It was five o'clock Friday night, and the boys started arriving at the church parking lot, back by the Scout Shed. Mr. Little was already there and had the trailer ready to load. When Tom Richards pulled up in his big van, the boys poured out. Mr. Little came over and told them to leave their gear in the van, since Tom was going on the trip, too.
By five thirty, everyone was there, the trailer packed and boys loaded into the various vehicles. Waving to the parents, the troop pulled out. Their destination on this trip was the farm that belonged to an uncle of one of the boys. It was a favorite of the boys, because they could make improvements to the site and leave them there for the next trip. Over the years they had built some tables and benches and a lean-to shelter to store them in, to protect them from the weather. The farm was about thirty minutes away, so they still had plenty of daylight to set up, once they got there. The older boys were quick to claim their sites. The two new patrols, Brett Henry's Eagles and Neal's Racoons, chose sites that had some improvements, but had obviously not been used in some time.
Once the tents were up, the boys gathered to unpack the lean-to. The two new patrols each got to claim a table and two benches. They were not in the best shape. Mr. Freeman shook his head. "I wish we had a carpenter in the troop. It sure would be nice to build some new stuff."
Tom grinned. "I might have just the man for the job."
Mike Little said, "No, Tom, not for him to make it, but for him to teach the boys how to make it."
Tom grinned and replied, "I actually knew that. I was thinking of Stephen's big brother, Samuel."
Bob Freeman grinned. "He would be perfect. He's done some work for us at the Baptist Church, and his brothers were there helping, along with some of the other kids. He works real well with them."
Mike laughed. "Remind me to send a Merit Badge Counselor application home with Stephen. Maybe we can do Woodworking Merit badge this winter. We can do most of the work during the meetings."
Soon the camp was set up. Tom went with Mr. Little to check out the boys' sites. First they went to the senior patrols' area, and Mike made a big deal about how 'poorly' they were set up. The boys fixed the things he had pointed out and Tom noticed that everything Mr. Little yelled about was being quickly corrected in the other patrol sites, as well. When the senior patrol area passed inspection, Nick Stokley joined in inspecting the other sites. Mr. Little didn't correct any of the boys, but did occasionally point at something that Nick then took care of.
Mr. Freeman had built a nice log cabin fire in the large fire ring, and, as it got dark, the boys brought their camp chairs and sat in a circle around the fire ring. Nick waited until everyone was there. "I think we are going to have a great camp out. Mr. Freeman, it's all yours."
Mr. Freeman stood up. "I want everyone to think of the warmth and fun this fire will bring us tonight." He paused a few seconds. "Come on, boys, you can do better than that." The boys all tried harder. Mr. Freeman lowered his foot onto the two wires at his feet. That completed the circuit, causing a current to flow through a small ball of steel-wool in a match book buried in the center of the fire. A small hiss was heard, smoke started to escape, then flames. The boys all cheered. Mr. Freeman had a huge grin. "I knew you could do it." Tom wondered if he was talking to the boys or himself.
Everyone watched as the fire grew. The first few minutes a fire starts seems like a kind of magic. It is a time to reflect on things and to just be fascinated by the fire itself. Once the fire was burning well, Nick stood again. "This is our first troop camp out for a lot of you guys. So here is the deal, tonight, the adults built the fire and they will take care of it. Tomorrow night, we have to do the fire. So each patrol needs to send two boys to help tomorrow, right after lunch. Also, each patrol needs to come up with a skit and a song for tomorrow night. It might not be a bad idea to have two, just in case another patrol does the one you picked, before it's your turn." Nick made eye contact with each of the patrol leaders.
"Tomorrow morning, after breakfast, Matt will be doing Tot'n Chip in the ax-yard for all you guys that don't have that yet. After lunch, I'll be working on Fireman Chit with those that need that and we will be building the campfire for tomorrow night. The rest of you can work on whatever, but just remember we have the 'EVIL SCOUTMASTER' back, and, if you look bored, he will come out of nowhere and give you something to do." Mr. Little gave an evil laugh, just to prove his point.
The adults then took over and told some stories. Finally, Mr. Little acted reluctant but cringed as he asked Tom Richards if he had a story. Tom grinned and began the tale of a man named Benny who was granted a wish by a genie. The wish was for great wealth. The genie granted the wish with the condition that Benny never shave. Well, Benny stopped shaving and soon had a great deal of money. Then he met a beautiful woman, but she wouldn't go on a date with him, unless he shaved off his beard. The boys, of course, shouted out warnings to Benny. Well, he finally decided he had enough money, and so he shaved off his beard. There was an instant flash of lightning, and, when the smoke cleared, in the place where Benny was standing was an urn. The boys made sad noises. Tom grinned then said, "So boys, the moral of this story is, 'A Benny shaved is a Benny urned.'"
