Camping with the Boy Scouts
And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is
the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die…(Genesis)
© 2014 – Thomas C. Dugas
Louisiana Cypress Trees
I don’t normally start one of my tales with a bible quote, but bear with me, you’ll get the reference soon enough.
When I was about eleven years old, I went camping with the Boy Scouts.
And therein lies the tale I am about to tell.
One afternoon at school recess I was approached by a few of the older boys and I was informed that a meeting of Troop 14, Local Boy Scouts, would be held in a small white building just off the school grounds. The place had been set, and the suggested time was around 3:30, about twenty minutes after school ended, and right in the middle of my fishing and hunting schedule.
As I was only eleven, I didn’t know much about the Boy Scouts. I had faithfully joined the Cub Scouts years earlier and to my surprise this commitment consisted of meetings at the home of a rather large family down the country road from where I lived. I enjoyed these large meetings of all my like aged friends, packed into that small home, while the mother of one of us strained to instill the teachings of the Cub Scout traditions. What I remembered about the Cub Scouts was mostly those meetings, which always degenerated into an extended football/baseball or other similar game outside when the exasperated mother finally relented and paroled us outdoors.
So, an invitation to the grown up Boy Scouts intrigued me. I made a mental note to attend the meeting that afternoon.
3:30 arrived soon enough and I parked my bicycle outside with all the others. I noted who was in attendance by the bikes, as all young boys do. It appeared to be most of my friends and a few who didn’t make the list. I opened the door to the small building and entered.
The room smelled musty. There was a considerable amount of noise going on and I managed to find a chair near the back. Soon enough, Elvin Cormier, Scoutmaster, called the meeting to order by banging on the old wood desk with a claw hammer. We shut up and tried to pay attention.
Elvin started reading from a book, one I recognized from the local library. It was the Boy Scout handbook. In short order, we stood, turned to face the flag in the corner of the room, recited the pledge of allegiance, and then said the Boy Scout Creed while holding our hands up with the Scout’s cross:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
With the preliminaries out of the way, Elvin settled down to business. I don’t remember all the details, but there was a lot of talk about doing good deeds for the community, working to help people across the street, and other general stuff that I tried to avoid lest it interfere with my hunting and fishing. But then Elvin said something that caught my attention…”And in two weeks, we will have our first annual camping trip to the Lake, where we will spend the weekend working on Merit Badges and other fun activities. Including swimming. We will travel by houseboat to a new campsite that is about five miles from the boat landing. So, make sure you take one of these lists home with you to get your parents’ permission and to have with you the items you will need to work on your merit badges.”
That’s what Elvin said. What I heard was “Camping trip, weekend, houseboat, lake, swimming, fun.”
I was “all in” as they say. It seems the Boy Scouts was going to be more fun than I had anticipated. You mean to tell me that they have a club where they go camping, swimming, and have fun? Well, sign me up brother.
When the meeting ended I walked up with the crush of other boys and grabbed one of the mimeographed lists that had all the items I was supposed to bring. When I got outside, the first thing I did was to move the sheet under my nose and inhale deeply. I wasn’t the only one doing this as anyone who remembers mimeograph copies will attest.
Then I read the list. Spare change of clothes. Boy Scout shirt, Boots, soap, towel (what the hell? we were going camping, nobody bathes when they camp), and a list of other supplies that seemed strange. Notable in their absence were firearms, fishing poles, bait, a machete, bowie knife, and the other “normal” things I took camping. Who made this list I wondered? The word “tenderfoot” immediately came to mind.
I jammed the list into a jeans pocket, mounted my bike and pedaled home. Two weeks would pass fast enough and I had to prepare.
Two Weeks Later…
Two weeks later I was standing on the boat dock at the local lake. It was four o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday. Nearby was a houseboat that I knew belonged to the elementary school principal. Crowded around the small boat landing area were a dozen vehicles disgorging my scout mates and their gear.
Mine was inside an old army surplus duffel bag, a veteran of WWII for sure. In my hand was a new vinyl “bowling ball bag” that had the mascot of the local high-school football team on it "The Tigers.” A large yellow Bengal Tiger face was on the side of the black bag. Inside the bag were two T-Shirts, two pairs of white underwear, and a spare pair of blue Jeans. This was my clothing for the weekend, besides what I was wearing, which was a T-Shirt, white underwear, and blue jeans. I may or may not have had shoes on. It’s been too long. My hunting boots were in my duffle just in case. But I planned on swimming most of the weekend so shoes seemed an afterthought at the moment.
