The campground is in that postprandial mellowness of a good meal eaten in the outdoors. Some have settled into staring at the campfire. Others finish washing the dinner dishes. All the food and scented items are stored safely in the steel bear-proof containers.
Card games begin on the wooden picnic tables, the quiet snap of cards the only sound. Kindles are out and active, their users reading those last few pages before the light fades.
Little girls dressed in pink and purple catch a final ride on pink and purple bicycles, the plastic training wheels emitting a rasp when they touch down on the asphalt lane through the campground loop.
The Midas touch of the waning sun gilds the iconic monoliths of Yosemite, the golden hue darkening inexorably as cameras capture the magic.
From far away a voice calls, “El-mer...”
Other voices, other directions:
“”””””My friends look up and smile. I see in their eyes they have traveled back in time to the days of their childhoods in the 1940s and ‘50s, and the annual family vacations in this forested paradise.
“I’m embarrassed to think we ever did that,” says a chagrined Kathy.
Indeed, most of the voices are those of children, enhanced now and then by an adult voice.
Choose your favorite story of origin:
--a lost boy named Elmer urgently summoned by his mother as darkness approaches, or,
--a boy who had gone to watch Fire Fall led to his camp site after dark by his mother’s voice.
In either story, other campers join in. Now, six decades later, calls for Elmer zigzag through the tents and motorhomes, swirl around the campfires, and sniff at marshmallows toasting over burnished coals.
It’s a tradition no doubt carried from campground to campground around the country, but particularly in California. It’s the first time I’ve heard it.
It’s almost dark now.
Then, a nearby male voice: