March 19, 2007


Well, the weekend has come and gone, and I feel like I've been hung up in a sack from a tree limb and beaten with an axe handle!

Remind me to ask Boy more questions about such sojourns before I set out again.

ANYway, Friday evening was spent loading the van in--our kitchen stuff (which we have started always taking even if we're not going need it) consisting of a box of supplies, then an Alice pack with the stove and three small bottles of propane; food; the small pack with my lantern and heater--then the rest of the junk, two folding camp chairs; my backpack (and my new mummy bag fits right in the sleeping bag carrier on the bottom--not that it matters now, about which, more later); Boy's bag; big tent; little tent; tarps; then in the middle, a shovel, a small pair of loppers, and a two gallon jug of water.

Didn't get finished loading until nearly midnight, because somehow, I lost or misplaced my big tarp, and had to make a late WalMart run. Let me tell you, there are some WEIRD people at Wally World as the clock approaches midnight.

Up early the next morning, dressed, got Boy up, kissed Reba (who barely stirred) and out the door we went. Stopped and got breakfast then rolled around the corner to the Scout hut, where we proceeded to mill around being cold.

Because it was cold. Cold and windy. The two things I hate above all other things except maybe cold-windy-rainy. Finally managed to get various tables and chairs and chuckboxes and water jugs and other supplies loaded up, and away we went.

Pleasant enough drive, although slow, since the guy with the trailer was hauling it with an ancient wheezing Dodge pickup that could barely go faster than 60. Downhill. With a tailwind.

Me? Well, I resisted the urge to sleep the entire way, since I was the putative driver. I cannot say I was entirely successful, but I didn't run off onto the shoulder any, so I consider that highly successful. After getting off the Interstate at Heflin, the scenery helped keep me awake. Sorta scrubby farmland, and all that such things entail here in the South, with lots of roadside attractions such as the guy selling Army surplus tents out of his front yard, and a variety of farms with cast-off cars and trucks scattered about the grounds, along with the various house trailers where they have bait and tanning beds. But at least the roads were good. Around here the rural areas are pounded by coal trucks, and so a country drive can be less than pleasant, but over there in East Alabama there are much fewer such conveyances, and to make it even better, the Cleburne County road department does a fine job of maintenance. So not bad at all.

Finally got to the camp and was pleasantly surprised, although I shouldn't have been if I'd read the website better. And then I remembered what I'd forgotten--my camera. What a dolt. Drove on around to the campsite, which was on a rise near the dam at sparkly pretty 80 acre Lake Cross. Lots of pretty, pretty water.


Luckily, there were some nice latrines right over there and--

They were locked. And inoperable due to the recent cold weather. So I peed behind them. Whew.

But, if they're locked, won't we have to...

Yep, sure will.

Good thing I'd brought a shovel.

Although I must say that the idea of exposing my tender nether regions to the cold blowing wind proved to be more efficacious than a box full of Imodium with a Kaopectate chaser in rendering my system locked up tighter than the latrines were. Good thing we were only gone for a day, though.

Unload, set up the kitchens, set up tents, eat lunch.

I'd brought some cheese and crackers and smoked sausage and sweet tea, which I thought was pretty darned good. Especially that cheese part.

After that and the boys had changed into work clothes around 1:00 p.m., it was time for their service project. Again, I had only an inkling of what was supposed to be going on, but as it turns out, the plans by the Scout hierarchy were for a nice hiking trail all around the five mile perimeter of the lake. They'd already gone through and marked a trail, and had cleared what turned out to be about 3/4 of a mile of it. Our part was to clear more.

Which is actual work.

And for some reason, I kept wanting to whistle "Colonel Bogey's March."

Anyway, thank goodness one of the dads (there were seven men and ten or so boys) brought along his mule and wagon, in the form of a 250 Kawasaki four-wheeler and utility trailer. We loaded all the chain saws and gas and tools and junk onto the trailer and set off with the intent of clearing a five mile path. I'm not sure why anyone would think we could get five miles done.