In the Duffel bag I also had my broken down Winchester Model 61 pump in .22LR….
“Give him year ‘round fun…for years to come”
Vintage Winchester Ad showing the Model 61 Pump 22 Rifle…
Along with my trusty .22 rifle, I had a case of 500 rounds of .22 long rifle ammo that I had purchased that day at the local Western Auto Store. I never ventured into the woods unarmed. Boy Scouts or not.
Also in that bag was a razor sharp machete, a World War Two surplus entrenching tool, about 100 feet of strong cord, and a oilskin tarp that served as a tent, shelter, sail or any number of other uses. I also had two C Ration Boxes, which I had purchased at the new Army/Navy Surplus store in the next town over. Lastly, in the duffel bag was my hunting knapsack. Today you might call it a “bug out bag” but in 1974, it was my hunting pack that I never left home without when I was headed to the woods. It was a World War Two surplus pack, what I think they call a butt pack, but it had shoulder straps and it held all my goods inside a well-protected waterproof bag.
Inside were two compasses (one a brass marbles the other a modern plastic Silva “Boy Scout” compass), a small notebook and pencil, a surplus G.I. mess kit, heating tabs, a candle, waterproof matches, my trusty G.I. Pocketknife, odds and ends of ammo (.22LR mostly, some .38’s) and various other sundry articles. Two bottles of Coca-Cola and a Mars Bar. And two or three comic books I hadn’t had a chance to read, purchased that afternoon at the local drugstore.
Marbles Button Compass…
I thought I was well prepared. As I looked over my companions few seem to be as well equipped. One poor soul was hauling what looked like two paper grocery bags. And when I looked closer, it was two brown paper grocery bags. Filled with clothes, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, and other useless material. One intrepid fellow had a large bag of potato chips. Nothing else.
I thought to myself “Doesn’t he know we’re going camping?...In the swamp no less.”
One other person at the dock was a good friend named Jimmy. He had an identical duffle bag to mine and a small knapsack that may or may not have held a World War Two Victory Model .38 Revolver. He seldom went anywhere without it. Me and that revolver were well acquainted. I walked over and said hello. We talked excitedly.
Smith & Wesson Victory Model 38 World War 2 Vintage
About two eternities later (58 minutes by my watch) we were loaded onto the converted barge houseboat and the lines were cast off. We slowly motored out onto the lake. Almost all of the boys were with me laid out on the bow of the boat, watching the boat dock recede in the distance as the lake opened up before us. “This is going to be so cool” I thought. The weather was perfect, sunny, light breeze, and the skies were clear. The smell of the lake and the nearby woods immediately made me feel at home. I had spent hours in these woods hunting and fishing along the shoreline. I mentally made note of all the places along the water where I had made camp in the months previously. I wondered how close we would be to one of my old campsites.
As soon as I completed that thought the boat swung right and started across the lake. An ominous sign. Across the lake were a few small islands and the forests got deeper, darker, and more unfamiliar to me.
The boat kept moving. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep my eyes on the shoreline because of all the excitement on the boat. We were fired up for the weekend. Eventually, I just relaxed and visited with my fellow adventurers and watched the shoreline pass by.
About an hour later the boat swung over to the left and headed for what looked like a very primitive dock. As we slowed near the dock I glanced onshore to see a small area that had been hacked out of the nearby shoreline, nearly level with the water. Fresh cut stumps showed and the ground looked like it had been in the shade forever. Little grass and low to the water. Not the campsite I would have chosen. Regardless, the houseboat pulled up to the dock, one of the older men jumped off and made fast the ropes. When we were securely tied to the rickety dock, one by one we grabbed our gear and walked on the two six inch wide side by side planks to the shore. Did I mention there was no handrail?
There was no handrail.
Safely ashore I stopped to look and I realized we were far from my familiar haunts. The campsite was new. The trees bore the fresh scars from being chopped, and the ground was dark with little undergrowth. I turned to see our intrepid Scout Master hauling ashore a surplus G.I. tent. Another was soon produced and joined the first on the ground. “Let’s get these tents erected boys.” Elvin said. And about 30 minutes later they were. They smelled. Really bad. My initial guess was that dead enemy bodies had been stored in them after some famous Pacific battle and the Marines had decided that for practical reasons, they needed to get new tents. So they threw these away. And we got them. That’s what I remember thinking. I wasn’t the only one.
