“That’s not fair, Mr. Crickmer,” has over time become one of my fondest memories of raising my kids and being actively involved in the lives of my grandchildren. During the formative years of my kids’ lives, we were an all Scouting family. My wife was an active Girl Scout Leader, and I had been an above-and-beyond Boy Scout Leader. And together, we had many amazing adventures, creating a lifetime of cherished memories.
However, becoming actively involved in my oldest granddaughter’s Scouting experience was an even greater honor. My daughter volunteered to be her Girl Scout Leader and asked my wife to be her Co-Leader. My wife quickly accepted, and one of the greatest honors in my life was to be able to tag along. I had no official function and generally did not participate in weekly meetings. But I was enthusiastically invited on all campouts and road trips.
Throughout my granddaughter’s Scouting experience, weekend campouts included trips to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Inks Lake, Bastrop, Pedernales Falls, and Blanco State Parks. As well as a weeklong trip to Big Bend National Park, which was truly an amazing experience. Road trips included the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. And the Grand Finale, a trip to England and France, which included five days in London and four days in Paris.
And other than the trip to Big Bend, I had the additional honor of being the only male on all these adventures. I can’t begin to explain the pride I felt in being included in the lives of these amazing girls. And as my granddaughter called me, Dad-C. That honor was only amplified by all her fellow troop members addressing me the same way. It was almost like I suddenly had a dozen additional granddaughters, without my own daughter having to go through the labor of childbirth for the privilege. And as these girls all knew that I’d been a Boy Scout Leader for many years, they would pepper me to tell them stories of the Boy Scouts as we gathered around evening campfires.
And as I kept the girls amazed with stories of being a rookie Scoutmaster, they continued adding their own experiences as they became of age that only enhanced the patchwork quilt of precious memories. Like at our first campout when the girls were third graders. We were camping at Enchanted Rock, and the girl’s co-leaders insisted that they prepare their own menu for the weekend. The girls dutifully compiled the required bill of fare at a regular weekly meeting as requested. Sunday morning, as the young Scouts were preparing pancakes and opening packages of store-bought donuts, one of the little girls exclaimed, “But, I wanted something salty and savory.” We tried to explain that she should have said something during the planning stage, but we were all laughing too hard.
Then there was Big Bend. It was Spring Break when the girls were all sixth graders. They had never been camping that far from home or on a weeklong campout. We were staying at a primitive campground on the far western edge of the park, only a hundred yards from the Rio Grande River and the US border with Mexico. There were campfire rings at the designated campsites, but that was about it. They had to walk about fifty yards to get potable water, the “facilities” did not have flush toilets, and of course, there were no showers, much less electricity.
As a Boy Scout leader, I thought the place was perfect. But we all were curious about how the girls would take it once they realized how primitive the accommodations really were. After setting up the camp that first evening and as we began cooking dinner, a rather large herd of javelinas entered the campsite. It was probably about a dozen females, with maybe a half-dozen “reds” (baby javelina). Perhaps we were camping on their usual daily migration route from the nearby foothills to the river. Or maybe it was the smell of our evening meal. But in any event, they slowly wandered into camp.
And here is where the girls really showed their enthusiasm for the great outdoors. All of the Scouts scattered like ants that just had their hill kicked. But the funny thing was that half of the girls ran to hide, and the other half ran to their tents to get their cameras. And with cameras in hand, they ran to get close-ups of the wild mothers and baby javelinas. Luckily, this was before the days of “selfies.” Or I’m sure some of the girls would have tried that also.
And later, after dinner, sitting around the campfire, after singing Girl Scout songs and roasting s’mores, the talk would always turn to, “Dad-C, tell us more funny stories about the Boy Scouts.”
Now, these girls had heard these stories many times before, but they never seemed to tire of them. The first one they always wanted to hear was the “Story of the Bubbling Shoe.” An old adage among Boy Scout leaders goes, “Woe be the Scoutmaster that stops the Tenderfoot from setting up the latrine within a patch of Stinging Nettle.” Meaning, “A young Scout will remember a lesson much better if they are allowed to make their own mistakes.”
And that is the lesson of the “Bubbling Shoe.” One bitterly cold night, while camping with my Boy Scout troop in West Texas, about a hundred and sixty miles from home, a young Tenderfoot sitting quite close to the evening campfire to ward off the freezing night air placed his feet on the rock perimeter of the campfire. The soles of his tennis shoes were only inches from the burning logs, and of course, it was only a matter of minutes before the rubber soles of his shoes began to blister and bubble.
A fellow adult, sitting next to me, noticed the impending “hot-foot,” tapping my shoulder, asked, “Do you think we should warn him?”
I shook my head and responded, “No, he’ll realize it soon enough.”
And lo and behold. Only seconds later did he ever. Suddenly, he jumped to his feet and danced the craziest jig around the campfire ring you could imagine. He wasn’t hurt. But the shoes certainly were, and I’m sure that is a lesson he will never forget. And neither will the rest of the troop, for we were all laughing so hard, tears were running down our cheeks.
The other story that the girls could never get enough of was, “The Story of the Pissed Off Tenderfoot.” As a rooky Scoutmaster, I had no idea how gross young men can be when they are placed in the wilderness. But I soon learned. My wife would never go camping with the boys, for she knew better. She called it the “Lord of the Flies” syndrome, meaning that young men will abandon all vestiges of civilization as they enter the woods. And I soon realized that she was probably right.
Boy Scout Summer Camp is a weeklong outdoor adventure that every troop endures once a year. The camp has programs organized for the campers during the day. But in the evenings, we lived and camped in campsites consisting exclusively of members of our own troop. I soon learned that the boys had little use of nearby latrines, at least for peeing. If I was lucky, they would at least step to the edge of the campsite to relieve themselves. And, as boys will be boys, they would partake in what the boys called “sword fights.”
Unfortunately, what seemed like harmless expressions of youthful indifference to modern norms, these “sword fights” sometimes did not end favorably for younger Scouts. Unbeknown to me, this happened to one of my new Scouts, whom I’ll call “Stevie.” Now, Stevie did not report this incident to me or to any other adult. He decided to take matters into his own hands. So, skipping the evening Flag Ceremony, Stevie filled a canteen cup with his own urine – I assume it was his. And then, climbing a nearby tree, he lay in wait for his adversaries. As the older boys returned to our campsite, in full uniform no less, Stevie dumped the contents of the canteen cup onto the passing Scouts to exact his revenge.
Now, to no one’s surprise. The older boys climbed the tree and beat the crap out of young Stevie. Then, to add insult to injury, I punished poor Stevie, but not the older boys. I guess rank does have its privileges. In any event, my granddaughter’s Girl Scout troop never tired of hearing this story, as it always ended with the same mournful cry, “Mr. Crickmer, that’s not fair.”