnighter) and ….. a CASE to carry the clothes in.

My Case

Well…. here’s my CASE! I tied a strap to it so I could lug it over my shoulder while climbing ladders on locomotives and cabooses. I don’t remember what I paid for it, but it couldn’t have been much. It was metal (thin) with a decorative paper lining and had reinforced corners and stout latches. The metal was so thin that it was easily dented and just as easily bent back into shape (Click on it and you’ll how remodeled it has become). As you can see it had a lovely faux bamboo grain finish that was beyond durable – it was permanent and not easily scratched. Once on the train it remained tucked in a corner in either the engine cab or the caboose depending on my assignment for each trip.

Four years later following countless round trips to Carlin with a few week-long assignments thrown in on a work train building the new fill across the Great Salt Lake, I finished engineering school and my boss, the Trainmaster told me to leave the railroad and go be an engineer. He said, “He didn’t need any educated brakemen.” So off I went to seek my fortune so to speak as a Mechanical Engineer and retired my CASE!

Less than a year later Barbara and I were home, home on the range back in Utah for good with mountains and skiing and most of all with family. I soon found a great use for my CASE – a holder for ski stuff. It was an easy way to keep gloves, mittens, wax, sun glasses, scarfs, sun screen and goggles all together for frequent ski trips. I took a bit of abuse and teasing over the years over my ‘stylish’ CASE, but, to say the least, it was very functional. It was sturdy enough to sit on while putting on ski boots and just right size-wise for all the ‘stuff’ I needed.


Here’s an inside view showing the paper lining – had to point this out so you wouldn’t mistake it for real oak or some other exotic wood.

This CASE was approaching it’s 55th anniversary with me this year when, I almost accidently stumbled on a worthy replacement. I was wandering through a Harbor Freight store a couple of weeks ago and saw a positively wonderful case that was better in almost every way – an anomaly for typical Harbor Freight merchandise. As I pulled if off the shelf and opened it up to inspect it, a young man said to me, “Those are great cases; I have three of them.” But wait a diesel whistle minute – my CASE is part of ME! I walked the floor of the store for ten minutes trying to decide if I truly had the …. courage… to part with my old friend.

Well another ten minutes and I walked out of the store a proud owner of a NEW CASE! I was excited to show Barbara my NEW CASE, but my reluctance to part with the old one was evident. Barbara asked me if I’d like her to throw the old one away (it wasn’t really worthy of a D.I. offering) so I wouldn’t have to, obviously sensitive to my emotional attachment.


Here’s the NEW CASE! So much better in every way. No more dents, stronger latches; sturdier to sit on, just as roomy for my stuff. No more pretending to be constructed from ‘real’ bamboo/wood, just a strong, no nonsense case no longer the subject of derision but rather a focus of envy by those not owning a superb case such as this.

But then…….. it hasn’t earned a place in my soul. It hasn’t served me well (yet). It hasn’t stood the test of time. It’s …. not my friend.

As the newreels used to say, TIME MARCHES ON and over time I’ll get used to my NEW CASE and maybe I’ll forget about my old friend, but then again……. maybe not.