The afternoon was spent exploring the small area and doing Boy Scout stuff. We raised a flagpole with the American Flag. A guidon materialized out of nowhere with a “Troop 14” pennant on it. I had no idea what a guidon was until that moment.
Swimming was involved. And general horseplay. I don’t remember much after the tent setting. Too soon it was dark. The obligatory campfire was lit and we did the usual stuff (marshmallows, scary stories, “I was there…”) until we got sleepy. By 11PM all the boys were in the tents and all the men had retreated to the houseboat. The fired burned down to embers and we settled in.
I joined my scout mates in a tent.
About two hours later I awoke to the sound of thunder. When I rolled over and looked outside the tent flap the stars had disappeared and the lighting flashes were growing closer and closer to the thunderclaps. A storm was coming.
It arrived shortly thereafter.
It started to rain. And then it rained some more.
Remember that bible verse you read at the beginning of this tale?
And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is
the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die….Genesis 6:17
That’s the kind of event I am trying to describe. This was a storm right out of the Bible. The rain was memorable, even for a kid who was raised in South Louisiana, home of the original “sideways rain.”
The rain started to pound the tents. A mist of water started to appear underneath the canvas and before we could yell at him one of the younger boys reached up to touch the canvas. Bad idea. With the film broken, the water penetrated the canvas and started dripping into the tent. There should be a merit badge for “Don’t touch a canvas tent in a rainstorm” but there wasn’t, and probably still isn’t.
The rain continued. By 3AM we were laying in a small pond. The floor of the tent had a 4 inch flap in front to keep water out, and the water was halfway up the flap. I knew where this was headed. I wondered briefly about the men in the boat. They didn’t appear to be too concerned with us. The houseboat was enclosed, dry, warm and silent. The lights were off and the wind was rocking them in their sleep I surmised. Meanwhile, it rained some more.
Then a strong gust of wind finally pushed the water over the front flap. The tent flooded. I was miserable.
By 3:30 the call was made. “Abandon Ship” rang out and fifteen wet, tired, sleepy boys started walking in the rain. Over the narrow two plank wide death bridge, in the dead of night, in the middle of a pounding rain storm, without the benefit of handrails I might add. I was grateful for the near constant lightning flashes that partially illuminated my way. “When God hands you lemons, you’d best make lemonade” I thought.
We finally made it to the houseboat and climbed aboard.
I beat on the door. It was locked. I beat some more. After what seemed like another eternity, (four minutes give or take) the door opened and my Brother in Law (did I mention he was on the trip? He was. His uncle owned the house boat) looked out and me and said “What’s wrong?”
I resisted the urge to kill him. At eleven I figured I had a fifty-fifty chance to take him despite the 100+ pound weight difference. He was older, and he had married one of my older sisters. That’s what stopped me. Also, his newborn son was my first nephew who I was rather fond of. I hesitated. “It’s raining” I said…”Let us in. Now.” The door slowly opened and fifteen wet tired pissed off boys joined the sleeping crowd on the floor.
It took about twenty minutes of shuffling and moving things around but we all fit. I was more miserable. I was wet, cold, and rather angry. This was the worst camping expedition I had ever been a part of and I was ready for a mutiny. I had had the presence of mind to grab my little black “Tiger” bag full of clothes when I abandoned the wet tent of stink. I decided to get dry. I stood and moved to the bathroom on the boat, which was the only place not covered by human bodies.
Cramming myself inside the stall I started to change clothes. The stall was simply a closet that held a toilet. Nothing else. There was little place to stand unless you were doing your business.
Unknown to me a prankster had earlier swapped all our clothes around in our bags while they lay unattended on the ground. The jeans I was trying to put on barely went past the knee. Had I experienced a growth spurt in the last twelve hours that made my jeans too small? I finally figured it out. Not my jeans. Fortunately the prankster had stuffed a pair of unknown jeans over my own which were still in the bag. I managed to change clothes. The wet clothes went into the small black bag and dry ones went on my body. I immediately felt better. I worked my way back to my small corner of the floor and stretched out to sleep.
Minutes later (or so
it seems) it was daylight. I woke up
when someone walked on my hand. “Good
morning sunshine” I thought. The storm had departed. The skies were blue and the sun was out. When we returned over the narrow death bridge
to land, we returned to a campground that was now flooded. Our tents were gently flapping with an up and
down motion as the waters from the lake rippled across the
Troop 14 pond. The campsite had become
part of the lake.
