The Cast: Dyrings (Twin 1 & Twin 2), Myself (camper), Other Boys (there were several), Scout Masters (overseer & supervisor).
We were muddy, wet, cold, and tired. And, we were on our way home.
After my first disastrous camping trip in Utah, I really wasn’t looking forward to another week of misery and vomit. I was told it wasn’t going to be like that. It was a one-nighter. I could do that. Plus I was informed by the other boys in the Scout Troop that it was going to be a ton of fun and that the food would be super good. My twelve-year-old self was sold. “Super good” food and “ton[s] of fun” was more than enough to sell me on the upcoming weekend.
This trip was going to be so much fun! (that’s what I kept getting told, anyway)
I prepped for the overnighter and was completely caught off guard for the good time I (eventually) had.
Camping is fun. I love it. Being outside, in the wilderness, is one of my favorite things to do. After a few days of sleeping on the ground, in a great tent—or in a hammock out in the open—you really appreciate what you have at home. Plus, it’s also great to just be outdoors. I love it. I really do.
So, all those years ago, I began a camping trip that I can’t forget (although I have forgotten most of the names). It was a Friday. The Troop had all their stuff loaded onto our Scout Master’s truck and soon we were off to the mountains. I don’t have any idea where we went. The direction. How far away. If the place had a name (or what it might have even been). What I do remember is that it was near a lake. The waterline had receded. There was mud—and a dutch oven.
“What’s a dutch oven?” I had never heard of a dutch oven, let alone what it was used for. I didn’t know why someone would bring a whole oven out to the woods for camping. Or, why the big deal of that it was from Holland was such an important factor. Dutch oven? What?!?
“You’ve never heard of a dutch oven?!?!?!” Someone asked with shocked dismay.
The group was astounded. How could anyone have ever not heard of a dutch oven? Easy. When I went camping—as a youth—we never used one. We cooked over an open fire or on a white gas camp stove. Needless to say, I was more than a little intrigued to find out what a dutch oven was, what it looked like, how it was used, or what fantastic thing was going to be prepared in it (or on it, as I still didn’t know what it was).
We arrived, set up camp, collected firewood, ran about the woods, inspected the mud puddle… *ahem* lake. I meant lake. We inspected the lake, for fishing, and discovered that the water had receded too far back. The shore was a great gap of sorta-mud. When I say sorta-mud, I mean mud that is too dry to be muck, but, too wet to be dirt. It sticks to whatever touches it and then itself and just builds. The first kid that tried to walk to the water’s edge almost lost his shoes within three steps. The mud grabbed the soles of his sneakers and then glued his feet down.
He took three steps. The first was a test. The second was because he lost his balance when the mud wouldn’t yield his foot. And, the third was when he tried to break free and his first shoe stayed while his foot popped out and landed on the sorta-mud. Then, when he tried to pick that foot up, the sock stayed behind. He left it there. To the best of my knowledge, it can still be found there to this very day.
By the time dinner was ready, all of us were starved—the outdoors seems to increase an appetite. There is so much about this trip that I cannot recall, the evening meal is one of those things. Dessert, however… Yeah, the dessert I recall very clearly, as it involved the unveiling of the dutch oven. Now, if you still don’t know what a dutch oven is, let me tell you. Basically, it’s a large cast-iron pot with a lid. When in the right hands, it makes magic. When in the wrong hands, it makes food. So, either way, you win. This dutch oven was in the right hands.
I watched as the adult leader took off the lid, opened cans and boxes, then poured the contents of said cans and boxes into that cast-iron pot. He just dumped the stuff in. No measure. No apparent concern for what it would do. He just dumped the stuff in. A can of this… A packet of that… Open a box of cake mix… dump it on top…
“Whatcha makin’?” One of the boys asked with a level of excitement that no ruler could measure.
