“Chicken dinner!” I yelled, pointing out the car window. Black letters had been painted onto the big white sign in a neat hand: ‘Chicken Dinner, September 17, 3:30-10:00’.
“What day is today?” I asked, to no one in particular. As I scrounged around the floor of the car looking for my phone, someone in the backseat answered, “The seventeenth! Let’s go!”
Immediately, Derek spun the car around on the dinky country road. We turned at the sign and found a large picnic set up in the middle of a cleared field. Kids were running around and attempting to play cornhole. We pulled into the grass lot and a lady huffed up to our car, “You need to park down there by the barn, if you’re gonna stay for dinner.”
“Oh, thank you, ma’am,” Derek answered politely. “We just saw the sign for the Chicken dinner and wondered what was going on.”
“Well if you want a chicken to-go, it’ll be $14. The money goes to support the Community Children’s Association. They’re’ll be some live music later tonight.”
We held a quick conference in the car. It was determined rather quickly that the price was a bit much and the smell of fried chicken was going to be rather too pervasive if we kept it in the car for the rest of the trip. Derek thanked the woman and drove back to the road.
We were heading up to Plateville, Wisconsin, home to the Platteville Pioneers. The Wheaton Thunder were playing their second non-conference game of the year that night, and we had decided to make a little roadtrip out of it. Derek had offered to drive and brought his friend Paul along, while I recruited my roommate Lauren. Jessie was added last-minute, but was a perfect addition to the group.
Derek had found an awesome campsite on a lake (ironically called ‘Yellowstone Lake’) about 20 minutes from the college campus. Our trunk was full of sleeping bags, hammocks, a tent, and s’more supplies. I had made a whole bunch of pb&j sandwiches in the cafeteria that morning and packed them up along with some apples and trailmix.
We found Lake Yellowstone early in the afternoon. The site was packed for the weekend and we were lucky to have a spot reserved. We set up the tent on a flat piece of ground amidst the trees. A picnic bench was situated near the fire pit and we enjoyed our very ‘campy’ meal of sandwiches and apples. I was determined to make s’mores when we returned from the football game, so we scoured the surrounding woods for twigs and kindling. Time was running short, so we grabbed extra sweatshirts and hustled back to the car.
The school was only twenty minutes away, but in our excitement to get there, we lost track of our speed. The long, flat country roads went by so slowly, that we were stunned when the flashing red and blue lights appeared behind us and the cop stared Derek down, saying, “Did you know you were going 82 mph?”
Not a car on the road, not a soul in sight. Apparently, these cops are really worried about all the cows we might hit.
We finally made it to the football game. The bright lights stood out against the pitch black sky. The stadium could seat 10,000 people (almost more than the population of the town). It was an impressive sight to behold.
“Derek, which player should I cheer for?” Jessie asked. Derek was on the football team the last few years and knew the guys well.
“You cheer for Garrett,” Derek replied.
“Who’s that?” Jessie asked.
Lauren and I answered together, “He’s the quarterback!”
We all laughed. Jessie was an enthusiastic fan, but did not quite have the ‘Wheaton football expertise’ that Lauren and I had developed during our college years.
Lauren asked who she should root for tonight.
“Umm… you’ve got Micah. And Debby, you’ve got Colby.”
We joined the Wheaton crowd and cheered as Scott kicked a long field goal to put 3 points on the board. We were down already, at the close of the first quarter. At the end of the first half, the Thunder were still down, but our defense hadn’t let Platteville pull ahead. The second half was when we made our comeback. Garrett, our quarterback, threw some impressive passes (one in which he lost his shoe to an opponent) and our defense stopped the Pioneers with a force like a brick wall.
I joined Mr. Chapman (the dad of Thunder middle linebacker and my good friend, Jordan) at the bottom of the stands. He can never sit still during a game; he beats out a track along the sideline with all his pacing.
The victory was satisfying: 23-14. All the boys that Derek told us to root for played very well (because we were cheering for them, I’m sure!). We went down on the field after the game and congratulated our friends on a good win… And teased them about how they had a four-hour drive home, while we were going to have a camping adventure!
As soon as we got back to camp, we started the fire. Or, at least, we attempted to start the fire. The tinder was damp and none of us had gone the Boy Scout route growing up. We managed to get enough of a fire to roast a coupla marshmallows, but the darkness soon swallowed up the embers. Slowly, everyone drifted off to bed. Lauren crashed early because she’d had a long work shift the night before. Paul crawled into his cocoon hammock. Jessie, Derek, and I talked for a while, but soon started to nod off. The tent was small, but we all stretched out in our mummy sleeping bags and fell asleep. The rain came around midnight and maintained a steady drumming on our tent until early morning. I woke up early, but Paul had risen with the dawn. We let the others sleep, while we packed up. The rain started up again, so Paul and I hopped in the car and talked about books and the philosophical ideas that they raised. It was the perfect, restful Sunday morning. We managed to wake the others up and pack the wet tent. The drive home was rather uneventful. I snagged Derek’s camera and took pictures of old barns we passed along the highway. Nobody managed to do any of their homework, even though we all had that weighing on our minds. Instead, we had a meaningful conversation about our love lives (well, our common lack thereof).
This is what Senior year is all about.