Many of the most frightening and favorite moments from my childhood are from my time spent in the Boy scouts. (no...this is not a tell-all experience like "Canteen boy.")
I was a member of a large Boy Scout troop that took regular camping trips in the summer. I can attribute my knowledge of the square knot and pyromania to the Scouts.
Unfortunately, I still cannot correctly identify poison ivy, use a compass, or accurately pick out any stars besides the North star and the big dipper.
I remember one camping trip in detail as it opened my eyes to the cruelty of teenage boys, and what Scouts will do when "unsupervised."
At 13 years old, I was one of the "older" boys in my group. (patrol) When I say older, I mean the the others were 12....so big whoop. I was still at least 18 months from seeing the first signs of hair anywhere on my body besides my head and this long stringy hair emanating from my Adam's apple.
As it was, we had a group of "older" boys, and we kind of ran the show. We had been on a week-long camp out the year before, and knew the ropes.
We traveled to a small area in the forest in our state. This camping spot was beautiful. The elevation was roughly 7,000 feet, there were small lakes and streams nearby for fishing, and it was heavily wooded. Even though it was July, we saw 75 degrees one day, snow the next, and 6 inches of rain later in the week.
Our free time was spent hiking, fishing, and just goofing off. We had adult leaders at the camp, but they were content napping, resting, or hanging out by the fire. By the end of the week, it felt like Lord of the flies as we had our run of the place.
There was a younger boy who always seemed to be the butt of the jokes. His name was Mark. His "friends" that were his age (12 yrs old) were constantly picking on him....and I don't mean light-hearted teasing. I mean the kind of mean-spirited teasing that would cause a parent to wring a neighbor kids neck. And unfortunately, it never ceased. There was one bully in particular who was worse than the others. (Matt)
One afternoon, Mark was sitting on a tree stump near the fire, whittling a stick with his pocketknife. He was not wearing shoes as they had gotten wet the previous day. They were drying out in the sun. As Mark whittled, I noticed the group of "bullies" approaching from his rear.
The area in which we were camping was "free range" land, which meant that we'd see cattle from time to time. As the group of bullies neared Mark, I noticed that Matt had grabbed a semi-stale "cow pie" from the ground, and was holding it menacingly as they crept up behind Mark.
What happened next played out just like a movie. Time slowed to a crawl, and my "spidey" senses went on full alert. An older boy named Spencer and I saw what was about to transpire.
We ran towards the group, screaming for them to stop...trying to warn Mark of the impending doom. We were too late.
Unprovoked, Matt slammed the semi-stale cow pie directly onto Matt's head as he turned towards the group.
Then Mark turned up the rage.
His eyes turned towards his pocketknife, and he turned it over in his hand so that the blade faced downward from his clenched fist.
Matt noticed that the joke was not being received as well as he had hoped, and started to retreat.
Mark leaped from his tree stump, and tore off towards Matt. Initially, Matt thought Mark was playing around, and didn't react quickly. As Mark neared to within striking distance with his blade, Matt realized that the situation had taken a nasty turn.
And then the chase was on.
Matt streaked towards the cover of the trees, darting back and forth between pines as fast as he could. Mark was not far behind, running only in a pair of dark socks...oblivious to any pain from broken tree branches and rocks.
Spencer and I ran after Mark in hopes to diffuse the situation. We quickly gained on him, and ran near him, attempting to coax the blade from his hands.
Mark knew that in socks, he wouldn't be able to catch his crap-chucking bully. He started to relent in his chase, and stood there contemplating his next move.
And then the rage began to subside.
He realized what he was about to do, and handed us the knife. We walked back towards camp, and sat down to collect our thoughts. It was obvious that our leaders were not present, nor had any clue of what had just transpired.
30 minutes later, Matt rolled back into camp. He kept his distance, until he realized that his life was in no imminent danger. In fact, we all laughed about the situation when he came back to apologize.
Now, I don't condone violence in most situations...especially with a weapon. But mark my words---Mark was never teased again by Matt. Perhaps knowing that he could go "Sweeney Todd" at any moment was a motivator to get along amicably.
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go practice the clove hitch.