Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chapter 77 Fire and Water

One weekend in 1962 we were on a scout camp out at Possum Kingdom lake and George Landrum was the scoutmaster. Landrum was a retired Marine Drill Instructor and made a pretty tough Scoutmaster. He was heavy on the “Master” part. George was notorious as a man who could out snore anyone in the county. When he got fully tuned up you could clearly hear him all over our camp area. On that particular evening we had all enjoyed several hours around a big campfire and we were finally in our sleeping bags. Of course, George was the first to get to sleep. All the adults slept in a separate area from the boys and all the men slept in sleeping bags on the ground except George who always slept on an army cot.

 After about an hour of trying to sleep with that saw mill running next to us, everyone was still awake. About that time four of the older boys sneaked into the adult area and picked up George’s cot and quietly carried him off, with George not missing a snore. It sounded like a railroad train going off into the distance as they carried him away. I was so glad for the relief; I did not say a word to the boys and knew they wouldn’t do anything to hurt George. The relief was just too overwhelming for any of us to stop whatever they planned to do with him. I quickly went to sleep and I had to find out from the boys what happened next.

The boys had carried George out into the lake about twenty feet from the bank, and he was still sleeping soundly with the lake water about two inches below the bottom of the cot. In other words, about two inches from George’s bottom. At daylight here comes a big bass boat at full speed leaving a wake that was almost a foot high. As it passed George, the water came right into bed with him and he jumped up to find he was standing in water half way to his knees. The boys disappeared and as we woke up here came George mad as a wet hen-well, mad as a wet Scoutmaster-looking for who put him in the lake. I played dumb and so did everyone else. I don’t think George ever found out for sure who did it.
Another time we had a big ceremony planned for the evening campfire for the boys. We did a lot of work setting it up and would not let any of the boys near it during the day. We put a steel wire under the pile of wood destined to be the big campfire that night. The other end of the wire we attached up in the top of a nearby tree just to the north of the campfire location.  We rigged up a big rag that we were later going to soak in kerosene, and attached it to a pulley that we pulled up to the top of the tree.

That night, well after dark we led the boys single file through the woods in total silence down to the campfire area. There was no moon and it was really dark. We settled the boys around the huge pile of wood that was to be the campfire.  A Dad who was good at story telling began to weave a tale about the Indians who had camped at this very spot after they had made a raid on the white men. The Indians had also had a successful buffalo hunt and they were thanking the great father in the north sky for their success.
He laid it on real good and finally he started the fire lighting ceremony. He solemnly faced the west and said, “Oh great father of the West bring down flame to light our fire.” Nothing happened. Then he faced south and repeated his words with the same result. Then to the East and still there was no response from the great father. Finally he faced north and with a lot of emotion he pleaded with the great father in the North sky. Nothing happened. I could hear the Senior Patrol Leader, Ron Park, up in the top of the tree striking his lighter over and over. He was supposed to have soaked the rag in kerosene and then on signal, light it and send it whizzing down the steel wire to start the campfire. Finally the flame was seen at the top of the tree and it started down the wire. After about six feet down the wire it got caught on a limb and would go no further. I could hear Ron climbing toward the burning rag and about that time Ron slips and starts down the tree crashing through the limbs. Fortunately he was not seriously hurt but it was a ceremony that none of the boys ever forgot.

Photo of Possum Kingdom Lake (I am not making this up) found here.

Graphic of campfire found here.

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