The terrain was relatively open, but there were a lot of rocks just under the leaf litter, and a lot of them were small and loose, which mean a lot of twisty feet. And although the group before us had cut a lot of stuff, they'd also left a good bit of smaller things in the way, so we wound up cleaning up those parts, too. The mule did fine, although there were several tight hollows and gulleys that I didn't think the driver was going to make it through, but he appeared to have done this more than once in the past. We had a couple of times where we had to lift the trailer up and around things, but overall, it was a godsend to have it with us.

As for the work itself, slow and hard. Made slower and harder by the fact that the boys required near constant attention to get them on task--one minute they'd be off looking at the water, the next they'd be looking at the sky, the next they'd be hacking and sawing at dead trees off the trail. We probably cleared as much outside the trail as on it.

But we made good progress, despite the lack of assistance from the boys. But not nearly as much as we thought. It got to be about four o'clock and we decided to stop for the day and turn around, and everyone was making estimates of how far we'd gone. "Surely we've gone nearly the whole way!" "Maybe we've made it 3 or 4 miles."

Somehow, I figured that although we'd done pretty well, it wasn't nearly so far as we thought. Got the mule turned around and the boys were well on their way back to camp ahead of us. Go figure. The driver set the odometer and when we got back to the place where we'd started cutting--1.8 miles. There was a bit of disappointment that we'd not gotten as far as we thought, but still, we wouldn't have gotten that much if we'd had to carry all the saws and tools, so we said okay. All the way back was right at 2 1/2 miles.

And let me tell you this--there was one chubby man out there who was quite tired when he got back to camp.

Went and changed socks and then it was time to start supper. One thing about it--although that heavy camping is a bit cumbersome, you do tend to eat well. We had a Mexican chicken casserole of sorts cooked in the cast iron Dutch oven, and it was quite good. Although all I could think about was going to bed.

Cleanup, then campfire time, which was spent waiting on the boys to clean up after themselves. Supper and cleanup was supposed to be over by around 8:30 or so, but by 10 p.m., they had only just finished cleanup, so no camp songs or skits or stuff. I'd spent the last two hours sitting there dozing and moving away from the smoke and trying by best to stay warm, WISHING I could be unsociable and go to bed, but wanting to wait and be nice and sit around and do the traditional stuff.

Next time I'm just going to be unsociable.

To the tent, where I got off my work clothes and changed my Spiderman Underoos for the Batman ones, got on my sweatpants and socks and shirt and got my brand new sleeping bag out.

Never again.

I'd never used a mummy bag before, and it was an immense struggle just to get IN it, much less trying to zip it up. I wrestled and fought with that fool thing for what seemed like hours, getting myself fully worked up and woken back up, and firing up a nice bout of reflux from the spicy Mexican casserole. And then when I did get arranged, I couldn't get to sleep for my mind replaying over and over again the odd little plink-blip-beep-plink sound my phone makes as it goes in and out of service areas. It was off, but I couldn't get that sound out of my head. And back to the sleeping bag--I wrestled with it more, and couldn't get anywhere near comfortable because I have to be able to toss and turn and roll and move my arms and legs and I felt like I was being suffocated. I finally just had to unzip it and put it over me like a blanket and sleep right on the air mattress (with DID work like it was supposed to, although a cloth covering would have been a nice addition) and managed to get a few hours of sleep. Of sorts. Even unzipped, the danged thing kept moving the wrong way and I'd have to wake up and move it around and then I'd freeze my butt and then I'd move and freeze my stomach and then I'd move and freeze my arms. All night long. Except for the one time I had to go pee, and it seemed warmer outside than it did in my tent.

Up at 6:30 and cast a rueful glance at the sleeping bag, swearing to it once I got it home it was going back to Wal-Mart. Then I remembered that Catherine needed one for her sleepovers and junk--what better thing for her than something that completely immobilizes her as if she were in a straightjacket!

Undid the lantern and hooked up the heater. FINALLY some heat. I suppose I could have left it on all night, but the spare bottles were still in the van and I didn't want to have to go get one. Put on clothes, shaved, brushed teeth, applied my Refreshing Shower in a Spray Can (i.e., deodorant), brushed my hair, and blearily opened the tent flap to see that everyone else had apparently gotten up much earlier than I had, because they were all standing around the fire and drinking coffee.