As the others moved all their wet things to higher ground I found my knapsack and duffel bag. I had left both suspended in a tree the night before out of habit and necessity. The tents were too small for both boys and gear, so my gear had spent the night outside. When I peeked inside both, some things appeared to be damp, but everything was dry enough for use.
I was starving. And I was “put out” as they say in polite company. I watched for about fifteen minutes as one of the adults (someone’s brother in law) attempted to light a fire to get breakfast going. Wet wood was piled on the ground. A rickety card table was set up that held raw bacon, bread, and whole eggs. I longingly looked at the eggs and bacon. A match was thrown into the wet wood pile. The match flickered for a second or two and then died. Soon, another match joined the first. Then another. They all died. Needlessly.
A small can of gasoline from the boat appeared. This time the match ignited flames almost immediately. And part of the Brother in Law. And after the gasoline was burned off, the fire promptly died. Colorful language followed. Not a part of any Merit Badge I was aware of.
“Wet wood won’t burn” I thought. Surely I had earned another merit badge with that thought. Alas, I had not. Neither had the Brother in Law.
I had seen enough. I was tired. I was hungry. My feet were wet. But I had my usual gear with me. I looked over at Jimmy and said: “Jimmy, let’s go.” I looked at my brother in law and said “I’m going get dry and eat breakfast. See you later.”
Jimmy knew me well enough not to ask anything further. We grabbed our gear without another word and headed into the woods to higher ground.
Within minutes I found what I was looking for. An old sawn off stump from years and years ago when the area had been logged for its giant Cypress trees. The ground was a natural high point. No standing water around for nearly 40 feet. Near the stump were new growth trees that would make good canopy. It was perfect. I set about to the business at hand. Jimmy and I didn’t speak. We didn’t have to. We’d been camping too many times.
I cleaned out the stump and filled the base with tree moss packed to one side. We would need dry moss later. After removing the moss from the trees I shook it violently to get all the water out and tamped it down as a base on one side of the stump. Jimmy walked over to the nearby scrub trees and started removing dead branches that had been suspended in the limbs of the living trees. We both knew from experience that hanging dead limbs were usually the first to dry after a rain. I found a bird’s nest in a nearby tree. Jimmy brought over all the dead limbs he’d gathered. Using the bird’s nest as tinder I carefully placed it in the stump hole and then put a lit match underneath. The match flame ignited the small twigs easily and I coaxed a larger fire with gentle but steady breaths as other twigs lit and turned almost immediately to coals.
Soon I had a steady fire, and Jimmy and I fed larger and larger sticks until we had roaring flames. The damp sticks hissed as they burned. While I retrieved my G.I. Mess kit and C Rations, Jimmy produced a small 2 quart camping pot from his sack. He quickly lashed together three strong sticks with twine and make a cradle over the now glowing coals for his pot. He filled the pot with water from a nearby rain filled stump and then hung it over the fire. The water was soon in a rolling boil and I dropped the metal cans of food into the water. I wordlessly handed Jimmy a P-38 can opener and he surprised me by producing a hand-operated twist can opener like the one my mother used. “I found this at the TG&Y store on sale for 25 cents last week. I thought we could use one.” I was impressed. I immediately complimented him on his addition to our camping gear.
A few minutes later we carefully opened the now steaming cans of food and started breakfast. Since we were eleven and not invading Iwo Jima, we deferred the included coffee packs for the two bottles of Coca-Cola I had in my duffle. Breakfast was hot, tasty, and it hit the spot. We devoured everything except for a few items.
As soon as were done eating we set about to make an elevated platform in a nearby tree as our new campsite. Two horizontal branches about five feet off the ground diverging at a 45 degree angle was what I wanted and I found it quickly.
We chopped enough small trees to span the fork in the tree we’d chosen. We stripped the branches smooth with my machete. They were lashed in place with the cord I carried in my duffle. We returned to the fire and gathered up all the moss we had spread out near the fire after breakfast (placed close so the smoke and heat would kill or chase off the spiders and bugs inside). The moss was shaken again just to be sure. I didn’t like spiders crawling over me while I slept. We spread Spanish moss over the mat of sticks. Jimmy produced an army surplus wool blanket from his pack and we had a nice soft bed.
Next I tied another length of cord around the base of the tree trunk and angled it down to the end of the middle of the platform. The cord was about three feet over the platform to form the centerline for the oilskin tarp, which went up next. I threw the tarp over the line and tied down the tarp edges to the platform edge. The high end of the tarp near the trunk was secured on one corner and the other corner was left tied with a line to form a door. We now had a snug dry campsite impervious to rain and wind. A perfect lean to. One we had constructed about 99 times previously.