“Dutch oven dump cake.” Came the reply. Then, he pulled the tab on a can of Sprite and began to pour. I watched, mesmerized as the clear, bubbly liquid fell into the mess of contents within the cast-iron container. He was mad. He must have been. Who just dumps food in and then adds soda?!? A mad-man, that’s who! My mind couldn’t take it. Then, he stopped. He only poured a little of the Sprite into the mix, then sipped at the rest of the can as he put the lid on and prepared the dutch oven for its designated cooking time.
What came out of that metal miracle was magnificent. I have never had anything so wonderful in all my days. I don’t know how the juices and dry goods mixed themselves together to do what they did, but I knew I could not get enough. Nobody could. It was gone in seconds. I don’t remember who that Scout leader was, and I’ve never had ‘dump cake’ again. But, I can tell you this: I will never forget it. Nor the next morning.
After the food was eaten and dishes washed, the evening was spent by the fire. I believe it was early Fall and the weather reminded us of it—all night. The lake didn’t help either. If you have ever spent time by a shore, you know it can get extra chilly. When the air moves across the water’s surface, temperatures drop. The result was that there was little surprise when several of us woke early to try and get a fire going (we failed. couldn’t find the matches). Although, a few woke early to attempt fishing, again.
“Well, I figured the mud might be dry by now.” Twelve-year-old logic. It was someones’. Not mine. However, the rest of us felt it was still pretty good reasoning. So, a group of us went with the would-be fisherman. The leaders were all still asleep. That meant that there was no one to tell us to not go. And off we went—most of us.
What I am about to tell you may offend some of you. I am warning you now. If you are easily offended, skip down to SAFE SPACE.
Rambo—back in the ‘80s—taught many a lesson. One of which was: Have a cool survival knife. The scene where he sews himself up from a kit he got out of his knife handle changed the outdoors for every kid. The standard ‘Rambo’ knife had a black plastic handle, a long blade with a serrated ‘saw’ side, a handle full of matches and fishing hooks and line, and a compass on the end. It also had a sharpening stone—in its own sheath on the main sheath (extra cool). I had one.
Some of us took our knives with us—because of bears and such. Be prepared and all that. When we reached the sock-spot, we knew things might get sticky. Surprisingly it wasn’t. The sorta-mud was pretty solid at that hour. We were able to traverse the distance to the water with little issue. However, due to the drop in water level, the water wasn’t really water. It was just really thin mud (sorta-water). You couldn’t see anything. The fishing pole fishing couldn’t happen. And then, someone had the bright idea to try spearfishing with his knife. He stood by the shore’s edge wildly stabbing at things in the water (crayfish and such). He wasn’t any good at it.
“What if I went out and caught a fish with my hands?” Came the bright idea from someone. And the rest of us were just fine with that. Off he went. Into the water. Into the muddy water. Into the freezing muddy water. He waded out up to his chest. Stood there. Then suddenly, he grabbed at something. Brought the large fish to shore and dropped it at the group’s feet. A fish big enough to feed all of us. Then, we killed it. By stabbing it. Repeatedly.
This happened again and again. It went on for some time.
Looking back, I’m not proud of that moment. What we did and how we did it. I regret it—very much. However, I would like to think that it helped shape my future character. I think back to that moment and do not want to be like that person. Some might say that “Boys will be boys…” Sure, that may be true. But, they can still be good, decent, honorable boys. Boys with real character and strength. Not monsters.
SAFE SPACE: Afterwards, we headed back to camp. Our human fishnet was blue and almost hypothermic. Unfortunately for us, the short amount of time that we spent at the shore was more than enough time to allow the surface of the sorta-mud to soften. As we began our retreat back toward camp—all were frozen from the morning cold (especially the one kid who walked into the icy mud-water)—we found that with each step we grew an inch or so. The sorta-mud stuck and stacked itself under our shoes and boots. We were gaining height with each step. It was cool. Until he fell.
