Greetings from the land where the buffalo roam. More on this later. Well, Evan and I have been on our second camp-out. I don’t intend to go on all of them (there is one each month) but now would seem to be the time since the weather is so nice. When it gets hot, I’m out of there. But this weekend, the weather was good so off we went.

We went to a state park in the Wichita Mountains of southern Oklahoma that is adjacent to Fort Sill. It was a long trip – about three and a half hours and we didn’t even start until nearly 7 PM. Just goes to show you, you can put up a tent in the dark. This park is in a wilderness area that contains, among other things, a herd of elk, longhorn cattle, and a large herd of buffalo. I guess the correct term is “Bison” but only the naturalists at the park call them that). They roam freely because (and if you’ve ever seen one up close, you know what I’m talking about) they’re huge. They go wherever they want. Kind of like that joke about where the 800 pound gorilla sleeps. Thankfully they’re fairly gentle and not aggressive. Unless they have babies nearby but even they are smart enough to keep the babies from herds of chattering boy scouts. Certain individuals did in fact roam through out camp even though we didn’t see them. We saw evidence of them if you know what I mean. Big piles of evidence. I can imagine the bison leader looking at the camp of sleeping boy scouts and telling his buddies:

“Hey let’s go crap over there!”

The boys took, I think, an unhealthy interest in the bison dung. After a few dares and double dog dares, one of them finally picked up a buffalo chip and threw it. It was a popular topic of conversation. I’m proud of Evan for his comment:

“Okay…I think you’re a little too interested in the buffalo poop.”

Amen brother.

This camp-out featured a somewhat different set of boys and parents and this time, actually included one mom. Like most women, she was just as capable as any of the men outdoors plus she managed to keep up her expensive manicure for the entire weekend. Showoff.

My favorite dad though was a man I’ll call “the guy with the big red truck”. He had every guy’s dream pickup. It was the biggest Dodge Ram pickup available that isn’t classified as construction equipment and was bright red. Every boy in the troop wanted to ride with him. Heck, I wanted to ride with him. He could seat six in the cab! Unfortunately, it was a diesel powered thing that sounded like a garbage truck. It had a license plate on the front reading: “My Wife Made Me Buy It”. I love it. He was a quintessential Oklahoman with a loud, outgoing personality and a buzz cut that everyone instinctively takes a liking to once they realize he isn’t going to beat themup.

Our mission on this camp-out was to hike and boy did we hike. We hit the trail and marched 8 miles. That’s equivalent to about 20 miles for us city boys. One of the boys led the way and the scoutmasters brought up the rear. The patient, saintly scoutmaster who radiated confidence for the boys who got tired and feared they couldn’t make it. He could make them believe that he could have a helicopter in there to get them if necessary. Along with him was the guy with the big red truck who could make the others believe that they really did have it within themselves to make it the rest of the way and could feel proud of themselves. Not to brag or anything but Evan made it without a hitch. He had a look on his face though that looked like he was about ready to leave the whiners to the buzzards. He even commented on the beautiful scenery which is pretty non 10-year-old-like. Of course, he is almost eleven.

The mom also had a way with boys and hers was the second most popular car to ride in. She had a CD player. They apparently had a pretty good time in there because they all piled out of the car laughing when we got there. Her own son didn’t ride back with her though – he just had to have a ride in that big red truck. The following conversation was fairly typical on the hike:

Some random boy:

“Hey Mrs. Roberts, look! Buffalo poop!”

Mom: “EEwwww!”

Scoutmaster: “Mrs. Roberts, is that a snake?”

Mom: “EEEEKKK!”

The first “EEK” was followed by a record setting 20 yard dash which was, of course, the point of the snake comment. I, unfortunately, was ahead of the mom and was on the receiving end of a rather impressive (for a 5′ 10′ woman) body block. I kept my feet though because, of course, I ain’t gonna be knocked on my ass by no girl! It still kind of hurts though.

We hiked past a small canyon with walls that were maybe 40 feet high. On the other side was a group who were rapelling down the side. There were girls and women among them. I overheard the following conversation:

Boy 1: “Dude, gimme your binoculars!”

Boy 2: “What for?”

Boy 1: “I want to check out those girls!”

Boy 2: “What, the one going down now? Dude! She’s totally old! She’s like 40 or something!”