We stretched a clothesline with cord and sticks over the fire and hung our wet clothes to dry after spreading out the coals a bit. Bellies full, tired, smoky and partially dry we retired to the platform for a well deserved nap.
Two hours later I woke to a party cloudy afternoon with a light wind. It was quiet under the tarp, and a bit warm. I shook Jimmy awake and we went down to the fire and put on smoky dry clothes. The damp ones we were wearing went on the clothesline and we both restocked the fire with fresh fuel. My wet boots from the morning were now almost dry. I put on dry socks and carefully laced up my duck hunting boots. I was ready. For almost anything.
I took the moment to look around and realized that nearly ten hours ago I was miserable. And ten hours later I was dry, rested and happy. Back in my element.
We decided we’d been gone long enough from the local troop so we walked back to the lake campsite. It was early afternoon.
After a quick side trip to the edge of the water where we strung a trotline with baited hooks (the bait was canned G.I. cheese I had in my small bag) we rejoined the Scouts. We had the trotline strung in record time, another task we’d performed numerous times.
We arrived as lunch was being served. Cold Hot dogs and soggy buns. And warm cokes and water. We politely ate one hot dog each. I thought about the trotline and wondered if we had any fish on the line yet. A glance at my watch showed it had been barely 20 minutes since we’d set the last bait. I decided to wait. I declined another delicious lake dog.
When we had arrived back at the lake campsite, we had found most of the group standing in ankle deep water or mud attempting to salvage what was left of the camp. The state of affairs was embarrassing. But by afternoon a new campsite had been decided on (slightly higher) and everything was looking slightly better. Jimmy and I helped dry out the tents and the clothes as best we could. By that time someone, I’ll never know who, had managed to build a fire that strongly smelled like gasoline. I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted gasoline flavored hamburgers or hot dogs for dinner.
Jimmy and I stayed and helped until nearly nightfall. Then we quickly excused ourselves to check our trot-line. “We’re going to check the woods for edible plants” was what I recalled saying. It was something I had read in the official Boy Scout handbook: “When in a survival situation a good Scout should check the immediate area for edible plants.”
Minutes later, I
removed two fat
edible plants catfish from our trotline and tossed the
rest back, which was mostly carp, which I didn’t like. We returned to our little campsite and dined
on campfire roasted catfish. With warm
Coca-Cola. I didn’t complain. Neither did Jimmy. The little salt and pepper shakers we each
kept in our knapsacks flavored the freshly skinned cats perfectly. After lunch
we read my comic books and then returned to the main group. This goat
rope was beginning to look better I thought.
I waved to my Brother in Law who was sitting in a lawn chair halfway sunk into wet mud drinking a warm coke. He didn’t wave back. Oh well.
By nightfall everyone was exhausted. There wasn’t as much camaraderie around the fire that night as the first night. By 10PM, I noticed almost everyone was in a tent asleep. Jimmy and I, and one other boy named Greg remained at the fire. Finally, Greg shuffled off to his tent. As soon as Greg left, Jimmy looked up at me and said “I ain’t sleeping in that damn stinking tent again!” Fair enough I thought. We moved off into the woods and found our campsite from earlier in the day. Everything was in place. By firelight we cleaned up our site, packed our bags, strung them under the platform and crawled into the lean-to platform to sleep. I made a pillow out of moss from my now dry spare pair of jeans. I was asleep in minutes as was Jimmy.
About two hours later the first thunderclap woke me up. The rain had returned. Safe and dry in our little tent, we slept all night. I have to admit I was smiling. I’m pretty sure Jimmy was.
The next morning the storm was gone. After a cup each of G.I. coffee, and then crackers, and then a wax paper pack of Stage Planks that Jimmy had, we walked over to the “Boy Scout” campsite. It was empty. The tents had collapsed again. Water and mud was everywhere. And everyone appeared to be on the houseboat asleep. I looked over at Jimmy and said “This is stupid. Let’s grab our stuff and get the hell out of here.” He agreed and without saying a word we both returned to our campsite and grabbed our bags. I reassembled my Winchester 61 and loaded it. Briefly checking it over I made sure the safety was on and made a quick sling out of cord and slung it on my back.
