22 April 2019

[Bess Tuggle] - Memoirs of Surviving Children: The (mis) Adventures of Scouting & Camping

Thing 1 was kidnapped once.  He was kidnapped by Boy Scouts of America in the first grade.   They were greedy, too.  They ended up kidnapping the whole family.

Scouting is a fun way to grow up.  Family oriented, educational and a WHOLE lot of camping.

Multiple camping trips were planned throughout the year.  We tried to accommodate everyone’s needs.  Close trips for families with very young or disabled children, cheap trips for those with more than one child (once you have more than one you’re perpetually broke) and site seeing trips for those more adventurous with the means and transportation to get there.

One of the requirements for each camping trip was that one trained leader had to attend.  I don’t remember what year it was that I became the Wolf Den leader (and stayed there for time out of mind), but with a lot of kids and a flexible work schedule I became “volun-told” for many of them. 

We did primitive camping (for those that don’t know, that means NO facilities, and yes – bears DO *%&# in the woods), full facility camping and pretty much everything in between.  Most of our trips were to State Parks, but there were many others – including my own yard.

My memory is currently stuck on camping at Amicalola Falls State Park.  It’s a beautiful place.  We ended up in primitive camping, but that was part of the adventure.

Image result for amicalola state park

It had rained, so everything was a muddy mess.  Our camp site was down a steep, muddy, hill and all gear had to be carried down it.  It turned out it was easier to sit on your rear with a load and –slide- down the hill.  We had one leader, and I have pictures to prove it, that carried a twin size mattress down the mud slope and stuffed it in his pup-tent because he was NOT going to sleep on the ground, much to the amusement of the rest of us.  The kids turned the path into a mud slide and had a –wonderful- time, especially knowing they couldn’t take a bath and had to wash off in the creek.

I pitched our tent next to a creek.  That was my first mistake.  There’s something about the sound of running water during the night, especially knowing that the only facilities was the closest tree…  The boys’ pitched their tents around mine like little mushrooms.  A campfire was built, and we were all too tired to do much else than go to sleep with the sun.

The next morning everyone got up, maybe not well-refreshed, but up and planned the events for the day.  The main attraction was the lodge at the top of a very –long- -steep- hill.

Everyone loaded up.  As I had the only long bed truck I ended up with a bunch of the kids.  Fifteen to be exact, all loaded in the back of my truck.  There’s a reason I remember that number.

Up the hill we went, strictly observing the 10mph speed limit, and finally made it to the top.  There was the lodge.  Low and behold (let the angels sing amid a cloud of bright light), there was a sign that made my heart leap with joy.  “Public Restroom.”

Out of the truck I jumped.  The rest of the adults/leaders could deal with the kids for a minute or two, but I bee-lined it to the bathroom.  Once out, I was met by a frightening sight.  Our whole group was gathered at the door, all were pointing at ME, and there was a park ranger leading the pack.

I got busted.

Much to my amazement, all State rules of the road apply in State Parks.  –I- didn’t know that, but the ensuing lecture taught me a lot.  Did you know that it’s against the law to transport children in the bed of a pickup?  Even in a State Park?  I sure didn’t, and that ranger put the fear of losing my license into me.

Fifteen tickets for no seat belts.  Fifteen tickets for child endangerment.  To add insult to injury, one big ticket for unsecured load.

Following a long lecture, which I’m sure the ranger enjoyed thoroughly, she let me off with a warning.  After that, we did our site-seeing and started a caravan to get all the kids back down to camp.  All in seat belts.  It took several trips, but we all made it back to base camp –legally-.

The rest of our camping trip was spent hiking, site seeing, playing games, roasting marshmallows over a fire and just a good time overall.  

My old, white truck was never the same after that.  Three of us lunched our transmissions on that long, steep hill. 

- Bess Tuggle