Day Camp involves about eight or nine Cub Scout Packs from the area coming together to enjoy a week of activity "stations" such as field games, crafts, wall climbing, fishing, archery, and BB guns. I have to tell you, though, we're a rag-tag lot of Cubs and parents. The other Packs start and finish each day looking crisp and clean, all orderly and in neat rows at the opening and closing ceremonies. They march from station to station throughout the day, single file, following their very professional-looking Pack banner being carried by a couple of particularly crisp Cubs. A few Packs pull a specially decorated wagon stocked high with all of their gear for the day. Their boys all behave militaristically well at each station, sitting or standing quietly, listening and following instructions closely. During field sports, the other Packs all stand in line, taking turns.
At just eight boys, we were one of the smaller Packs at Day Camp this year. You would think that would make it easier to maintain control and to look sharp and crisp. Most of our boys are from the local Christian School. One might expect a little bit better behavior from them and, yes, I confess, I wanted to represent our school well. But our boys do not stay in line well. I could physically pick them up and place them in a line but, by the time I got to the end of the line, the first boy was off chasing a butterfuly, the second was scrambling up the nearby fence, the third was off following the croak of a bullfrog, the fourth was sitting down and picking at a scab on his knee, and so on. This was also a problem at Field Sports when some boys chose not to participate at all and others fought over who got to bat first. We tried to make a Pack banner but all we had to work with was what looked like half of a pillow case and a couple of colors of markers. Instead of a professional looking banner with appliqued insignias, we had some brown animal paw prints, our Pack Number, a cross, and the words "Jesus Rocks" (that was our son's contribution) on the banner in cheap marker. Oh, and the markers weren't waterproof -- we got rained on one day so our banner became just this swirly, streaky mass of running colors. (A bit like our Pack actually.)
On the BB gun shooting range, the other Packs' boys all laid down neatly on little rugs to shoot from the prone position, doing exactly as they were told, firing in perfect unison. When it was our turn, though, I spent my time hollering at our son to scoot up in line with the others so that he wouldn't shoot the boy next to him, Oliver, in the back of his head. (With our Pack, I worried a lot about getting them all home alive at the end of the day. By 2:00 in the afternoon, in fact, that was usually my sole objective, having given up all hope of anything more noble.)
The other Pack Leaders all wore official Boy Scout uniforms. I wore a ratty pair of shorts and an old t-shirt with a picture of a bulldog on the back wearing a Hawaiian lei and the words "The Big Kahuna" above him.
All of the Packs do a little chant as they leave each station, to thank the leaders who were at the station. When it was time to change stations , you could hear the cheers of various Packs erupting from all over the camp but, because our boys can't stay together, we have kids off looking in the grass, probably getting into poison ivy, and chasing birds when they're supposed to be cheering. Our cheers are then the pathetic attempts of two or three boys who stay with our Pack leaders. At one point, one of the other Pack leaders stepped in and made our Pack do it again. That was a bit of a turning point for me personally but more on that later.
Part of Day Camp is also that each Pack makes up a little song and a little skit. The songs are usually to the tune of favorite old childrens' songs and their skits become elaborate productions with the boys each knowing their lines and executing them with perfect precision. Our skit involved laughing and falling down, the point of which was that we really didn't have a skit. Our song was to the tune of "Another One Bites The Dust" (a suggestion I made which I later regretted hugely).
Yes, whereas the other Packs were precise and exact -- like units of miniature soldiers -- we were more like the Bad News Bears. But, remember that "turning point" I mentioned earlier? It was when I realized that our boys were going home each night exhausted but giddy over having a day of carefree boyhood, a day of exploration, a day of facing fears and sometimes even meeting challenges, a day of fun. Ours may have been the only Pack where I saw boys upset and crying on occasion when we did have to reign them in a bit but it was also the only Pack I ever saw where, at one point, the boys were all hugging each other, comfortable in the camraderie of friends having fun and loving each other.
You know, it's harder on the leaders when the boys are noisy and scattered all about rather than in precise lines. But to give these boys who are normally in a world that is trying to force them to grow up all too quickly the opportunity, just for a week, to be carefree and have genuine fun, I think I can put in my two days' of penance. Three might be pushing things just a bit though.