Boys 2 Men 2 Fire
By Cynthia Mayeaux

It was Thursday, the day we had arrived at Webelos resident camp. Things were harried and rushed as everyone pulled the campers in several directions at once. It took some forceful persuasion before the 15 year-old camp staffer allowed us to deviate from his schedule of the camp tour. We were in for some severe storms that night and I wanted to make sure those awful stinking canvas tents were battened down properly.

Of the group of nine boys (only two were actually mine) and two fathers, I was the only one who seemed concerned about flapping tent sides and poorly anchored stakes. I bullied them all into adding rope where it was missing and tightening up knots. But, I only policed my own two boys, I did not mother hen the other 4 tents--they had 2 dads and one other leader (who was off somewhere else being important).

We rushed (a precursor of the week, rush here, rush there, and then rush back again), to dinner, which was actually not bad. There were flag lowering ceremonies and chest thumping stuff taking place. All very exciting, even as the rains started. During dinner a talkative staff member (most staff members are age 14 up through 17) took great pride in showing off all his bumps from swimmers itch... now they tell us, after we'd been into the water, and out of it for a few hours. I immediately made the staff member show off his rashes to the kids, dads, and cubmaster in order to make my point about taking showers.

The kids had a good time taking showers. It was one place the grown-ups couldn't hang out--there were schedules posted and the times for boys were very separate from the men. Women were to shower in one of the cabins a goodly hike up the trail. We didn't have to shower at set times (not too many other women to share with).

By now it was raining very hard. The boys, dads, and cubmaster were at the camp goofing off under a big canvas canopy they had rigged up earlier in the day. I took off for the showers. When I returned (this is about a quarter mile walk), I came up over the rise to a sight that is indelibly "burned" into my memory.

The dads and cubmaster had built a fire...remember, it was pouring rain. They used the metal fire ring thing that looks like half a wheel rim, but.... but.... they had built the fire UNDER the canvas canopy.

We shared a camp with another pack of boys, so altogether there must have been 4 male adults and 15 boys under the small canvas,
......next to the fire,
..........wearing vinyl ponchos!

Wait, wait, wait, I'm not done, the piece d'resistance: They were preparing to roast marshmallows for s'mores... so several boys had pointed sticks, and the rest were using their jackknives to whittle their sticks,
...under the canvas,
......next to the fire,
..........wearing vinyl ponchos!

I just watched in wonder as I joined the outskirts of their boisterous little group...
...under the canvas,
......next to the fire,
..........wearing vinyl ponchos!

What could I say, the testosterone outnumbered me by way too much. I had already seen the writing on the tent wall... "women are not listened to".

It wasn't much longer when up the path came two camp staffers and an older staff member (he must have been all of 25). I could read the horror in their eyes. They stopped dead in their tracks and stared. I bowed my head so that others could not see my smile. They continued up the trail until they reached the group,
...under the canvas,
......next to the fire,
..........wearing vinyl ponchos!

They politely and silently waited until they had everyone's attention and then announced, "this fire must be 10 feet away from all flammable structures, trees, tents, tables, and canvas canopies". Well, the dads just looked at them in a stupor, the boys continued roasting marshmallows and running around with pointed sticks... I quietly walked up to the fire and removed several large sticks that had recently caught fire. I took them out into the rain and rolled them in the dirt. I received shouts from the dads, "what are you doing?" I simply replied, "putting the fire out."

"Oh no, don't do that, we can move it," replied the dads. Again, I was blindsided, I didn't think the situation could get much dumber... but it did. One of the dads picked up an old tree that had obviously been intended as a bench for boys. The other dad grabbed the other end and they tried to use it as a means to push the metal fire ring out from under the canvas. They succeeded in moving it a few inches, just enough to push the leading edge down into the soft wet dirt. The fire ring and fire were now resting on an angle. Of course the boys were all watching this--in fact, they just kept right on roasting their marshmallows while the dads were maneuvering...
...under the canvas,
......next to the fire,
..........wearing vinyl ponchos!

Another dad found a rake (they must have all been on the same wavelength because they seemed to know what they were going to do without any real verbal communication). Rake-Dad attempted to get the tines under the leading edge of the fire ring to lift up while Log-Dads continued to push from behind... amazingly, after several attempts, they did it. Of course the torrential rains extinguished all flames and reduced the fire to a smelly smoking mass of half burned wood and embers. It was then I decided to put my boys to bed. I think the other boys knew the big show was done and over, so did not protest much; they were also excited about sleeping in their stinking, green canvas tents.

Thus ends one of the exciting tales of Webelos camp... the mom never got any sleep that night due to gale force winds and rain amounts that raised the level of Lake Michigan a couple of inches. The boys all slept like exhausted mud puppies, and the sun did shine the next day.




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