Smelly Socks: Taking one for the team

I have never pretended to be an outdoorsy, salt-of- the-earth type woman. I wish that I was more adventurous and enjoyed going camping and sleeping in a tent. I would like to be able to cook over a campfire, fix coffee in a saucepan, look good in flannel and hiking boots, catch a fish and wear my hair in braids.

I have two boys who honestly love to go camping more often than their once a year adventure in Colorado. When I realized that our family was complete with boys and I was the lone female in the bunch, I knew that I have to curb some of my femininity and "take one for the team" occasionally. The fact that I did this so willingly this time still shocks me.

Strange things happen when a woman is in a house dominated by males and surrounded by cows, pasture, dirty boots and smelly socks. Strangely, your feminine instincts become more alive and much stronger.

You find yourself desperately shopping for dresses and skirts because as a woman, you are allowed to wear them. I admit that living on a ranch has mellowed my girly quest some.

However, now, instead of being absolutely terrified and squealing when I see a rattlesnake, it now makes me think of the cute little pair of shoes it would make.

When John suggested a spring camping trip, I took a long, hard gulp. I looked down at my 10-year-old Jamison's green puppy dog eyes and up at my 13-year-old Austin's longing demeanor and stated, "Nope, that's not for me."

After much moaning and whimpering, I relented and said, "Oh, all right. Let's go." The atmosphere changed so quickly I suspect I was duped in a preplanned attack.

Why did I think this was going to be so difficult? I grew up on the very same ranch we live on now. I have bottle-fed a calf in my highest heels and a Sunday dress in July heat without breaking a sweat long before John or the boys came about. I looked at them with a newfound determination.

John assured me that it would just be one night in a tent, and he had it all planned out. He had recently purchased a trailer that has a rooftop tent on it for the Colorado camping trip. Since the rooftop tent is relatively small, it would be perfect for the boys, and John and I would sleep in the REI tent on the ground. "I can do this," I reminded myself. "Who needs a comfy mattress? This will be an adventure. Making memories."

We made our way to Garner State Park, and the sky was cool and overcast. The park was packed, and we had a hard time finding what I was told was a good spot. When we stopped, Austin was the first to hop out, and he started scanning the female population of our fellow campers and was quite pleased with what he saw.

Popsy had told him about the cool dances he used to go to at Garner in his younger years. Austin was excited about attending his very own Garner dance. There seemed to be some "passing on the tradition" between Austin and Popsy going on. John had to bring him back to reality and remind him to help unload. At the boys' urging, we headed to the river. With all of the kids running around, I was afraid my oldest child would get whiplash. Living in the country sometimes starves you for companionship. Austin seems to get particularly excited when he sees a group of children his age. But for Jamison, all it took was some cool-looking water to get him excited.

We headed to the outside pavilion dance floor just as a few raindrops began to fall. Austin tried to ask the petite, young lady behind the snack bar counter if they were still going to have the dance if it rains, but the words just wouldn't come out.

I came to his rescue, and I could tell from Jamison's amused expression that Austin was going to take a lot of ribbing for his loss of words. The sweet girl said with a wink toward a stunned Austin, "Oh, yes. Everyone loves to dance in the rain at Garner."

Just as the children started arriving to the dance floor, a sudden and perfect, almost cartoonish, lightning bolt shot across the sky. The thunder boom was so deafening Jamison clamped his hands over his ears and ran around in a circle. Dance in the rain? Yes. Two-step around lightning bolts? I think not. As the rain started coming down in thick sheets, we ran to take cover. "Well, I know that you are going to be disappointed. But the tents can't handle this type of rain," John said. Despite the boy's protests and assurances they could sleep in the truck, John made the decision to head home.

I admit the minute he said those words, relief passed over me. "Yes, back to indoor plumbing." I fist-pumped. The boys' frowns reminded me that I said those words out loud. I was a team player, willing to camp out in a tent and embrace the whole camping lifestyle for the day. I tried not to complain, and anything they suggested I was up for. Although things didn't exactly work out the way they were planned, I like to think I earned some respect from my menfolk for the try. And truth be told, I have always been a sucker for s'mores.

Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom at smellysocks@vicad.com or visit her blog, morethansmellysocks.com.