Nick led the boys in giving Tom a watermelon cheer. Then it was off to bed. The adults stayed by the fire, as the boys went to their tents. Mike Little said, "Tom, that one hasn't changed in thirty years."
"I know, but the more they groan, the more they will want. I wonder if any of them realize that me quoting good old Ben Franklin this past month was to get ready for that story?"
Bob Freeman laughed. "Tom, you are one evil dude. Hey, Mike, you got competition for being the most evil leader in the troop."
Mike laughed and returned, "Always room for more evil leaders, at least he isn't a pyromaniac."
Bob tried to look offended and failed miserably. Tom grinned and threw in, "What he doesn't know won't hurt him, much."
"I think I'm in trouble," Mike said, as he went to make sure the boys were all bedded down.
Mike's alarm buzzed at six, and he reluctantly got moving. Tom heard the zipper on Mike's tent, and he prepared for the day. Having learned his lesson at summer camp, he made sure everything was neat before he left the tent to go water a tree. By the time he returned to camp, Mike had the coffee pot on the stove. Mike's coffee pot was huge and could actually perk a gallon of coffee. By the time the rest of the adults were up, Matt and Nick were up and were yelling "Reveille, reveille, day light is wasting! Let's see those bright smiling faces!"
"Jeez! It's only six thirty!"
"Stop your bellyaching, Richards! Get your butt in gear, and get your cooks to cooking!"
The adults were laughing, as they enjoyed the interplay and their coffee. Jeff was the cook for breakfast. Tom was helping. Jeff got out the bag of mini powdered doughnuts, opened them and passed them to the other adults, then began heating the sausage links he had precooked at home. By the time the boys were starting their breakfasts, the adults were finishing their doughnuts.
Neal noticed Tom eating a nice powdered doughnut. "Hey, Dad, you got doughnuts."
Tom nodded, as he chewed, then swallowed. "Yup, they're good, too."
"How come you have doughnuts?" Neal asked.
Mr. Alexander grinned, then explained, "They were on the menu, so I bought them and brought them."
"So how come we don't have doughnuts?"
Jeff grinned and replied, "Well, Neal, I would say that is because you didn't put them on your menu."
"Jeez. Could we have some of those?"
"No, those are our doughnuts."
"But you have a whole other bag," Neal whined.
"Yup, sure do. Those are for tomorrow's breakfast."
"Jeez, you guys are mean." Neal walked away empty handed.
Jeff looked at Tom. "That kid has killer 'puppy-dog-eyes.' How do you stand it?"
Tom laughed, "Him putting BenGay on my toilet seat pretty much made me immune."
"Ouch. New meaning to hot seat."
The men laughed and soon Jeff had their breakfast of French toast and sausage links ready.
About an hour later, the boys had eaten, cleaned up and were ready to start the day. Nick had them assemble. The three new boys were going to be working on their Tot'n Chip with Matt Little, and the others were going to work on a service project for the farmer. At lunch, the three new guys were very proud that they had their Tot'n Chip cards. The adults all congratulated them. After lunch, the new guys worked on their Fireman Chit, and then they actually built the campfire for that night.
For dinner that night, the Eagle Patrol had a disaster. The cook, Sam Frost, did not read the directions for the box of mac&cheese. He added the packet to the boiling water and noodles. He tried to recover by cooking the water off. He ended up with a gloppy mess with hotdogs cut up in it. He came to Mr Little almost in tears. "Mr. Little? I messed up, big time. I ruined dinner. What am I goin'a do?"
"Well, what can you do?"
"Well, go back and look at what you have, food wise, and see if there is something you could improvise. Go take a look."
As the boy went back, Mike went and got a bag out of his truck. Tom was watching all this carefully. When the boy returned, he was as dejected as before. "We got our breakfast stuff, and that's it."
"What was for dinner tonight?"
"Mac&dogs. Some carrots, celery and dip. Kool-AidŽ. Some cookies for dessert."
Mr. Little smiled. "Good. Now what is still okay?"
"Ah, the other stuff is fine just the Mac&dogs are mush."
"So, what was your patrol having for breakfast?"
"Bacon and scrambled eggs."
