I’m a 28-year old American male who has never built a campfire. Sure, I’ve earned my bachelors and I’m working my way through a graduate degree. I’ve had success in entrepreneurship. I’ve even watched every season of survivor that was interesting. But, besides that winter when our furnace gave out while watching an episode of survivor, those situations did not call for warmth by twig. My typical American childhood did not involve the flashy world of badge earning scouts. I’ve never earned a badge in archery, camping or atomic energy (that last one really exists; Google it). Despite that, here I stood on our 12 acres of Iowa farmland, in what they call the Driftless Region, on the first night of our purchase.
This precious piece of land in the Iowa Driftless Region, is not your typical Iowa (there should be a “my” in front of “precious” to make that more Gollumesque). Our purchase is about 5 miles south of Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin, and is anything but flat. As an added bonus, we received a free unlimited supply of visual candy with our purchase of land and trees. The soaring bald eagles, northern red cedars, and panoramic views are a sugar rush for your eyes (side note: Sugar Rush for Your Eyes would be a fantastic band name). We are situated between bosoms of valleys that clip the rest of the world from view. While the historic glaciers have made most of Iowa tediously flat for modern day road trips, the Driftless Region has kept topographers in business for years. Although our land was once grazed by cows and cropped by farmers, it now lay unused. The grass and trees now cover any evidence of her commercial duty. During that first day we spent numerous hours clearing and trimming the untamed woods along the generously flowing creek that curves its way through the land. As the sun headed its due west course, I stood on a rock overlooking the property and our days work. In the background of my view was our outlet to modern day comforts; a 1-room kitchen/bedroom/dining room/basement pop-up camper. Although it was small, it felt luxurious and inviting after a hard day’s work. The days in the valleys top temperatures near 100°F, while the nights stay damp and cool in this aqueous rich area. Dusk was settling in and a fire was required for food and warmth.
The basics of building a campfire are simply the basics of life. You need to feed it, provide oxygen and your stick cannot be too big or wet. I sifted through the tall fields of grass to find dry stalks to begin my center base. I then added the driest and smallest twigs I could find. Despite also not having an Indian lore merit scout badge (Google it), I knew the teepee shape was the key to a successful fire. I felt resourceful and manly utilizing the wood I had chain sawed earlier that day. I believe I even grunted a few times. As the moon and sun both accompanied the sky at the same time, I used the last bit of daylight to view my accomplishment. It was tiny and unimpressive. That didn’t matter. I had finally built my first campfire. Something about working our land for the day and then using the resources to build this campfire awakened the simplicity of life in me. As the kindle began to burn I became less urban. As the logs began to burn, I fell in love with our land. I attribute these realizations to my first tiny campfire.