Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fulfilling a 50-year-old dream

I've got a grainy black-and-white photo of myself, eight years old, standing in Cub Scout uniform, hosting an enormous smile. It was taken just before I ran away from home the first time.
I had gotten bitten by the scouting bug, and was an avid reader of the Boy Scout Manual, devouring the tips on camping, cooking, woodcraft...everything. I also read a lot about fishing, and dreamed of going. My parents, however, were too busy for such foofaraw. They worked, and worked hard, raising three children in rural Hanford, Calif., in the central valley.
One of the first tips I learned was how to make a pack out of a pillowcase. (This was the '50s; pink backpacks and Spiderman backpacks were a long time in the future. I might have gotten a WWII rucksack from an Army surplus store...if I'd known about such things, and had had the money.)
To make a pack out of a pillowcase: lay the case flat. Take a pebble and place it inside, in one corner. Tie one end of a long piece of string around it. Take a second pebble and place it inside, in a second corner. Tie another end of another long piece of string around that. This will keep the pillowcase from slipping free once it's loaded. Then tie the strings to the top two open ends, so you can wear it with the open part up. This was my pack.
Now you can fill it. Maybe some clothes. Some comic books for sure. A couple cans of food, a can opener, some matches, and a spoon. Some string and a hook to go fishing with, I suppose. Naturally once it was filled it would sag down to the lowest part of your back, but who knew?
And I took my little outfit down to my mom's office to ask her for some money so I could run away from home. When I talked to her the other night, she remembered. She told me, "You go home, go to your room, and stay there." As a good little wilderness scout, I obeyed, and spent the rest of the day reading my camping books from the shelter of my brother and I's room.
Now, 50-odd years later, I recalled the thrill of camping, and I still enjoy it. More soon.

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