Well, it’s the height of the Christmas season and the campouts just don’t stop. Although they do move inside: The new year is just around the corner and the next year’s outings must be planned. The scoutmaster coerced the boys into chairs in front of a whiteboard and made them participate. Plan or else. They did pretty well.

We stayed in a most interesting place this past weekend: the weekend getaway of one of Tulsa’s oil barons from long ago – “Old Man Skelly”. I don’t know anything about him other than what I’ve seen which is that he had the same taste in weekend getaways as most other oilmen. The similar home of the elder of the Phillips oil family is now a museum and wildlife preserve. This one was very much like it: huge, stone, and remote. Not too shabby. It is now privately owned and we got a special chance to stay there. There were quite a few owners in between the Skelly family and now; one of which included conversion into a brothel. Try explaining that one to some of the younger boys.

One of the moms was trying to quietly share the history of the home with me and got to the brothel part and paused. She cleared her throat and tried to find the right word to describe the property’s usage when one of the boys jumped in and said “LOVE SHACK!” Problem solved – in a way.

There are said to be ghosts there. The former housekeeper is said to have quit because of supernatural harassment but to me it sounds more like a reason to quit and not have to commute out to the boonies. The younger boys were way too busy to give any thought to ghosts; why worry about that when the house is built on the edge of a cliff that just begs to be peed off of? Plus, someone had killed a deer and was in the process of cutting it up down the road so the boys had to go gross themselves out by the spectacle of all the blood and guts. Boys are boisterous – hence the word ‘boy’-strous. In Erin’s brownie troop, the little girls sit cross-legged in a circle without being told, put their hands in the laps and wait to be told what to do. What a difference!

No, it was the older young men who began to feel vaguely creepy when certain pieces of furniture began to be noticed to have moved in their absence. They really started to pack up their resolve when the TV began to turn on by itself. (Not entirely by itself: they didn’t notice the innocent looking rocket scientist in the corner making excellent use of his knowledge of physics with the remote control and mirror. People are so gullible.) Alas, my cover was blown when I was caught climbing into the attic to locate some suitably squeaky ceiling joists. If I had been more careful, I would have had them staying up all night protecting each other with big sticks.

The boys were also set to attend the “university” of dutch-oven cooking. Scouts are big believers in cast iron cookery, probably because it involves taking the pot and just laying it on top of the fire and then shoveling a bunch of hot coals onto the lid. The results are pretty amazing. It’s difficult to claim that I have ever eaten any better even in the finest restaurants. One of my personal favorite meals is chili. The scout way is to open a lunch-sized bag of Fritos and just shovel the chili in thus avoiding having to clean a bowl. If you’re good, you can squeeze the bag in the right place and avoid having to clean a spoon too. There’s where the restaurants begin to offer something over and above simply serving food. They have dishes and somebody else to clean them. All in all, this is very similar to the way I eat when Mel and the kids are at grandmas. In the past, I’ve had some female co-workers look aghast when I say that sometimes, I just put a can by itself on the burners and eat over the sink. In the Boy Scouts, I’m among my own kind.

We also tried to make fires without the use of matches. That was, sadly, a dismal failure but not like you might think. I had brought along one of those sparking things (I’m tempted to call it flint and steel but it wasn’t flint – it was some sort of metal but it sure sparked a lot) and a ziplock baggie of dryer lint. Everybody was able to light the lint with the spark but nobody was able to construct a pile of sticks that would take off from there. Perhaps next time. They were all able; however, to make a campfire with only about four matches. That’s not too bad.

When a cold front moved through and the rain started we were certainly glad we were indoors. The next year was planned and dates were settled upon. The ghosts were put to rest (drat the luck! Who would have thought those guys would go upstairs right then?) and a good time was had by all.

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