October 22, 2023
2023 Spooky-Ree (Or, Those Elusive Bands)
Do you know how to make 36 hours feel like a week? It’s easy, just be a 54-year-old father and take your eight-year-old son on his first Cub Scout camping trip. There was walking, playing, walking, noise, walking, archery, walking, restive sleeping, walking, fishing, and walking. Man, camping is a lot of work. Did I mention the half-mile walk from our pack campground to activities? And meals? In all, I think we walked at least six miles yesterday.
I don’t mean to be the old man grousing. I think the kids had a blast. There were many scouts from all over Georgia, and the program they put together at Bert Adams Camp was really great. I was impressed with what Henry’s pack leaders put together to keep these kids edu-tained. While we were not able to do everything, Henry managed to squeeze in as much as possible, even getting his first archery lesson.
We arrived at Bert Adams Camp just before sunset and joined our pack’s campground. After I set up camp (where did Henry go?)—still arduous, though fairly quick because I practiced with the tent the day before—I met the pack leader Spencer, and he went over a few preliminaries with me, including our mandatory bracelets: red ones that prove we’re supposed to be there; one orange one for Henry that allows him on the archery range; and black ones that gain us entrance to the food hall. The former two were the plastic-papery type that are permanent until cut off. The latter were rubber ones that wore their purpose in white letters printed around the outside: “Love Me Some Bert Adams Camp Food.” Only now do I appreciate the irony of that little phrase. Of these bracelets, Spencer emphasized the importance of, especially, the black ones: “If you want to eat, be sure you keep these armbands safe.” I nodded my solemn understanding: what’s more important than food these days? These black bands would be my bête noire of the weekend.
The first night was pretty tough. I’m a light sleeper as it is, so every sound coming from our camp and every light that trailed by like somnambulant willow-wisps seeking the facilities woke me up—it seemed like every ten minutes. I did not blow-up Henry’s air mattress enough, so he could not find a good sleeping position. At about 02:00, Henry sits up and cries “Dad, can we go now?” Exactly what I was thinking, but I did my best to calm him and get him tucked back in. We’re in this for the duration, kid. We had a 06:00 wake-up to get to breakfast by 07:30. By then it was in the mid-forties, and I was cold. I managed to get moving and get Henry out of his sleeping bag.
Henry’s rough night was all-but-forgotten when he saw his school friend Rowan had arrived, and we joined the trek to the dining hall. I had put my black armband on as soon as Spencer gave it to me, and the other in my jacket pocket to give to Henry in the morning. I’m not sure why I didn't put both bands on my wrist, especially after Spencer’s admonition. I felt around in my pockets—no black band. I must have accidentally pulled it out of my pocket during camp set-up, fishing for flashlights or whatever. I probably dropped it by the car. As we walked I thought no big deal—I’ll just ask Henry to get me some coffee. At least I still had one black band.
I caught up to Spencer as we walked and explained the situation. He said not to worry about it—that we would “work it out.” When we began the queue for breakfast, he handed me a black band and asked that I return it after breakfast. I agreed and said I would search around my car to find the one I had dropped. I returned the band promptly after breakfast.
After a pancake-wrapped sausage on a stick, grits, and coffee, we started another queue for the Cub Range. Apparently our pack’s time was 09:00–11:00, so the scouts played as the parents stood in line. I chatted with Ben, Henry’s den leader, and Ed, Rowan’s father, for the hour it took us to be let into the range. First stop, training. The trainer had probably given the same spiel a dozen times already, and while her voice was enthusiastic, she seemed a bit haggard. Henry was in hype-man mode—something he learned from Kip in Chicago. Every sentence the trainer finished, Henry would punctuate it with “yeah!” or “cool!” or “heard that!” I was standing a bit too far away, or I would have pulled his hair. Fortunately, he was not the only obnoxious kid she was talking to. Seeing how he doesn’t really listen makes me wonder how he behaves in school. The trainer, like all the other workers, was a volunteer. Man, what a bunch of devoted masochists.
Henry shot both the BB-gun and a bow; he seemed to like the latter, and he did pretty well. By the time he was finished, it was nearing noon, so we made our way to the cafeteria. Outside, parents and scouts were milling about. Spencer saw me and asked, “Did you find your armband?” I was embarrassed that I never even had the chance to look, which I said. “No problem,” he said, and handed me another chow band. “Just hold on to it,” he said. “Thanks.” I gave the band to Henry and told him to put it on. We had an al-fresco lunch of hotdogs and potato chips and Rice Crispy treats. It was better than breakfast. I sat alone and enjoyed the cool sunny day by the lake. Finally, I could strip off a layer.
“Dad, can we go fishing now?” That had really been Henry’s mantra all morning, and I could finally say “sure, let’s go.”