I dreaded yearly Boy Scout Camp, a week in June spent in misery at the crest of frigid Laramie Peak, Wyoming in a pup tent. Camp was intended to teach character to 12 year olds while we won badges. We trudged over slippery, rugged ground and shivered in flimsy sleeping bags in the high mountain air. Time ceased. I could not determine the hour or day except for welcome army style meals served in the mess hall an hour’s hike from camp.
Since I was sullen, asthmatic and withdrawn, I was sentenced to K.P. and Latrine Duty. My only relief was the early bedtime, hoping that tomorrow was Sunday and would bring the return to home, T.V., HiFi, mom’s meals, and a real bed with stacks of blankets. The long week finally ended and parents feigned smiles as each of the campers slipped their gear into station wagons and jeeps. Theodore McGuffy, my tent mate, looked worriedly at me as he waved from the windows skidding down the rocky trail.
The bright mountain sun gave way to a cool sunset, and yet, I stood alone on a gravel lot, realizing my parents had forgotten me. There was no cell phone, no food, no refuge. Only me and a speedy bivouac.
I tried to phone on Monday, my hands shaking along the old rotary dial but the line rang endlessly and answering machines were two decades into the future. Pretending to be Daniel Boone, I returned to my tiny pup tent to discover a new set of miserable scouts had filtered around my tent. These strangers were excellent replacements, older, experienced, and accomplished at camp duties. Yet, no one asked me any questions, and the phone line tested repeatedly in Nebraska remained unanswered. Mess was served three times a day and I was free from hiking, badges, and K.P. duty. I tried not to think too much and wondered if my parents had mistakenly paid for two weeks of Boy Scout Training to toughen me up.
Apprehensively, I slowly rolled my tent and bag on Sunday, panic rising like asthma in my throat but I was delighted to see my dad’s worthless rusted jeep climb the rocky path. Near tears, I attempted to explain that the Nebraska troop left a week previous, he had miscalculated the time. His response was a huffing scoff as he reminisced about his years of camping. I was purely stunned and the family often joked in later years about a 12 year old alone atop a peak in bear country. My Mom’s rendition penned in silence was the more defining memory.
As for me, I am no fan of the outdoors, camping, sleeping bags, vacations, or pup tents. Every night at home is a gift to me, and I murmur this tiny, resolute prayer: My bed, my good, ol’ friendly bed.