Paying It Forward

The camper was the sort of thing that gets overlooked in a multimillion-dollar land deal.  To be sure, it wasn’t much of a going concern:  a 1960s model parked in a patch of greasewood with weathered siding and rotten tires which hadn’t moved in probably 20 years. The inside was even worse:  mouse sign everywhere; crumbling curtains over cracked windows; and the piece de resistance, a pile of fossilized dog poop on the mattress in the back.

I hated the camper from the moment we moved to the VX and made immediate plans for it to be moved off the property.  It was ruining the view, it was ugly, and we needed to scrap it.  Now, if I could just get someone to load it on the flatbed with the tractor, I’d pull it straight to the recycling center in town.

Of course, all my (many) plans are mostly fantastical (looked this word up just to be sure of the definition, and it’s right on, meaning:  remote from reality), so there was little chance of the camper ever actually leaving the ranch.  For one thing, the VX (where we used to live) is (you might recall) 17 miles of dirt road from Ingomar… and once you get to Ingomar, you still have a long ways to go to properly dispose of a big piece of junk.  The truth is, once somebody goes to the trouble of hauling a piece of junk all the way to Ingomar, the junk is usually there to stay… probably for multiple lifetimes.  This camper, indeed, had already seen several landowners and multitudes of ranch hands come to and go from the VX.  It had outlasted ’em all.

For another thing, the men in my life are

a) very busy, with very long to-do lists that do not immediately include such tasks as disposing of rotten old campers,

b) not so interested in “cleaning up the property” as I am, and

c) not so much inclined to do what I want them to do.

So time passed by. In all honesty I didn’t have a lot of time to worry about the camper because my everyday was filled with keeping the Blake children alive.

Then, one day, I shared a chance conversation with a rare but more-regular-than-most-to-the-VX visitor. It was the propane delivery truck driver, and he wondered if we would ever consider selling the camper.  (For real?!)  A friend of his back in Roundup, he said, had been looking for an old camper for her garden.

“Yes!” I said, perhaps too eagerly, and ignoring the fact that I didn’t own the camper at all and probably didn’t have the right to sell it. But truly, would anyone but me notice if it disappeared?

“How much would you want for it?” he asked.

“Oh… maybe a hundred dollars,” I answered, letting my big mouth run away with me in that way it tends to do.  I watched him for a response.  “I mean fifty,” I ventured next.  Then: “Actually, we should pay you to take it. It would be free.”

And so, on a very windy Sunday last spring, the propane delivery truck driver and his lady friend drove out from Roundup, which is about 80 miles southwest of the VX, to pick up that old bumper-pull camper.  My husband (a fully cognizant witness to the crime I was committing of selling… well, giving away at least… something I didn’t own) helped them to load it, with only a small amount of difficulty. And then the despicable camper pulled down the gravel road and out of my life forever. I stood where it had once been parked, right there on Junk Row at the VX, and relished a view from which at least one piece of junk had just been permanently erased. (I celebrate small victories.)

I don’t know exactly what that gal had in mind for the old camper, but I’ve heard recently of many grand ideas for repurposing old campers. Do a simple search on Google and you’ll find campers-turned-into-kid-playhouses, campers-turned-into-chicken-houses, campers-turned-into-greenhouses, and campers-turned-into-backyard retreats. When I picture the old VX camper in my mind and how that nice lady might’ve remade it, I picture this:


Or this:


How ’bout this?


Or this:


Maybe something like this?


Aw. These pictures make me smile.

Still. I don’t think I’ll be parking an old camper in my yard anytime soon.

So. For the happy ending. About six months after the camper drove down the road — and yes, we always just assumed they’d made it to Roundup with it — a box came in the mail.  It was from the camper lady. In a sweet note she thanked us for the camper and inside the box she’d packed a homemade superhero costume for Asher and a tutu for each girl.


Aw. She didn’t really have to do that. After all, that camper wasn’t even officially ours. So as far as I’m concerned, she was paying it forward.

And now it’s up to us to pass the goodwill along.

© Tami Blake

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