I grunted greetings to them all and once more began the slow dance around the fire to avoid the smoke. You know, usually you can get upwind and life is good, but this weekend for whatever reason the wind came from all directions, making it impossible to hunker down by the fire in one spot.

Breakfast of fried egg sandwiches for the men--and other things for the boys. I don't know what all they had. But as it was the night before, it took them until lunchtime to get cleaned up, meaning we lost time for the devotional. I got my stuff packed and ready to go, and we got most of the kitchen broken down and loaded, and the boys were still playing and wadding up giant piles of pine straw and not doing anything.

A break for lunch, and again the boys were at a loss of how to cook their food since they'd just put everything away. Luckily, Jonathan had his mess kit in his bag and so they used that to boil water for their ramen noodles. Why they didn't just get the noodles in a cup is anyone's guess. Sure would have made cleanup easier.

Got the last of the gear loaded in the trailer, doused the fire, and the boys did the final policing of the camp. Then had to do it again because they didn't do it right the first time.

The trip home was quiet, since Jonathan decided to go to sleep. I didn't make that decision, but napped anyway several times. It seemed much slower going back for some reason, but I think mainly because I was working on a total of about eight non-sequential hours of sleep out of the three days and I was tired, and my lower intestinal tract was beginning to lobby for a break.

After an hour of weaving and cramping, we were finally back close to a restroom of known cleanliness, so as the caravan went on, I made a stop at the Food World in Moody.

Thus refreshed, it was about twenty more minutes back to the Scout hut, where I was relieved to see most of the hard unloading work had been done by the others.

A brief meeting after they'd gotten things stowed away, which mostly dealt with the lack of leadership the troop leaders had shown in keeping everyone working together as a team, and then it was to home. More unloading. Unpacked everything and put it away as I recounted the story to Reba, who herself had several hair-raising tales of her own of her weekend spent with the girls.

Despite the intense fatigue and grogginess, after hearing her story, I was glad I'd gone.

Got a shower, got on my church clothes, and managed to stay awake through several interesting lesson points, back to home, and time for supper.

Mexican chicken casserole.

So, anyway, it was a very full weekend, and I'm sore today, and would like to take a nap, please.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at March 19, 2007 08:42 AM

And I thought you hadn't even noticed me in Wally World.

Ah, the Boy Scouts. I was once a vict, er leader of the Boy Scouts.

Dern nerar killed me.

Over three years I only lost one Scout and was able to locate him in only an hour or so.

Unfortunately, I never managed to lose any of the other "adult" leaders.

Posted by: Larry Anderson at March 19, 2007 10:09 AM

Larry, unless you're a giant gaggle of black-clad, eyeliner wearing, skater kids in giant baggy jeans, then you aren't who I saw.

As for your experiences, I am happy to report that there doesn't seem to be any of this troop's leaders that need to be made lost. They all seem nice and quiet and level-headed and without the attitude that some people have when they get put in charge of something--even if it's just a bunch of kids.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at March 19, 2007 10:25 AM

Heh. It sounds like you ran away and joined the circus after all. Do we get to hear about the brouhaha at home?

Posted by: Diane at March 19, 2007 10:35 AM

It would probably be best not to share that one, Diane.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at March 19, 2007 10:40 AM

I was wondering if you should have put a disclaimer at the beginning of the post:
WARNING - be sure to take a potty break prior to reading due to length of post.
Then I "figgered" that you wanted to somewhat recreate the feeling you had over the weekend for your loyal readers. Well done!

By stopping at a grocery store to use their facilities, you have the opportunity to grab some reading material, like the National Enquirer or Star. Nice.

Posted by: Marc V at March 19, 2007 11:44 AM

At least readers will not have to find a convenient watering tree or retrieve a shovel from their desk!

As for reading matter, the walls provided plenty.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at March 19, 2007 12:06 PM