Grandpaw Richard: Lasting lessons from the Great Outdoors

February 08, 2010 1 Comment

Grandpaw Richard: Lasting lessons from the Great Outdoors
We want to welcome Lakota Archery pro Dick Raymond as our newest Tanka Bar columnist. Dick, well-known for his ready advice for younger archers and his storytelling style on and a host of other archery sites and forums, will be contributing stories and photos on the second Monday of every month at Dick, who writes under the pen name Grandpaw Richard, lives in Washington state.

As I sit here at my computer, my mind wanders back about 50 years to a beautiful summer weekend when I spent a fun-filled two days and one night with my Boy Scout Troop.

We had the most wonderful place in the world to camp -- 100 acres of tree farm located in Marblemount, Wash., that was the property of a marvelous lady named Mrs. Riggs. She was a widow and also held the job as Postmistress of the little town of Marblemount. But, I digress from my story.

The story begins with my Dad and Mom loading up all the gear, food and 24 young, overanxious Boy Scouts into their station wagon and two other station wagons to head to the campgrounds. Seating was at a premium, excitement filled the air and inside the cars as we took off on our quest. Songs were sung to kill the time in the car, "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" was the all-time favorite for us kids; but I'm sure the adults were wishing they had them to drink!

When we arrived at the campground, we were split up into groups of four boys per tent. I got to bunk with two of my best friends and then we got stuck with Stanley.

Stanley was younger than the three of us buddies. He was also a little sissified Momma's boy that was afraid of his own shadow. He also had zero skills when it came to camping and hiking. So, we three older boys had to take up the slack, do most of his chores and more or less babysit him. A chore that we were not too happy about, but we did what we were told.

After we got all of our 9-foot-by-9-foot umbrella tents set up, gear stowed properly away and inspected, we were given a list of chores that had to be done. My group was to find a suitable place that was a fair but safe distance from camp to dig a tatrine and build a seat out of tree branches so that a person could comfortablly take care of nature's calls.

The Throne of Luxury

We found the perfect spot! It was about 75 feet away from camp. It had a U-shaped grove of trees surrounding it for privacy and it was about 100 feet away from the edge of the heavy brush. Us older boys gave poor Stanley the shovel and told him how deep and wide to dig the potty hole.

Meanwhile, we set to the task of chopping tree limbs off some surrounding trees for the seat. We carefully peeled the bark off the limbs and lashed them together, taking care to build a seat that would be sturdy and comfortable for a whole summer of use. While we were working and having fun, poor little Stanley was working his fingers to the bone digging the hole in the rocky ground.

We completed our task of building our mighty Throne of Luxury that was fit for a king, and then we dragged it the few feet over to where Stanley was digging the hole. Much to our disappointment, we then had to help him finish his work. Nevertheless, we completed our job and reported back to my Dad so that he could inspect it. It passed with flying colors and highest compliments.

Our next job was to gather the firewood for the campfire and to help cook supper. We gathered enough dry wood to last the whole night and well into the next morning. This chore gave us a mighty appetite, so we were more than happy to help with the cooking.

Dinner that night consisted of homemade biscuits baked in Dutch ovens, Boy Scout stew (a mixture of hamburger, tomato juice, stewed tomatoes, canned corn, green beans, and carrots) plus a huge pot of baked beans with hotdogs. And for dessert, we even baked a cake in the Dutch oven. A feast fit for a king!

Too many beans lead to early-morning potty run

After dinner, everyone pitched in to get the dishes done. We packed water from the Skagit River in 5 gallon buckets for doing the dishes and for drinking water. Then we all took a hike through the woods, marveling at the size and beauty of the trees. We even got to see quite a few deer, squirrels, and even a covey of quail. It was a perfect ending to an event-filled day.

As darkness started to fail, we all gathered around the campfire to enjoy a few hours of storytelling, singing and marshmallow roasting. Just what kids enjoy the most! Around 11 p.m. my Mom and Dad made us all head for our tents and bed, with stern orders to get to sleep because we had a big day ahead of us tomorrow. Like that is going to faze a bunch of kids that are wired up with sugar and eager to have more fun in the darkness!

About midnight, we all started to one-by-one nod off and go to sleep. Stanley was the first to go to sleep. He hit the pillow as soon as we got in the tent and it was lights out for the little wimp! I was one of the last to fall asleep.

I have always been an early riser, especially at camp, because it was always my job to get the fire started and to make the coffee for my Dad; that way, he would be able to grab a cup as soon as he exited his tent in the morning. Besides that, I always got to sit and have coffee with Dad.

Just as I was waking up at 4:30 in the morning, Stanley started crying that he had to go potty, but he was afraid to go out there alone. Being the oldest in the tent, the dubious honor befell me. Not to mention, I had to exit the tent and gasp for air because the smell that Stanley was emitting was terrible! He had loaded his little belly at suppertime with 4 plates of baked beans! That boy was so ripe that he could have made maggots gag at 100 yards!

Dutifully, I told him to grab his roll of toilet paper and let's get going! We rushed to the latrine without incident. As Stanley sat on the throne taking care of business, I stood about 10 feet away with my back to him. I was enjoying the morning sunrise and the beauty of the woods.

Suddenly, it happened!

A black bear came out of the brush a mere 40 yards away and began eating berries. As quietly as I could, I whispered to Stanley about the bear. He didn't believe me at first, but then the bear moved and Stanley spotted him. Stanley got so scared that he grabbed his roll of toilet paper and started to fumble with it to quickly finish his job. Well, poor Stanley was more shaken than he should have been. He fumbled with the roll and dropped it straight down into the latrine.

So, in his haste to clean himself, he reached down and grabbed a huge handful of leaves to use. Within seconds, a huge bloodcurdling SCREAM erupted from that little guy. It was so loud and frightening that it scared the poor bear! That bear took off for parts unknown and I bet he hasn't stopped running yet!

The scream also woke everyone in camp up and they got to witness poor Stanley coming streaking out of the brush holding his pants up and heading straight for an ice cold bucket of river water that my Dad had just packed back to camp!

An outdoor lesson learned

After the excitement calmed down, my Dad asked what had happened? I promptly told him and he went out to the scene of the disaster to find out what kind of leaves Stanley had grabbed. (He already knew, but he just had to get away by himself to have a good belly laugh without making poor Stanley cry!)

Dad finally came back to camp and gave us all a lesson about nature and what leaves and bushes to stay away from. He promptly pointed out that Stanley had grabbed a whole handful of stinging nettles. Of course, we older guys had already figured that out due to our vast knowledge and experiences with the dreaded bush!

Meanwhile, poor, little Stanley was made the butt of a lot of jokes and picked on unmercifully for his unfortunate experience. He also had to spend quite a few hours cooling his rear end in the Skagit River, because every time he would dry himself off the burning would start all over!

Stanley never has lived that episode down! To this day when I see him, I still remind him of The Great Latrine Episode and I always ask him if he still knows what stinging nettles look like!

After I grew up, both Mom and Dad would laugh with me when I would ask them if they remembered the episode. They are both gone now, but I bet they are looking over my shoulder and laughing as I type this story. Hopefully, you have enjoyed the story and have learned a lesson from it.

If you ever go into the woods and have to do your business, make sure that you don't drop the paper. If you do, make sure that if you use leaves; Do Not Grab Stinging Nettles!

Copyright: Richard M. (Dick) Raymond Jr.

1 Response


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