“Dude! Look how tall I am!” Someone called out. We all turned to see the twelve-inch thick stack of mud under the ‘tall kids’ shoes. He was tall! Then, he fell. Over. Sorta-mud is not good for making stilts. The thud he should have made was absorbed by the sorta-mud. And, so was the kid. It took three of us to pull him out. That’s when we realized how dangerous a situation we were in. After a few steps, we would carefully knock the sorta-mud off from under our footwear, or else we too might fall, as prey, to the sorta-mud swamp.
“Just kick it off. Like this.” The group turned to see a boot sail through the air. “NOO!!!” The same kid that had lost his sock the day before, was now precariously balancing on one muddy foot while his other socked foot was now in the mud. As he had endeavored to kick the mud free from the bottom of his sneaker, the weight took his shoe for a trip, he lost his balance, stepped in the mud, then lost his other sock, in the mud (same as before). Eventually, we all made it free from the sorta-mud and made it back to camp. We were safer in the swamp.
Turns out that the leaders were angry that we had taken off without letting them know. Also, they were trying to break camp to head out—and were short-handed. The scouts that had been left behind had received a hot breakfast and were now free from morning chores. The rest of us had to do the dishes of the food we never ate and get everything packed up. We were to get warm by moving around. We did not get to enjoy the roaring campfire. Lesson learned.
During the whole drive home, the only thing all of us ‘fishing buddies’ could talk about was how we were going to take hot showers until there was no hot water left. Then someone got the brilliant idea of just filling the tub with hot water and soaking in it. “YEAH!” We all thought that was the better idea. And for most of us, it would be no problem. Because, most of us were one person, with one tub. However, there were the Dyring twins. They had one tub and two of them.
“I get it first.”
“No, I do.”
“No, I DO.”
NO, I DO!”
And, so it went. They argued every angle: Oldest privilege. Youngest privilege. Who was coldest. Who was wettest (that made the Scout Master upset about his car’s upholstery). On and on it went. Eventually, a rock, paper, scissors competition settled it. Twin 1 one lost. Twin 2 won. Settled.
Nearing the twin’s home, our Scout Master told them to be sure to get all of their things out of the car before either one went inside. “Sure thing.” They both said. The car hadn’t even fully stopped when a door flew open and Twin 1 yelled out, “I GET THE TUB!” and disappeared into their home. The front door was left wide open. Twin 2 had lost.
“Get your brother’s stuff out of my car before you go.” The leader asked.
“Fine.” Twin 2 had lost. He knew it. So, he pulled out all his stuff, as well as his brothers. When he headed inside we noticed all he had was his pack and sleeping bag. He had pulled out all his brother’s gear, as he was told to do—we heard and witnessed it from the rearview mirrors, but he had left it strewn about the street. Payback for stealing the tub. Our leader drove off without saying a thing.
At home, I filled my tub with nothing but hot water—I didn’t even look at the cold tap, let alone turn it. As I eased into what felt like boiling water, it melted all my bones and felt like warm, welcoming, liquid lava (I know what I wrote). Sooo gooood… As the dirt and grim lifted off me and settled to the bottom, I would drain and refill my personal spa. I spent four hours in hot water heaven. Eventually, I showered off any possible residual gunk and put all my gear away. That was a grand camping trip.
The next day, at church, we all learned that Twin 1’s gear had remained in the street for hours. He had supposed that his brother would bring it all inside for him—despite the treachery. Twin 2 had relegated himself to showering, putting away his stuff, and had let all his anger over the deceit go—while watching television. Twin 1 found out that his stuff had never come inside when their father began to yell at him for leaving it in the road—their dad had accidentally run over some of it (and parked on other parts of it). Twin 1 then turned on Twin 2 for not taking care of it or putting it away. That’s when the full story came out and Twin 1 got grounded for stealing the tub, leaving his stuff in the street, and blaming Twin 2 for not helping. Twin 2 also got grounded for just leaving it in the road, as it might have caused a flat tire.
All in all, Twin 2 was okay with that.