Be Prepared

When I was very young, I wanted to join the Cub Scouts. My parents said no because of the costs (we were very poor) and because my mom somehow heard that she would have to host kids at our house on occasion. Being a deaf mother, this would be stressful for her. So I waited.

When I turned 11 years old, I wanted to join the Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, we were still poor and my mom still couldn’t get the hosting thing out of her mind. So I waited.

When I was 15 years old, my best friend was part of the Boy Scouts and my mom liked my best friend so I got the go-ahead to join, so I did. It turned out to be nothing like I expected.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that alcohol was a large part of the culture when I was young. As teenagers, we were always trying to get some beer or any other kind of liquor. Even in the Boy Scouts, we were always looking for something to alter our senses, especially us older kids.

On my second weekend campout with my troop, we headed down to Illinois for the Grant Pilgrimage in Galena. We had a beautiful campground, but we were distracted with the fact that the town was only 15 miles away. None of us had a car and a hike at night was out of the question. What we did have, however, was a lethal bottle of Plum Brandy…

The first night, we each tried a sip of the brandy and it was some of the worst garbage we had ever drunk! It was just awful and we like brandy in Wisconsin. One of the kids had stolen it from his parents and said they wouldn’t miss it because it had been sitting there for years. We now knew why.

The next day, we drove into town and walked around a bit. A couple of us met some girls and they invited us to a party that night in town. Of course, we acted cool and said we’d be there. When we got back to the campsite, we made our plan.

Dinner that night was hot dogs, baked beans, and chips. We had a lot of baked beans. It was one of our Scoutmaster’s favorites. He would have 3 or 4 helpings every time we camped. Then all of us would regret it the rest of the night, but that’s not the story. It’s what we did with the Plum Brandy that makes the story. Yup, the whole bottle went into the baked beans. We were too young and inexperienced with alcohol to realize we could get caught. Fortunately, our Scoutmaster didn’t notice the liquor, but he sure liked the baked beans!

SCOUTMASTER (on his third serving): Who made the baked beans?

ME: Oh, we all kind of helped.

SCOUTMASTER: These are the best I’ve ever had!

ME: Have some more then!

He didn’t notice that the rest of us were avoiding the baked beans (we all agreed to take very tiny portions and throw it out at the end). He ate 5 servings before patting his stomach and sitting back with a look of contentment. Now, all we had to do was wait. We didn’t have to wait long. About an hour after the beans, he began to yawn. This part was normal because he liked to take naps or if he didn’t get one, he went to bed early. What we were trying to avoid was him getting up at any loud sound. We needed him to sleep.

Sure enough, he announced he was going to bed early and that we needed to behave and put the fire out when we went to bed. He was one of those relaxed Scoutmasters. He crawled into his tent and we waited for the sounds we knew would come. The first ripping snore seemed to move the flaps of his tent and we knew it was time. We sent our smallest boy into the tent and after a minute or two, he emerged victoriously with the car keys. He also had a foul look on his face.

LITTLE SCOUT: Man, those beans are really working!

ME: He’s down for the count?

LITTLE SCOUT: Yeah, and he’s counting out his butt!

We all laughed, reminding each other to laugh quietly. It was time for the rest of the plan. We picked the tallest of us to drive and we took his car into town without any problem. We found the party and had fun for about an hour before the fight happened. Apparently, we were not as welcome as those girls led us to believe. We left before we could get in worse trouble and drove back to the campsite. I did the driving back because it was obvious our designated tall guy couldn’t handle his beer. I don’t think I was in too much better shape, but I got us back. Then we slipped the keys back into the reeking tent and sat around the campfire rejoicing in our cleverness. It was about midnight when our Scoutmaster woke up and emerged from the tent.

SCOUTMASTER: Hey, can you guys keep it down? I haven’t been able to sleep at all with all your noise, so I know you’re bothering the other campers.

ME: Um, yes sir.

SCOUTMASTER: Hey! Are there any more of those baked beans left?

Yeah, we were delinquents. Yeah, we got away with it that time. Yeah, it makes for a funny story now. I do, however, still feel guilt over what we did to that poor man. He obviously loved us and devoted so much time to us (he couldn’t have kids of his own) so it was a shame we took advantage of him, but that’s what kids do. They pull the rope as far and as tight as they can pull it before getting caught. We just happened to pull our rope with a car and made it stretch 15 minutes away!

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