How about you go get two slices of bacon and the mush&dogs and bring them over here. I have an idea for you. And wash you hands first, please."
"Okay, Mr. Little."
When Sam returned, Mr. Little had the adult's big frying pan on the stove. "Sam, put the two slices of bacon on the pan and turn on the burner." Sam did that. "Now you get the fun part. Pick out the hotdogs and put them in the small pot. Just use your hands for that. I'll watch the bacon." Sam worked and soon had the hotdogs rinsed, in the other pan and he had very gloppy hands. Mr. Little smiled and told him to wash off his hands. The bacon was now crispy, and Mr. Little removed it and let it cool on a plate, covered by a paper towel. "Okay, Sam, in that bag are some onions and cans of sliced potatoes. Get two onions and peel them."
At this point Tom decided to help out. He had noticed the other boys in the patrol were getting restless. Tom took the onions and told Sam, "You need to go get your guys started on the veggies and dip. Tell them there is a menu change, and things are running a little late, and it's all Mr. Little's fault."
"Hey, It's not MY fault."
"Is, too. It's your fault it's late instead of missing."
"Oh, well, if you look at it that way..."
"Go on, Sam. I'll get the onions started."
Sam went over to his patrol and there was some intense conversation. Sam returned to the adult area with Brett Henry, his patrol leader. Bret went to Mr. Little. "So, what is this story that you are changing our menu for dinner?"
Mr. Little just pointed to the pot that had the macaroni mush in it. "Sam came and asked for help. You guys weren't around, so he came to me."
"Yuck, that looks awful. What did you do, Sam?"
Sam blushed, as Tom added the sliced onions to the pan with the bacon fat in it and turned on the burner.
"I added the packet too soon."
"Okay, Brett; go calm your guys down, and I want to see all the patrol leaders after the campfire tonight, so spread the word." Mr. Little turned and started heating the hot dogs.
Tom had Sam open and drain the three cans of sliced potatoes. Then he added them to the onions. Some salt and pepper, and they were cooking nicely. Then Mr. little had Sam get the cheese slices the adults had left over from lunch and added them to the hotdogs then crumbled the bacon into the pot, as well. When it was all done, Tom and Mike carried the hot dog surprise and fried potatoes and onions over to the hungry Eagle Patrol. Since they were so hungry, they thought everything was great, and Sam was forgiven for his mistake.
After clean-up, it was time for the campfire. It took a few tries but the new guys got the fire going, and all the others congratulated them on a job well done. Nick then asked which patrol wanted to start things off. Someone, possibly Tom, who just happened to be walking behind him at the time, poked Neal in the side. Of course, Neal said, "Hey!" So the Raccoon started out with a skit they had found on the internet. Each patrol did their skit and then led a song. They went in the same order as they did for the skits. Neal led them in 'Pink Pajamas.'
After the last song, there were many yawning boys. Mr. Little stood. "Okay, boys, it's bedtime. I'll see you in the morning. I'm proud of you guys. It looks as if we got everything done that was planned, so you can sleep-in in the morning." There were cheers. "At least to 6:45." That got boos. PLC (Patrol Leader Council) after taps."
Mr. little put a few small pieces of wood on the coals, so there was some light. In about ten minutes, the Patrol Leaders Council was gathered around the campfire. Mr. Little began, "I'll have my say, since I called this meeting. We nearly had a disaster at dinner." The guys looked at each other, and Mr. Little leaned back in his chair. He had said what he wanted to say.
Brett took up the topic, since it was his patrol. "Our cook at dinner messed up, and Mr. Little saved the meal."
Nick asked, "Who was supervising and helping him?"
Even in the dim firelight, you could see Brett blushing. "It was an easy menu. He was kind of on his own."
Neal added, "We just had the one cook for dinner, and we didn't have any problems."
Matt entered the discussion, "I want you guys to think about this. The 'Buddy System.' Look at the duty roster the other patrols have posted. There is a cook and an assistant cook for every meal. Even the adults do it that way."
Neal and Brett nodded to each other. Brett said, "Yeah, if someone else had been paying attention, the instructions probably would have been followed. Thanks, guys, for not making me feel stupid."
Nick jumped right on that, "We never for a second thought you were stupid. You are the Patrol Leader; that means your patrol thinks you're pretty smart, and they want you to lead them. We're here to help. Any other business for tonight?" There was no response. "Okay, reveille at 7:00. Good night, Scouts." The boys left. Mike and Tom sat enjoying the flickering of the fading fire.
