Friday, September 21, 2007


During my somewhat mis-spent youth, there was a period when I was actually a member of a Boy Kraut troop.

That membership was not out of any commitment to the Boy Scout philosophy, a desire to live a Better Life, or any of that nonsense.

I just wanted to go camping.

As a consequence I ultimately found myself a member of the Nerd Patrol.

Oh, that wasn't the actual name we had (it was something like Flaming Arrows or Babbling Brook or somesuch). No, that was the function we served, compared to the Eagle Patrol, Bear Patrol, Wolf Patrol, et al.

Granted, there were a couple of guys in the patrol that likely shouldn't have been in the Boy Scouts, anyway - but the majority of us were members simply for the camping and other activities. Not a one of us ever got as far as First Class, for example - we simply didn't give a shit about merit badges or any of the other nonsense.

None of us was into sports or athletics or any of the other things the guys in the other patrols were so serious about. Rather, we did stuff like play chess, read books, and engage in similar non-jock pursuits.

Thus, we were subject to a certain amount of harassment by the other patrols - right up until we decided that enough was enough.

Once that decision was reached, it was a fairly simple and straightforward process of deciding how to deal with it. We knew that we couldn't compete with the other patrols on their terms; we ultimately settled on using something that we had that they apparently didn't: brains.

Sure enough, it wasn't but a couple of camping trips later that a couple of guys from one of the other patrols did some damn thing or other to make things difficult for us. We didn't fuss or complain or anything else. We just waited for our oppotunity for a little creative retribution.

That night, the patrol whose members had given us such grief discovered that someone had spiked some of their firewood with small magnesium rods. Now, magnesium wire (more like thread) is what is flashbulbs use - it burns really hot, and with a bright, bright light. It's also damn near impossible to put out - certainly not with anything a bunch of Boy Scouts out in the middle of nowhere are likely to have available. So the magnesium rods (probably about the size of large kitchen matches) tended to burn with a vengeance, screwing up any sense of tranquility or comraderie that might have existed.

Naturally enough, the other patrol associated this singularly unusual event to us - and tried to complain to the Scoutmaster. When he came to us (with a couple of the patrol members in tow), we did our very best "Who? Us?" impression, and asking what possible reason we would have for doing anything like that.

If the guys from the other patrol had fessed up, we would have had our asses in a real sling; but since they didn't, we were off the hook.

After that, it didn't take long for the other patrols to figure out that if they screwed with ANY of us, they were taking on ALL of us - and could look forward to some serious payback: they might discover that during the night, the ashes of their fire had been thoroughly 'seeded' with black powder, making the next mornings campfire rather 'vigorous'. Or they might get a repeat of the magnesium-in-the-firewood trick. Or perhaps their firewood might prove to have a hollow spot that contained chemicals (equal parts of sulfur, sugar, and phenolthalene) that would emit a dense, odorous smoke. It was never anything permanent or that caused any kind of injury (other than a few guys returning home sans eyebrows, anyway), but was inevitably something that drove the point home with a sledgehammer: don't mess with those guys.

I don't doubt that the Scoutmaster figured out what happened, and knew what was going on - and I expect he understood that we weren't doing anything to anyone that hadn't started it in the first place. We never got caught (that I know of, anyway), and even got a smile and look of what I think was appreciation for our 'style' after one of our paybacks.

No comments: