Is there any activity more thrilling, more rejuvenating, more feel-good-about-yourself fun than taking a six-year-old on a campout with 200 other overstimulated boys? Apart from the day I got my do-it-yourself home lobotomy kit, I can’t think of a time I was more excited than the recent Cub Haunted Weekend at Camp Winnataska in lovely Analpimple, Alabama.
The stepminion had been exposed to the Cub Scouts through friends at school. Bless his little six-year-old heart, he fell in love with the thought of carving a ten-inch-long racecar, learning about nature, and going on campouts.
Ah, yes. The campouts.
“It’ll be fun!” Aries28 chirped incessantly. “You and the Minion can bond! And there’ll be so much to do! He’s so excited about it! Don’t worry about me! I’m sure I’ll find something to do with you two gone for 24 hours! Besides miss you two, I mean! You know I love you! Now for the love of God get out of my house!”
Five minutes after we pulled away, her friend Michelle came over and they got bombed on screwdrivers and Jack Daniels while Chippendales danced on my furniture. I’m still finding g-strings and dollar bills between the cushions.
But I digress. In preparing for the campout, I attempted to learn some pertinent information about the event. It’s been 30 years since I was in Cub Scouts, and even then my dad didn’t go on campouts with me. In fact, I don’t think Cub Scouts even went camping 30 years ago. All I remember is we used to meet after school in an unused back room that had a papier-mache volcano in it. I think it was somebody’s old science project that was being stored, but I suppose it could have been a portal to Hell. My memory isn’t what it used to be.
So I’m going over the list of things to bring, as recommended by the local Cub Scout Pack Leader (Motto: “If I’ve got to spend my spare time around 200 boys, then I’m going to make you miserable, too”). Some items were fairly obvious (sleeping bags, flashlights), while others were a bit ominous (a stomach-pump kit “just in case”). They also listed toilet paper, which should have been a tipoff to me. It’s not possible to have a good time on a trip that requires you to bring your own toilet paper.
“You’ll be in a bunkhouse!” screeched the Pack Mother, a matronly woman whose energy level leads me to believe she could get excited about watching rocks race. “There’ll be a bonfire! And activities! Your meals are included! Be sure to bring some Band-Aids and a tourniquet! Just in case!” Naturally, she was not going on this campout. As she walked away from me during the planning meeting, which was about two weeks before the actual campout, I could hear her shouting into her cell phone. “What do you mean, the Chippendales are completely booked that night? Every one of them? How is that possible?”
The strange thing is, although we were encouraged several times to bring the stomach pump, and the tourniquet, and the morphine, and the snakebit kit, and the myriad of other “just in case” items, nobody mentioned to me the one crucial item that would be necessary to survive the weekend with my sanity intact.
The stepminion and I get to the camp late Friday afternoon, and at first everything is okay. We find our bunkhouse, which was last cleaned when Roosevelt was in the Oval Office (Teddy, not Franklin). We have metal bunk beds with mattresses, although I am fervently grateful we brought sleeping bags. These mattresses look like the inside of a Chippendale’s g-string. A very old Chippendale’s g-string, belonging to a Chippendale who sweats a lot. And has some sort of crotch fungus.
So anyway, we settle in and go do the typical nighttime activities at this camp – a hayride, and going through a haunted house, and flinging pumpkins with catapults, and “jousting” in wheelbarrows, and various and sundry other activities. The evening ends at 10:30 with a bonfire that attracts bugs from as far away as Arkansas. The stepminion is irked with me for not bringing any marshmallows to roast over the fire, but I pacify him by letting him put the rubber hose of the stomach pump in the embers and watching it bubble and smoke.
Finally we retire to bed. Our bunkhouse has approximately 30 other boys and dads in it, one of whom is an Assistant Pack Leader. As he lowers his round self into the bed, he remarks “I hope y’all remembered to bring earplugs, because I snore very, very loudly.” There are a few chuckles. And then it happens.
I’m in the top bunk, because the stepminion doesn’t want to sleep on top. Immediately to my right is a boy who is about eight years old. His dad is in the lower bunk. So the man is maybe six feet away from me.
The instant the Assistant Pack Leader finished saying “I hope you brought earplugs”, this dad cuts loose with one of the loudest snores I have ever heard in my life. It’s the type of snore that people make intentionally when they’re joking about how loud someone snores. It’s entirely possible that sound waves from this snore are what caused the solar flares we’re experiencing now.
A few folks laugh a bit, as people always do when someone makes the obvious joke in such a situation. Ha-ha, demonstration of a loud snore right after someone else says they snore loudly. Oh, the humor. It is to laugh.
But then this guy snores again, even louder. The laughter abruptly stops. Uneasy glances are exchanged. Far off in the distance, a wolf howls.
And so the night begins. You may remember this night – it was the longest night in recorded history. I laid in my bunk, hands crossed behind my head (I remembered the stomach-pump kit, but I forgot pillows), feeling crotch fungus attempting to crawl onto my body, and watched the ceiling sink approximately eight inches every time this guy inhaled. And the exhales weren’t any better, either. He sounded like someone had stuffed a used Chippendale’s g-string in his sinuses when he tried to breathe out. It was one of those snuffly, phlegmy-sounding exhales, like when you jam the back of your tongue against your uvula and then try to breathe out through your mouth.
This went on for several decades. And then the unthinkable happens – the Assistant Pack Leader also begins snoring. How he went to sleep is beyond me, what with all the bunks being moved back and forth across the room from the force of the snorer’s breathing. But he did. His snoring isn’t as bad as Dr. Snoreslots, but it’s pretty impressive on its own.
So now we have some sort of sleep-induced version of Duelling Banjos going on in our bunkhouse. Dr. Snorelots would play a sinus riff, and Assistant Pack Leader would respond with a uvulatic paradiddle. Then they would join forces in an impressive tonsil-rattling crescendo, the results of which are still giving seismologists wet dreams as they examine their instrument recordings from the evening.
Just as I despaired of ever getting any sleep that night, inspiration struck, and shortly thereafter, blessed silence reigned. I managed to sleep about three hours.
For legal reasons, I don’t want to fully explain what happened. Let’s just say that, even after being exposed to a bonfire, the tubing from a stomach-pump kit makes a pretty damn good garrote.
And as an added bonus, I was awarded the “Community Service” merit badge by my bunkmates.