* * *
Tom was cook for breakfast. He had set his alarm for 6:30. He was up, most of his gear packed, and had made it to the adult kitchen before Nick began his wake up call. The coffee was brewing, and, the large pot was on to boil. This meal had been explained to Tom, but he wasn't convinced it really worked. He had prepared all the ingredients for the omelets, chopped spring onions, ham, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and the eggs. He had carefully cracked three eggs and put them in a one quart heavy duty freezer zip seal bags. Now each adult simply added whatever he wanted, sealed the bag, mixed the contents and put the sealed bag in the boiling water to cook. When the omelet was done it was removed with a set of tongs and, when cooled, it was eaten right out of the bag. If the person wanted hot cider, the packets were there and he just ladled hot water from the pot into his mug.
Of course, the mini powdered donuts were consumed while the omelets cooked. Cleanup for the cook was to empty the hot water into the wash tubs to be used for washing any personal gear that might need it (coffee mugs). The adults' kitchen was clean and ready for inspection.
The adults then went and broke their camp and packed their gear into their vehicles. After kicking around the leaves, the site was empty, and the area where the tents had been looked like it did Friday night when they arrived. Nick brought his gear, and Matt was right behind him. They then went to help the new guy patrols, Eagles and Raccoons, get things moving smoothly. Brett and Neal were glad for the help, and, by 9:30, the site was cleared and all the gear packed. At 10:00 Mr. Little called the troop together at the campfire ring.
The boys found a seat on a log and Mr. Little began, "I want each of you to look around and see what God has made." He waited, as the boys looked around. "Each of us most likely saw very different things. I am always fascinated that out in the woods we are surrounded by miracles. The new growth of the plants in the spring, and now in the fall the plants and animals all preparing for the cold of winter that is soon to come. Boys, look around and see the wonders that God has given us. If at no other time, when we are camping, look around. God is here with us. He has us in His hands..." Mr. Little began the song, and the boys joined right in and sang it with new meaning for them.
A final policing of the area (everyone lined up and walked across the area and picked up any trash that had been missed). The boys then put on their uniform shirts and loaded into the vehicles. The adults got together. Mr Little said, "Ah, this happens every now and then, but we are about an hour ahead of schedule. Any ideas?"
Bob said, "Well, the burger place on the way home where we usually stop isn't going to help."
Tom thought for a minute. "Look, each boy was to have five bucks for lunch on the way home. There is a nice little Chinese buffet over in the next county, near the hospital, and I will stand for any amount over the five bucks. I think it might be a good experience for the boys. I've been there with Dr. Turnman, and the atmosphere is better than any burger place, and I'd like to see our boys shine in a place like that."
Mr. Little gave two blasts on his whistle, and the Patrol Leaders came running from the vehicles they were in. "Okay, boys, here's the deal. Mr. Richards is crazy. Go collect the five dollars for lunch from each of your boys. We are going to a nice, I repeat, a nice restaurant for lunch. There is an all you can eat buffet, or you can order from the menu. I'm willing to try this, because I know you can behave and make me proud. Don't disappoint me." The boys went back to their vehicles, and they really seemed to be standing a bit taller.
Tom led the troop to the restaurant. He called Leo and had him call and give Mr. Chang a heads up on the approaching troop. The boys were all on their best behavior, as they entered the restaurant. Nick gently guided the boys to fill the tables from the back to the front. This also allowed the boys to see the huge assortment of offerings on the three buffet tables. The tables were set for four, and patrols took neighboring tables. All the boys were going for the buffet, and as soon as their waiters took their drink orders, they lined up and began emptying Mr. Chang's three buffet tables.
Tom and the adults took a table at the front, near the cash register. Mr. Chang himself waited on their table. "Good to see you, Mr. Tom. You want the Haven Special today?"
"Haven Special, did I get it as #27?"
"New menu should be here this week."
"Well, then, a #27, with sweet tea."
Mike looked at Tom. "What did you just order?"
Tom grinned, "Beef broccoli, house fried rice, Won Ton soup, and an egg roll."
Bob said that sounded good to him. Mike ordered the 'four pepper' pepper steak dinner.
The boys were definitely on their best behavior, and as regular patrons came in, they would step aside, and, in the the case of an elderly couple, they went through holding and loading the plates for them. Mr. Little didn't miss that.
The adults finished their meals and had coffee, as the boys enjoyed thirds and then discovered the ice cream cooler in the back corner.
