Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias If you fall asleep while reading this, I understand.

There's a good chance I'll doze off a couple times as I write this.

I can sleep through anything.

Just ask my brothers. Or my wife and kids.

All will attest that every night, Mr. Sandman gives me more than a dream. He gives me a sedative the size of a horse pill.

I first demonstrated my great sleeping talent in late June about 40 some years ago, when Jeff got a pup tent for his eighth birthday. Mike and I were 9 years old.

Jeff had nagged my folks about the pup tent for weeks. He had heard my dad tell stories about how he had to sleep in one in the snow of the Black Forest of Germany while on bivouac with the U.S. Army.

Jeff figured that anything that was good enough for my dad in the dead of winter would be just fine for him during a warm South Dakota summer.

After receiving the tent, he had to start nagging Dad to put it up.

Dad had set up a pup tent so many times as an Army private that he could do it blindfolded. He was no hurry to relive those old memories.

I'm guessing that driving stakes in frozen ground and trying to stay warm with nothing but a sleeping bag and a thin wall of fabric separating him from the elements brought back no fond memories.

Jeff, on the other hand, was about to burst as he thought of the adventures that awaited him as he truly "roughed it" in the great outdoors of our backyard.

He proved he'd do anything for this experience � even beg.

"When can we put the tent up when when whenwhenwhenwhenWHENWHENWHEN?" Jeff said.


After an eternity, my dad, with a very solemn look on his face, found his sledge hammer. Naturally, I thought he was going to use it to silence Jeff � permanently, if you know what I mean.

Turns out he needed the hammer to drive tent stakes in the ground.

There's nothing palacial about a pup tent. To Jeff, however, it was the Hearst Castle.

As Mike and I took the 15 second tour of the tent's interior, Jeff announced that we would be spending the night in it.

"We?" Mike and I responded in unison.

"Mom and Dad always say we should share," Jeff replied. "I've decided to share my birthday present."

"But �" I said.

"Be here at bedtime," Jeff said.

Mike and I looked at each other. Jeff had a reputation for clinging tightly to things that belonged to him. He never "wanted" to share.

Mike and I knew the source of Jeff's sudden generosity. He didn't want to sleep outside all by himself.

So we relented. We agreed to take part in his little adventure.

Mom found some of the oldest bedding in the house � stuff she knew was likely to be returned to her with grass stains.

We went about building a nest in the tent.

And after an eternity of clock-watching, 8:30 p.m. finally arrived. Time to go to our makeshift, outdoor, mosquito-laden bed.

Somehow, the three of us managed to fit in the tent. We just laid there, pie-eyed at first. You could hear the evening breeze blowing through the trees above our head.

In fact, with only a thin canvas wall defining what was indoors and what was outdoors, you could hear lots of things.

"Whoooo. Whoooo," said something from our windbreak.

Jeff sat up straight. "It's a ghost!" he said.

We assured him it was only an owl.

Jeff settled back down, and then our farm dog, as was often his custom, began baying at the moon. For no reason.

"It's a mountain lion!" Jeff exclaimed, as he shot out of the tent, bound from for the house, never to return.

Mike stayed for a little while. But then he decided to leave, he said, to "check on" Jeff.

I suddenly realized I had the whole tent to myself. I didn't have to roll myself up into a ball to fit. I stretched my legs and got comfortable.

Suddenly, I was having the strangest dream. The grass was rustling under my back, and I opened my eyes. I had emerged from the darkness of the tent, and, for some reason, was outside. I could see the moon and the stars as I looked straight up in the sky.

Then I shifted my gaze to try to see why I was moving. And there was Dad, with a firm grip of each of my ankles, sliding me out of the tent. He threw me over my shoulder like I was a sack of seed, and that ended the night's adventures.

In many ways, things haven't changed.

For example, I'm still trying to make up that hour of sleep we lost on April 4. So far, I haven't been successful.

I have this terrible habit, you see, of getting involved in late night television. Do I go to bed at a decent hour after the Letterman show?

I start channel surfing, hoping to catch a good movie. If I do, the battle is on.

Who will "go off the air" first, me or the television network?

It's a battle I can't win.

I usually end up unconscious in my Lazyboy, lulled to sleep by the purple hue of the TV tube.

I wake up feeling nearly as tired as when I nodded off, because I don't get as much as sleep as I should.

Dr. Stephen Smith, sleep specialist and medical director of The Nebraska Medical Center's Sleep Center, said the average person needs seven-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep every night.

Otherwise, you can't function normally the next day and stay awake in less than stimulating situations like dry business meetings, lectures, class or church.

According to Smith's standards, I'm sleep deprived most of the time. I need to work on changing that.

In the meantime, however, I've got only one thing to say:

"Another cup of coffee, please."

David Lias is on his second cup of Joe this morning, and feels confident he'll make it through the day. You may contact him at

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