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COMMENTARY

Bob Henke column: Tent theories, and other matters

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My son and I just had occasion to be sitting around waiting in the truck for an hour or so before daylight. We talked of many things but one of them was the tent the kids had.

I cannot remember whose birthday it was but I was remembering some of my tenting experiences, so we spent more than we should on a lovely blue tent at Sears as the primary gift. It was a beauty, blue and white with a rain fly Velcro windows — an innovative characteristic at the time — and a great array of aluminum telescoping poles to hold it all up. They wanted it put up first thing the next morning in the front yard, so we did that and then I went about my business. No kids were in sight for the rest of the day, the tent performing its magic perfectly. It was nearly dark when we called them in for supper.

As I walked out in the dark to do the milking, I noticed the tent looked weird. I went over and found it a total shambles, poles bent, huge rips in the side and an unmentionable mess inside. Turns out the kids had invited my current litter of adolescent coonhound pups into the tent with them and, since the pups were all sleeping, the kids just left them when they came in for supper. Unfortunately, they actually listened to my admonition to always leave the tent door zipped closed.

The pups apparently all made individual exit doors for themselves after evacuating every sort of waste they could produce. I was prepared to bellow but Dr. Wifey intercepted me and instead I found myself trekking to Sears for another tent that I really, really could not afford so the kids could find their great treasure back in place when they awoke.

After some more training about not leaving pets in the tent, it served well for a number of years. They slept in it everywhere from various backyards to islands in Lake George. At the time, they might have had to fight off some mosquitoes or no-see’ems but ticks were not an issue. Camping is a little different nowadays. So, apparently, is column writing because immediately after I did a questions column, I received enough to do another within 24 hours. So as not to get too far behind, I am going to do them now and the first is about tents.

I know it is a little late in the year, but I need some advice on tents. The last time we used ours, we all got tick bites overnight. Any tips on keeping them out of the tent?

There are a few tricks you can use.

  • 1. Check the area before pitching the tent. Avoid grass or other ground cover. If you cannot, I like to roll up my sleeve and drag my bare arm slowly over the area where the tent is going to go. Every 30 seconds, stop and check your arm for ticks. They tend to cluster together and if you find a couple, sometimes you can avoid them simply by moving a few feet. Kill any you find on your arm, do not just brush them off.
  • 2. Cover the ground with a tarp or plastic sheet. Make it extend a couple of feet beyond the edge of the tent all the way around, especially in front of the entrance.
  • 3. Choose a tent with an integral floor and, if any rips develop, patch them immediately. You obviously did bring a roll of duct tape camping with you, right? Also pick one with fine mesh on the windows and doors. If it keeps no-see’ems out, it will keep out ticks. Spray the outside of the tent, all around the lower edges with permethrin. Keep your clean clothes and sleeping bags inside the tent and keep the tent door closed at all times.

4. Keep anything that might harbor a tick, from your outdoor clothes to your dogs, outside the tent. It is best to get undressed outside standing on the ground tarp and keep your dirty clothes outside in a bag as well. You may have to improvise a bit, depending on where you are camping and who your companions may be

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This sounds a bit complex but it really is not when it becomes routine. Ticks typically do not immediately attach, instead creeping around to find a delicious spot when you are not moving, so keeping them away while you are sleeping is important. Have fun and you are not late at all. Fall camping is the best!

I think you messed up. In the question about orioles you used the word minute when you meant minut.

I am not averse to spelling errors, having always felt that being able to spell words only one way demonstrated absolutely no creativity. However, I think I am correct in this case. Minute and minute are spelled identically but pronounced differently and have different meanings, which makes them heteronyms. Rather like catching a bass after playing the bass fiddle or having to present a present to someone.

Why would an interstate highway make Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles spread into each others’ territory? Last I checked, birds migrated north and south and seldom drove cars.

Actually, there is often east/west migration in species that spend the summer and nest at high altitude and winter in the lowlands. However, while orioles seldom drive cars, mostly because they have bird brains and would probably buy Dodges, major highways have huge effect. Everything that humans do creates wildlife habitat, especially for species adapted to edge areas.

This is why we have deer, squirrels, raccoons, Cooper’s hawks in the suburbs. Road construction, especially those with wide mowed borders, creates true havens for birdlife and they rapidly spread along the new habitat strips. It is not just birds either. Everything from deer to earthworms find these new open areas to be extremely attractive.

Did the police 10 codes only go to 99? I seem to remember there were a few up in the 100s.

They did but 100s tended to vary more by agency. They were different, for example, between the Conservation Officers and Forest Rangers within my department. Two that were fairly standard were 10-101 (What is your status?) and 10-106 (Status is secure.) Most agencies also did not use 10-100, which is the vernacular for “taking a potty break.”

What is the difference between coyotes and coydogs?

Coyotes exist, coyote/dog hybrids do not. Only under very extreme conditions in the wild (or under artificial conditions in captivity) do coyotes and domestic dogs hybridize. When they do, the pups would not be viable in the wild because the females come into estrus randomly like dogs and not during a single breeding season like coyotes, so the pups do not survive.

And now, I think I am going to go 10-3 for 10-100. ...

Bob Henke writes a weekly outdoors column for The Post-Star.

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