As scoutmaster, I gathered my 18 scouts to plan our winter
campout. To earn an honor patrol for scout month in February, one
of the requirements was that we needed to go camping. My wife, who
is from California, was astounded that we camped in the winter
here. "When the scouts in California camp in the winter, it is like
summer camping in Idaho."
I had to agree, but I assured her we would be safe. "Besides," I
told her, "we want to prepare the boys to survive if they are ever
caught out somewhere in the winter."
Most of the boys were excited about winter camping. All but one.
J.R. was not the slightest bit inclined to feel it was a part of
what he felt was a joyful life experience. "I don't think the word
camping and winter should be used in the same sentence," he
I didn't expect to see him on the night of the campout. But in that
I was wrong. His parents were pushing him to get to his Eagle, and
every campout moved him one step closer. J.R.'s father dropped his
scowling son off for the campout on Friday night, whether J.R.
wanted to be there or not.
J.R.'s father was one of the congregational leaders of our
church and should also have been going with us. When I approached
him about joining us, he frowned. "I don't need any merit badges."
With that he took off in his car before I could pursue the issue
My assistant scoutmaster and I had spent weeks training the boys
on proper winter camping methods and now was our chance to put it
into practice. We worked with them to dig the snow down to the
solid ground, laid out a couple of bales of straw for insulation,
and then set up the large 20 man tent. We piled snow back along the
edges for insulation and laid tarps over the straw. By the time it
was getting dark, the tent was snug and warm.
I had prepared fajitas for the boys. I liked fajitas because I
could have most of the food prepared ahead and it took only about
15 minutes before dinner was served. In all of my years as
scoutmaster, I learned that boys can put up with a lot of things if
they are well fed. When they finished with fajitas I had scones and
While the boys played a game of moonlight steal-the-flag, my
assistant scoutmaster and I set up our much less adequate tent.
When the boys grew tired, we gathered around the campfire to
share some stories. It was close to midnight when they finally wore
down and climbed into their sleeping bags. I had some hand warmers
and I gave some to each boy that desired any. They crushed the
package to activate them and then tucked them down into their
sleeping bags so that, when they climbed in, their feet were nice
I also had lots of extra blankets. I spread them out across
multiple boys to help hold in the heat. J.R. chose to be on an
edge. He refused to take any of the warmers and absolutely wanted
nothing to do with the extra blankets. He was sure he hated winter
camping and was determined that he would be miserable.
The night grew cold, reaching about 20 degrees below zero, but
we were well equipped. When we woke, my assistant scout master
started a fire while I prepared bacon, sausage, and pancakes for
breakfast. The boys rolled out and came to get some hot chocolate
while the last of the breakfast was being prepared.
As most of us were standing around and chatting happily, J.R.
finally climbed out of his bed. He scowled as he joined the rest of
the happy throng. "Well," he grumped at us, "I guess we made it
through the night. But, let's not ever have any more of this
Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright,
and author, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org