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Totaled up, I've spent 28 nights in a tent this year.

That will be a cumulative month should I keep my plans to go deer hunting in November and get three more nights in a tent.

I had every intention to get in one or two more fall camping trips with my trusty Eureka-brand tent, but gas money was diverted to a new pair of blue jeans I found in my size, the rare 30-by-34.

So I'm about done for 2019 camping. I'll do Camel Hump Lake next year.

My tent was a college graduation present from my parents, the result of a small shopping spree after my father discovered online auction sites.

The tent is my Millennium Falcon, battered and bruised from its brushes with North Dakota's winds and weather.

Said the smuggler Han Solo, "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid. I've made a lot of special modifications myself."

I've patched tears in my tent's fly with duct tape and lashed it to picnic tables and vehicle door handles to steady it against assaulting winds. 

I've accumulated a mismatched collection of ground stakes -- some bent, others broken, a few intact, all aggregated in a drawstring Crown Royal bag.

In one of its first deployments, the tent withstood pelting hail from a July storm along the Missouri River.

Icicles froze to the edge of the fly in a late-autumn lark in the Badlands near Watford City.

My tent has sheltered dear family, good friends, beloved bird dogs and a German tourist named Tobias.

I'm reluctant to put the tent away for winter, but it's getting cold. Days are getting shorter.

The tent has a gaping hole from a broken zipper, through which nocturnal wildlife could enter, seeking warmth or food or a subscription to The Bismarck Tribune.

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I discovered this malfunction a few weeks ago at the Elkhorn Campground in the Badlands. My only remedy was to pile up all my gear to cover the hole.

No animals wandered in, but I dreaded a visit from the rabid skunk my mother warned me as a child is perpetually out at night.

So I could be in the market for a new tent in 2020. I'm not picky. I'd want something you can stand up in. 

Maybe room for a desk. Not that I'd have a desk. I just want the space.

Often I have company. Three colleagues joined me for a night in Graner Park south of Mandan in September. I heard no complaints.

I banned my dad's bird dog from the tent in 2016 after he shed a coat of hair over the floor.

I'm still finding Dash's fur. He and I will discuss his moratorium next year.

Perhaps he'd like to weigh in on a new tent.

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Camping enthusiast Jack Dura is the Capitol reporter for the Tribune. Reach him at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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Capitol Reporter