THE VALLEY DISPATCH, Paul Sullivan’s vintage columns appear every Friday in The Valley Dispatch. He wrote this one in 1994. Sullivan’s WBZ-radio show airs Monday through Friday from 8 to midnight.

“Gee, I don’t know, dad,” said my 11-year-old son, Ryan, when I asked if he would like to go on a weekend camping trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

“Remember what happened last time?” he said with a grimace.

I was shocked!

Whenever Ward Cleaver asked Wally or Beaver if they wanted to do something, they would jump at the chance. Or if Andy asked Opie to head up to “the lake” he would yell “surrrrre Paaaaaa.”

But not my little guy.

“Dad, I hate to say this, but maybe we’re not the camping type,” suggested my little diplomat.

“Just like last time, dad, when you forgot the matches to light the fire,” said 9-year-old Ashley, even though I wasn’t talking to her.

Ashley was kind enough to recount our last camping venture. Along the way, Ashley also made it very clear that the trip would be her last vacation to a destination that did not include room service or an indoor swimming pool.

“I’ve been reading a lot of books on camping. I have a checklist. The family campground where we will be staying has public toilets. And guess what? President Clinton and his family vacation about a mile or so from the place,” I said, sounding like a cheerleader for the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.

“OK, dad. I’m willing to give it another chance,” Ryan said.

I gave Ashley my best ‘I-guess-we-know-who’s-the-boss’ look and turned my attention to my traveling companion.

So off we went on our one millionth once-in-a-lifetime experience. Everything went like clockwork. I borrowed all the stuff we needed. I had the tent and the poles. I had the mess kits and the sleeping bags. I even had all the accessories, from bug spray to candles, to all the camping food you could eat — hotdogs, marshmallows, beef jerky, dried fruit. You name it, I had it.

I had sent my check to the campground and they had my site all put aside for me. Site L-34 would be our home for the next three days, as Ryan and I communed with nature.

We drove to the ferry landing at Woods Hole on Cape Cod and stood in line to get our tickets. Frankly, I was beaming.

Ashley, that cynical little vixen, would be eating crow, and I would be loving it!

Even Ryan seemed impressed. “Seems like we’re all set, dad,” he said as we reached the front of the line.

“That will be twenty-six dollars, sir,” said some guy in a uniform.

“For what?” I demanded.

I looked at Ryan, who knew immediately by the look on my face that I had forgotten my wallet.

So he turned to the guy and said, “How about some beef jerky?”

To comment on this story, e-mail Paul Sullivan at