Tuesday, 7 October 2014

My most bizarre camp fire experience to date

Best/worst vacation. That is today's prompt, and I have been wrecking my brain how to tackle this topic since yesterday. Guys, I'm really struggling. I've had lots of perfectly nice vacations in my life. But are any of them worth writing about? Meh, I'm not feeling it.
No really terrible stories so far, which of course is good, but a shame for the purpose of this post today. I wish I could tell you a gruesome, hair-rising story, the adventure of a lifetime - but I can't.

After lots and lots of thinking about it, I have decided to share something a bit delicate. It is a true story, but I want to protect the persons involved in it, so I won't name names. Or to be exact, I will use false names.

camp fire

Like all good stories, this one happened on a warm summer night, around a camp fire. However, we were sitting around said fire with strangers. And what we learnt in that night was both shocking and thought provoking, and stayed with us for quite some time.

Several hours earlier, as we were hanging out at our own camp site, an amiable stranger happened to come by, stopped, and complimented us on our horses. He ended up staying for quite some time, enjoying a couple of drinks with us, and invited us to come to a camp fire with some of his friends later that evening. We happily agreed, and by the time it got dark, walked to the place he had indicated.
The full moon illuminated a beautiful spot right by the river, surrounded by shrubs and trees. A bright fire flickered merrily, and around it sat four people: our friend from earlier with his dog, a young couple in their 20s, and a middle-aged man with a shy smile.

After introductions were being made, we all chatted effortlessly. It was one of those special moments were conversation flowed easily, despite - or because? - us not knowing these people at all. We talked about nature and wilderness, the young guy told us about his job as a truck driver for a logging company, and we all agreed that nights like this were what made life worth living.

The quiet middle-aged man - let's call him Mike - got up to put some more wood on the fire, and I noticed that he had a limp. I commented on it, asking if he had injured himself recently. Mike hesitated a very long time with his answer, which was a bit strange - after all, it was an innocent enough question, wasn't it?

Then he seemed to have made up his mind, and answered: "I broke my back a long time ago, when I was in prison." "Oh", I said stupidly, not being able to think of a better response.
One of the other guys mumbled something that sounded like "Aw, that sucks man", which made me wonder how well these four people actually knew each other. If they were close, surely they would be aware of Mike's prison time?
Rich tried to change the subject. "So Mike, what are you doing now?" Again, silence. What was up with that guy?

Mike stared into the flames, apparently lost in thought. Then he told us his story.
"There have been lots of stories written about me. I was on the news, they talked about me on the radio, I'm all over the internet. You can google my name if you don't believe me."
[He gave us his first and last name, and as soon as we were home, I did google him, obviously. It was true!]
"I was wrongfully convicted for a murder I didn't commit, and spent 14 years in prison for it. I lost the best years of my life. After they released me, I filed for damages, and have since received millions of dollars for wrongful conviction. I don't care about the money, though. I wish I could have those lost years back. I'm happiest when I can sleep outside, under the stars. I don't like being indoors."

We were all silent. What do you say to something so unexpected and startling? Strangely enough, I didn't feel uncomfortable. I believed the guy. He seemed like a decent person, who had had miserable luck when he was younger. It sounded like a "wrong time, wrong place" scenario.

Still, we did go home shortly after. After I found out more about the case, I couldn't stop thinking about the stupid things teenagers do. He must have been right around 19 when it happened. It was proven afterwards that he was innocent. Through a series of unfortunate events, his life was ruined.
How often did we get into tricky situations when we were younger? Because when you are young, you often don't consider the consequences of what you are doing. You think you are invincible. Nothing will ever happen to you. To others, maybe, but never to you, right?

Until it does. So listen up, kids: Be careful out there! Consider the consequences of what you are doing. Stay safe!
Okay, that's all for today.
Tomorrow we will return to much more light-hearted banter!  

Helene in Between Blogtober

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6 comments

  1. wow! what an incredible story, and how well you wrote it! I can't even imagine just meeting strangers and they drop a bomb on you like that!

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  2. Wow, now that is quite the story to hear around the camp fire! how tragic for the man who lost so many years and for being wrongfully convicted! So very sad.

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  3. Wow, that is an interesting bomb to drop. I would have been dying to ask a million questions on the spot (I wouldn't though because I don't push people on personal details). How terribly sad for him.

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  4. How terrible for him. It is absolutely amazing how life can change in an instant - for good and for bad. I'm glad that the mistake was finally discovered and he is free now to sleep outdoors, under the stars. But how sad that he can't get those years back.

    -Amy

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  5. That sounds so sad. I have a friend who got caught up in some bad things as a young adult. So, I agree you must be careful. And life is all about timing. Sometimes it is worse for some then others. You can never be too careful. I am glad he was able to clear his name and get out of prison. But, yes sadly he like my friend will never get the time back that they lost.

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