In my formative years, and as a father of two Boy Scouts, I spent many nights away from the comforts of home in a collapsible shelter — more commonly know as a tent.
These shelters have been constructed of different materials including cotton canvas, polyester and nylon.
The camper’s worst enemy is the weather, specifically rain. The surest way to stop the ravages of a drought is to pitch a tent. As a teenager our family camped at least twice each summer. Our favorite location was Pulltite Springs on the Current River.
One summer excursion was cut short. We were experienced campers with a water-proof canvas tent with room for mom, dad, my little sister and myself.
Our friends in the adjoining campsite thought they were experienced. After a night of rest our two families headed out for a float trip on the river. We left camp with the sun shining and no clouds in sight.
Half-way into our excursion we were met by dark clouds which quickly turned into a drenching downpour complete with lightning. Soaked to the bone we entered camp as the rain subsided.
The mistake our friends made was leaving the windows of their tent open. We packed up and left for home.
In 1971 the Great Rivers Council — central Missouri Boy Scouts — held a camporee in Jefferson City commemorating Missouri’s sesquicentennial. If you exclude leaving your windows open, water can enter a tent two ways, through a leak in the roof or from the ground. I woke up that night with a small river running through my pup tent effectively tripling the weight of my sleeping bag. I was not alone in my misery.
Our scoutmaster, Don Mueller packed us up in the mud and we left early. That was the last time I remember water driving me out of any tent.
My second adventure as a Boy Scout was at a camporee outside of Linn around 1977 when I was 17 years old. Rain was not the obstacle on this outing. I pitched my tent in the snow which would not have ordinarily been a problem. Still in a pup tent — designed for scouts in middle school — the end of my sleeping bag stuck out the door.
Earning my Eagle Scout badge and leaving home did not put an end to my camping adventures.
Connie and I — to save money — once camped out in Kissimmee, Fla. during a vacation to Walt Disney World. The campground employees gave us a can of white powder, what I assumed to be poison, to encircle our tent and keep out giant bugs.
As our two boys, Jacob and Ethan became active in scouts I camped with them several times a year. Camp Thunderbird — just north of Moberly — was summer camp for Cub Scouts as the boys grew up. One year, when Ethan was a Webelo, the evening temperatures did not drop below 95 degrees.
The tent provided for us was a two man army wall tent. We rolled up the walls, covered ourselves with insect repellent and prayed for a breeze.
For each night camping scouts receive a bead. Different color beads indicate the weather such as black for rain and white for snow. When snow was predicted the Troop 22 would set up an old 12-man canvas tent complete with a wood stove. The problem was the stove had to be filled with wood every hour.
One year we earned a clear bead for camping in below freezing — 20 degrees — at Camp Hohn Scout Camp, Lake of the Ozarks. For insulation we covered the ground with straw. Most of us — myself included — utilized two sleeping bags. I encountered two problems, keeping my face warm and needing to get up in the middle of the night to relieve myself.
The most frightening night I slept in the great outdoors was with the boys camping at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Many prayers were said as we tried to sleep in our three man pack tent in the middle of a horrendous thunderstorm. Lightning strikes were all around us.
We survived and remained dry thanks to a sheet of plastic I always kept fastened to the inside of the floor with velcro.
I was rudely awoken during one camping trip with a group of tenderfoot scouts. This was the young scouts’ first night camping with the troop. We camped after working on a merit badge at Earth’s Classroom outside Rosebud.
After getting the boys settled into their tents I retreated to my two man dome tent for a good night’s rest. In the middle of the night I woke when the tent collapsed on me from a heavy wet snow.
Oh the good ole’ days.