Saturday, August 27, 2005

After Ken-eta-wa-pec

I’ve mentioned before that I worked at a Boy Scout camp between the junior year and senior year of high school. At the end of that summer my parents (and the parents of my friend, Johnny) showed themselves to be the kind of parents that are great to have. For the last half of the camp season Johnny and I had hatched a plan and broadcast it widely. We were going to tell our parents that camp closed a week later than it actually was going to. We would use the week to go on an ambitious hitchhiking trip. Idiots that we were, we even discussed it with the camp director. Boy Scout that he was, the director phoned our parents and snitched on us. Together, he and our parents decided that they wouldn’t tell us that they knew. They would just let us think we were being sneaky.

When our duties at the camp were completed, we packed our blankets and spare clothes and started out walking. Our back packs were heavy before we had hiked our way down the seven miles to the first paved road. The fact that some time we had to go back up the mountain put a small chill on the thrill of first sticking our thumbs out and having a truck slow and stop for us.

Rides weren’t as easy to get as we had hoped and we gradually abandoned our concentration on the planned destination and accepted any ride that was offered. The result was a route that looked like a dying top might take. It was wobbly and tended to circle eccentrically. We learned lots of things. For instance we learned that it doesn’t have to rain, --- dew can do an effective job of soaking you when you sleep out of doors without roof or tent. Food is not as easy to come by when riding with people that had breakfast at home and don’t plan to eat again until after they have dropped you off along a highway miles from anywhere. We learned we should have brought a map. A creeping fear grew that we might not be able to find our way back to the camp in time to meet our folks. And we learned how fast you can get how dirty. Sixty three years ago your average ESSO gas station did not offer deluxe bathroom facilities. We also figured out that the chance of getting a ride bore an inverse relationship with how dirty we were. Enthusiasm paled.

We arrived back at the beginning of the dirt road up the mountain to camp on the evening of the fourth day. It was dark, we were totally pooped, so we decided to sleep behind the little corner store there that night. We saw a large dog house or maybe it was a hen house. It smelled as bad as we did. Anyway it was our Holiday Inn for the night.

As soon as the store opened, we went to buy food for the next three days. It was a shock to find that between us we had sixty-some cents left. We managed a loaf of bread and a giant size jar of apple butter. We rationalized that the camp ranger would be a Samaritan. (Much later we found out that he was in cahoots with our parents, which helped explain why any man could smile while depriving fellow humans of food.) We thought that by breaking into the camp kitchen we would have revenge – and a good meal. All we could find was an unlimited supply of big #10 cans of apples for pies. The perfect complement to our apple butter.

Actually, the ranger was not as bad as I suggest. He opened a cabin so we had a place to sleep and he opened a latrine for us to shower in. (That was probably self-defense.)
He cooked us a meal the second night and even gave us a taste of his treasured whiskey. And in the department of “learned later”, he had unbeknownst to us phoned our parents the minute he saw us trudging up the road to report we were safe and well.

Darn, that was fun! It was even sort of a nice feeling to find our folks had given permission without ever telling us. The following February John and I went back to the camp and spent a week during school break helping the ranger shovel fire paths through the snow and doing minor repairs. We brought real food this trip and shared a steak or two with the ranger.


Marilyn said...

Great story. And how great of your folks to play along...and of course teach you a thing or two in the process... :)

Robert said...

My friend I too am a Ken-eta-wa-pec'an from 1957 to 1962. Enjoyed your venette. Thanks for sharing.

drenviro said...

I too went to Camp Ken-eta-wa-pec (in the early 1960s), before it was taken over to become part of the Delaware Water Gap Park. Remember: dive, dive, scrape the bottom: kayuga.
Anyway, In 1984, I was doing an air pollution study at nearby Fairview Lake YMCA camp. So I went by to visit, the old Boy Scout camp, and it was the same! One difference: the water was clear: probably because there was no more "nutrients" coming from the camp latrines!