I remember one camping trip with the troop more clearly than most of the others. This particular trip was around 14 or so. That fun, sullen time in every teen’s life when everything is just messed up, no matter how good a face you try to put on it. The Boy Scouts was not my idea of a good time. It meant more work and less fun since I kept getting shoved into leadership positions I didn’t want.
Now, I will say this: my step-father, Pete, tried. He was doing his best to be involved with me and to do something together away from the often drama at home. He gets an A for effort in that respect. It was nice to get away from mom and our constant fights. The down side… camping. I hate camping. This in spite of years of it. The outdoors… well… it belongs outdoors while I belong in the comfort of a roof, air conditioning and most importantly, a restroom that doesn’t have a chance to bite back.
Moving on to the main hilarity now, we were camped out in Joshua Tree National Monument. Desert. Hot. Cold at night. Dust and heat during the day. Rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. Not much else to say about it. Putting up tents was a pain in the butt. Try driving tent pegs into rock hard ground. It seemed like every other peg ended up hopelessly bent and mangled before we got the tents up finally. I had to help the 11 year olds figure it out and supply the muscle. Oh bliss.
Once all of that was done, I snuck off with Robert to get away for a while. We horsed around and explored a bit. When the adults started yelling for us, we finally went back. That ended the first day. We cooked dinner, washed the stuff up and went to bed. Just a side note here, my little brother Ricky was with us. He was about 7 if I was 14. He slept with Pete in the adults tent. Probably smart, since we would have accidentally squashed someone that young without intending to.
The next day we hiked for about 10 miles. Joy. Walking. More walking, then some extra walking. Did I mention the walking? When we got back, we met up with some rock climbers that were willing to show us their equipment and how to use it. The adults encouraged us to try it out. I managed to get up the rock face but it was harder for me than it should have been. I hadn’t been diagnosed yet with the Charcot-Marie-Tooth. My arms kept giving out on me and my legs weren’t in much better shape. Still, made it up to the top and then down again. Not bad, I guess. Still not the thrill of my teen life.
We ate lunch and then the troops scattered to do their own thing. For some reason, Ricky had wander a bit away from the camp. I was sent to retrieve him since he was my brother. Naturally, you can imagine what I thought of that. Pesky lil brothers always making things more difficult. Well, I caught up to him and turned him back to the camp. Here is where what I am wearing becomes important. Boy Scout shorts, hiking socks, tennis shoes and a t-shirt. Ricky wove his way back to camp and I kept a watch to make sure that was were he got to.
Watching him, I didn’t watch the ground. Suddenly, pain. An entire cactus had glomped onto my calf in a loving, tender embrace. I mean the whole damn cactus. I yelped. Being ignorant of cacti, I tugged my leg away from the hideous succulent. Rather than releasing me from its attentions, the damn thing came with me. I now had a cactus attached to my calf as I limped back to camp. We spent almost 2 hours pulling out cactus needles from my calf, one by one. I am sure a couple of the boys got their first aid merit badges out of it. My mood hit the ground and plowed right on down.
The trip finally ended and we got the camp site torn back down again. I did more directing this time, rather than doing the back-breaking part. Only when they got it truly muddled did I step in to show them the right way to roll up their sleeping bags and fold tents back into impossibly tight bundles to fit in bags surely never intended to hold that size tent. Finally everything was loaded into the vehicles and everyone in their designated cars. I rode back with Robert and Clint. I was tucked up in the back of a station wagon amongst the sleeping bags and tents.
We chattered for a while on the way back and then I dozed off. This is when Clint got the bright idea to play a prank on me. He and Robert decided it was a good idea to mess with the sleeping Patrol Leader. So, Clint got out his magnifying glass and let the sun do its thing… on the back of my hand. Eventually I woke up. I didn’t feel the burning from the magnifying glass at all. A nice blister had popped up before I woke up from their giggling. Groggy, I looked down and saw what Clint was doing before he could pull it away and hide it.
I didn’t even stop to think. I simply popped the blister onto Clint’s forehead. He yelped since I wasn’t exactly gentle about it. The adult driving, I think Robert’s dad, asked what the hell was going on. I crawled forward and displayed the large popped blister and then told him what I did. He groaned and then growled at Clint to knock it the hell off. He didn’t say anything else about it and certainly didn’t chastise me for my reaction. Just as well.
So, punctured by a cactus and then burned by a magnifying glass. I still have the dot as a scar on the back of my left hand. It has faded to almost nothing now but my memory of how I got it is as clear as ever. Thanks Clint, you dork! This pretty much ended any interest I have in camping. At home, I do not have rabid cacti howling for my blood and the magnifying glass is safely used for its actual purpose… chasing ants. Er, I mean, enlarging things.