Boy 1: “So? I like’em old! She’s still hot!”

Scoutmaster: “Guys…let’s move on. And find something else to talk about.”

Now there’s the guy I want in charge of the troop. Did he pitch the little twerp over the side? No! He took the high road and brought the focus (so to speak) back to its proper place.

Now let’s admit it; this would be so much more boring if all I did was talk about the pretty scenery and the majestic animals. Sure there was plenty of that but that really doesn’t read all that well. People are more important anyway and after some of the conversations around the campfire, I appreciate the people in my own family all the more. Actually, there wasn’t much wood around (victims of previous Boy Scout camp-outs, I guess) so we sat around the hissing Coleman lantern. After hearing about all the spouses who snore like buffaloes, grind their teeth to the point of requiring medical attention, drool in their sleep, or just have some unfortunate intestinal malady that requires the investment in an industrial strength exhaust fan in the bathroom, I felt the need to find a phone and tell Melissa just how much I appreciate her and the fact that she does none of these things. Which I did tell her as soon as I got home.

On the way home, we stopped off at Fort Sill to see the museum of artillery. Now, I ask you: can you think of any place that would be of more interest to a group of boys than a half-mile long semi-circle of cannons? I defy you to come up with anything better. Even I felt my old heart beat a little faster at the sight of the monstrous-sized gun that fired the only nuclear warhead ever launched from a cannon. The mom did her best to be nice and look interested. And I was able to introduce the memory of my own Dad to the next generation by telling them about how he had been fired at by the strange-looking German Nebelwerfer. They were suitable impressed that they actually knew someone who knew someone who had been there and that these were not simply meaningless artifacts.

We topped off the weekend with a stop at the Flying-J truck plaza in Oklahoma City. I’m sure you’ve been there, right? It’s one of the few places that can accommodate 18 boy scouts who smell of campfire smoke. It’s also one of the few places with parking spaces big enough to accommodate a Dodge Ram pickup. It seems that truck stops have showers for rent and I almost took advantage of the fact. I might have had it not been that we were only two hours from home. As we pulled up, the guy with the truck parked next to a Miata. We could have stepped from the truck into the Miata. The drivers (two young women) looked up nervously. I don’t know why – it was a truck stop after all. The guy said:

“Don’t worry, I won’t run over ya!”

One of the boys in the back seat was overheard to say:

“Man, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that car.”

Other boy:

“Why?”

First boy, with a look on his face that said this should be blatantly obvious:

“Because a Miata’s a chick car!”

Another male bonding moment.

So, it was a good trip. Now, I always try to present a dignified demeanor. I’m naturally a quiet person and only offer my opinion when I feel it’s relevant – not just to hear my own voice. And, I worked hard to become an intellectual; I don’t hide it and try to make sure everyone knows it just in case they ever need a rocket launched or something like that. Those who haven’t had the good fortune to know many rocket scientists tend classify us as people to “watch out for” while we’re on rugged expeditions. It is true that writing software doesn’t do much for your physical conditioning and I was a bit concerned about my ability to hike eight miles over rocks. The scoutmaster’s wife was apparently concerned too; before we left, she put her hand on my arm and said “Are you going to be OK?” I suppose most guys would take offense at such obvious doubt about their masculinity but I soak up sympathy like a sponge so I responded “Well, I hope so.” Upon returning, she checked on me first. I had changed into my former cubmaster Indiana Jones hat; more than anything else just to hide my greasy hair that was sticking up all over. But, of course, that hat also makes you look cooler. I climbed down from the big red truck with a swagger that was brought on by an aching back but I was met with the comment:

“Well, you look like a new man! You look like a camper!”

To the extent that I was unshaven, dirty, smelly, exhausted, and aching from the avoid-the-snake body slam, she was correct. But like any real guy, I assumed she meant that I was just a little more studly than when I left. Amazing how guys can leap to such ludicrously incorrect opinions of themselves isn’t it? I also believe that my pants are tight around the waist because they’ve shrunk, not because I’ve gained weight.

So, the weather was good and we only had one injury – a twisted angle (one of the older boys) – so the weekend was worth talking about I guess. Back to the air conditioned havens with hot running water and flushing toilets! I sure wouldn’t mind having a truck like that though.

Advertisements