Sunday, July 12, 2009

Smoking in the Boy Scouts - Part II

In my April 29th post I related the incident of my buddy Nick and me getting kicked out of the Boy Scouts when the Scout Master, Wayne Tombaugh, discovered
us smoking behind the altar in the Methodist Church.

A couple of years later on a hot summer day I was moseying back from hanging out along the creek, and had reached Main Street. It was one of those boring days. Nobody needed any work done ... no lawns needed mowed, no hay bales needed unloading and stacking, no chicken farmers needed any chicken shit shovelled. My buddies must have been busy or I'd have been with one of more of them. Then, as I moseyed along, Wayne Tombaugh called to me from across the street. "I got something I wanna ask you," he said.

"The Scouts are going to Brown County State Park and Turkey Run State Park to camp for five days next week," he said. "And I've got a problem ... nobody wants to share a tent with Eric Reed (not his real name) because they think he's too weird, and I was wondering if you'd maybe come along and buddy-up with him and help me keep an eye on him?"

What horseshit. Eric Reed, a couple years younger than me, was bright and fun and way ahead of everybody else in some ways. He had his own cool. I agreed to go along when Wayne Tombaugh said he'd consider it a favor and I wouldn't have to pay the fee that everyone else was having to pay. And, like I said, I was bored.

Turkey Run State Park is famous for deep ravines riven by glacial behavior thousands upon thousands of years ago. On our very first day there, after pitching our tent dangerously close to the edge of a ledge, which was Eric's idea of fun, we decided to wander away from everyone to sneak a smoke. With me leading, we made our way through dense undergrowth, reaching our arms out front and pushing the bushes and small trees aside to clear a way. You couldn't see ahead at all through the dense growth. As soon as I thought we were a good distance from the rest of the troop I lit a cigarette. I fought ahead for a couple more paces. All of a sudden then I stepped ahead not onto ground but onto air. I tumbled and then, flat on my face, slid down the gravelly side of a fifteen- or twenty-foot deep ravine. Finally, at the bottom, I came to a halt in a heap. I reached up and touched my face where it hurt. My hand came away bloodied. My forearms and the heels of my palms were abraded; they hurt like hell. Eric called, "George! George! Where are you?" "Down here," I yelled back, and added, "Be careful, there's a big drop-off." I looked around to see if there was an easier way to get back up than the steep route I'd come down. I checked to see if my arms still worked, if my legs still worked. I expected Eric would maybe crawl to the edge and look down to see what had happened, but I didn't see him. Shortly enough, about fifteen feet off to the left from where I'd fallen I saw his hands reach into the air and create an opening in the growth. He looked down. "Oh, no!" he gasped. "You didn't put out your cigarette, did you? That was our last match!"

The rest of the week went fine. Eric was a lot of fun.
(These quotes and these stated distances are, of course, merely as exact as my memory's idea of them. The Turkish Nobel winner Orhan Pamuk, whose Istanbul is absolutely one of my favorite books, wrote, "What is important for a memoirist is not the factual accuracy of the account but its symmetry." I hope this bit of memoir has good symmetry.
(And, for that matter, my main man Proust wrote: The places that we have known belong now only to the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.)

1 comment:

  1. George, Great follow up, funny and knowing both Eric and the wonderful Scout Leader a good laugh. G