Jimmy pulled out his beautiful Winchester Bolt Action Model 69 .22 and screwed the action back into the stock. He pressed the release button on the side of the stock and removed the magazine. He loaded the magazine with bullets from a fifty round box I removed from my duffle. I noticed there was a leather gunbelt peeking out from an old towel in his bag. I knew what was in the holster. I dropped my pocketknife into my pocket and strapped on a small bowie knife my grand-father had made for me. Jimmy had an identical knife, a present from my Grandfather who knew us well. I hoisted my knapsack on my shoulders and hung my new Boy Scout Compass around my neck.
U.S.G.I. Camillus Pocketknife
We cleaned up our campsite, killed the fire and generally only left footsteps in our wake.
We returned to the dock and I left a note addressed to my brother in law on the boat door that simply said “We’re going home; we left our bags on the deck.” Without further ado, we took a compass bearing and started walking inland.
The next ten hours are one of the most pleasant memories I have of my childhood in South Louisiana. Jimmy and I walked our way back to civilization.
By the time we had been walking for an hour steadily west I had sorta figured out my general direction and heading. I knew that west was where the roads and farms were. North and South were just an endless line of swamps and forest. As we walked west the ground changed from swampy to woodlands, albeit wet woodlands. We were making good time staying on game trails that followed the higher ground that was drying quickly in the sun.
I was enjoying myself immensely. Jimmy had a smile on his face also.
Soon I began to recognize areas I’d hunted with my grandfather. Jimmy and I spread out further apart and began stalking. After about an hour I spotted a cottontail sitting under a half fallen log. I knelt and put the front sight bead centered on his head. A sharp crack and I had a cottontail. A few minutes later I heard Jimmy’s Winchester bark. When we met up he had a squirrel, shot neatly through the head.
We stopped for lunch near noon and skinned out both and roasted them over a fire on the edge of a field we knew was about 15 miles from our home. Lunch was roast bunny rabbit and boiled squirrel, Jimmy’s favorite way to eat the little tree rats. We took our time and dined like kings. We split a Mars bar for dessert. We sat on a dry log and thought the day had turned out fairly well.
After eating we spent about an hour on an informal shooting match. We swapped rifles and I was cutting the green stalks of the Louisiana thistle that grew wild everywhere. The .22 bullets cut the stalks neatly and then they would topple over. Jimmy set up a row of pecans on a log from a nearby tree and we laughed as we raced to hit each tiny shell before the other.
Jimmy reached into his shirt and produced the Victory .38 that I knew he’d taken from the duffle bag he left on the boat. He’d had it suspended under his shirt with a piece of cord attached to the lanyard ring, his discrete carry method he sometimes used. He had 6 rounds. I had about 10 in my knapsack from a previous shooting session. We carefully fired rounds out of the revolver. We both managed to score hits on the small nuts we had laid on the log. I impulsively dusted a large thistle flower a short distance away. I’ve always liked revolvers.
Jimmy then loaded it with the final four bullets for the trip home.
We shot ourselves nearly dry of ammo but we had a grand time.
An hour later we found ourselves walking on a gravel road bordered by wide open fields on the edge of a farm we knew well. We opened dove season there last year. Minutes later we heard an old pickup truck coming down the road. It was late afternoon by that time. The farmer was a welcome sight as he pulled up alongside us and stopped.
"Comment ça va" he said to us, nodding. The typical Cajun French greeting. Mr. Broussard was a friend of our fathers and us, a fellow Cajun who farmed at the edge of the swamp. We both returned the greeting, Jimmy being the more fluent French speaker of the two of us. After a brief exchange, Mr. Broussard switched to English, or mostly English and said: “Meh….what chew boys bin doowin?”
Jimmy practically exploded: “We’ve been camping with the Boy Scouts m'sieur Broussard... “C'était une très mauvaise nuit!!” (It was a very bad night!!).
Moments later we were sitting in the front seat with him as he turned his truck around and drove us home. We declined the offer of chewing tobacco. When we arrived at my home my brother in law was speaking to my father on the swings under the big oak tree in our yard. My mother was sitting next to my father and she had the “look.” My brother in law appeared to be a little nervous, but visibly relieved when he spotted our two tow heads in the truck.
Jimmy made his respects to my family and quickly headed home. I walked over to my dad on the swing and simply said “I ain’t no Boy Scout.” I kissed my mother on the cheek and then went inside our house to clean my Winchester.
I never went on another Boy Scout camping adventure. I did attend the meetings in town and generally participated in the events that were held. One year was especially memorable for the Jamboree I attended. But camping with the Boy Scouts was forever on my “I ain’t doing that again” list.