At 12:30, everyone was finished. The patrol leaders came to report to the adults that their patrols were finished, had washed up and were ready to go. Tom told them to leave $10 as a tip for their waiters and give him the remaining lunch money. Mr. Chang had a nice total waiting for Tom at the register. Tom took the bill, doubled it and signed the bottom.
"No, no. Buffet only $3.75. This is too much," Mr. Chang protested.
"Billy, we just showed up with almost no warning. Those eating machines consumed twice what your normal buffet patron does, so that is only fair. Besides, I can easily afford it. I'll give you more warning next time."
Billy Chang grinned, bowed, and said, "Thomas-san and his eating machines always welcome. I was a bit nervous when I saw all the boys, and then you adults sat up here. I have never had a large group come and be so well behaved. Please come back; this morning has been one of my best ever."
As the boys were leaving, several of the customers came and shook Mr. Little's hand and congratulated him on his well behaved Scouts. The elderly gentleman that the boys had helped through the buffet line handed Mr. Little a check made out to Troop 316. "My boys and grandsons have all been Scouts, and your unit is special. Use this donation to support your program as you see fit. Thank you for the fine job you do."
On the way to the car, Mike looked at the check and did a double take. He handed it to Tom. It was made out for $500. "I think I can feel a Scoutmaster Minute," Tom said as he handed the check back to Mike.
Right on time, the troop arrived back at the church. Mr. Little told the boys to stay, that he had something important to say to them and their parents. The gear was unloaded and put away, and soon everyone was forming a circle. Nick put up the Scout Sign, and silence soon followed. "Mr. Little, you have something to tell us."
"Thank you, Nick. We had a wonderful camp out this weekend. We did everything that was planned, and were even ahead of schedule, this morning. Since we had some extra time, we went to a nice restaurant for our lunch. I will admit that I was a bit nervous. Mr. Richards had the idea and took the lead. Each and every one of these boys were model gentlemen and made me proud I was wearing the same uniform they were. We had several of the other diners come and tell us how well behaved our Scouts were. The owner of the restaurant has asked that we feel free to come and eat there. The real kicker, as far as I am concerned, is that these boys helped an elderly couple through the buffet, and were perfect Scouts. They were not asked to help, they just did it.
"Joe, come here, please." Joe Clusman, the current troop scribe, crossed the circle. Mr. Little handed the check to Joe. "I was told to use this to support our program. Nick, you need to get input from the PLC, and I want a formal PLC meeting next weekend to discuss this."
Nick asked, "How much are we talking about?"
Joe was still staring at the check. "Five h-h-hundred dollars."
There were gasps from boys and adults alike.
What you men did as a simple good turn was recognized by the elderly couple whose sons and grandsons were all Scouts. They saw that you were doing it right and this is their way of supporting you. We need to do as they requested. So, all of you think of ways that this could help. Parents, be proud of your boys; they have done great. Boys, are we having fun?"
There was a huge cheer and the camping trip was over.
* * *
Well, the boys had a great time, and even made the adults proud. The restaurant segment was based on an experience from my troop. However, we actually were given a check for fifty dollars. That really helped us, because we needed a new patrol kitchen set that cost sixty dollars. I wonder what Neal and the others will come up with for spending that much money. I guess you just have to wait until I get the next chapter written.
I was impressed by the boys' attitudes and behavior. I, for one, was also impressed by the way the adults acted when one of the boys messed up. There was no teasing, and no one made a big deal out of it. They just put their heads together and figured out a solution that worked. Everyone had a nice, if somewhat different meal, and everything worked out well. That is the way that adults should act. The Patrol Leaders meeting, afterward, gave the guys a heads up as to what went wrong and what was needed to make sure it wouldn't happen again, hopefully.
I am sure there will be many more adventures to come.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Associate Editor's Notes:
Str8mayb approaches all his stories with a compassionate point of view. He obviously cares a great deal about the people he is writing about. (And I know from conversations with him that his characters are mostly based on people he knows or has known in his life.)
He has a lifelong connection with the Boy Scouts, and this story is a condensation of many experiences and episodes in his own history with the Boy Scouts. There is a basic truth to his stories that resonates with the reader, evoking fond memories from personal experiences.
Fort Chief Editor's Notes:
Hmmm first we had an Evil Author now we have an Evil Scoutmaster; what is the world coming too?
These stories about Scouting do bring back fond memories. This is what Scouting is all about and what it should be like.
Now as to what is coming up next, I just' might give you a 'small' hint or I might not.