This third of my stories in the series of those not accepted by journals for publication was by random selection. I is derived from an incident in my youth.
The sun went down across the frozen lake and the boys from Boy Scout Troop 316, including Tenderfoot Billy Bloom, were gathered around the cook fire for their dinner of chicken noodle soup from a mix and very dark brown, crunchy campfire biscuits.
While they ate, the senior patrol leader announced, “Breakfast tomorrow morning will be scrambled eggs, bacon and cocoa. And, thanks to Beasley’s mother, cinnamon rolls. Eagle candidate Baseness will lead chapel here at the fire immediately after breakfast clean up. Then, you’ll have an hour of free time to ready your tents and gear for inspection. After lunch, we’ll do some winter survival training. No word on what we’ll have for Sunday lunch yet.”
As if on cue, one of the senior scouts asked, “Are we having the same soup again?”
The cook confirmed they would. Another senior scout said, “The flavor was better than that Army surplus mix we usually get. Did you add something to it?”
The Life-scout cook replied, “Breast of snipe. I used some from home, but that’s all Ma had in the freezer.”
Another older scout, again as if on cue, said, “Plenty of snipe in the woods this time of year, seems they like winter. I saw several when we checked out this site. Be good if we can catch one or two.”
Billy anticipated what was next. He remembered sitting for hours in his uncle’s cornfield after his older cousins put him in the ‘snipe path’ with a bag and flashlight. He said nothing.
There was a long pause before another of the older scouts said, “Can’t the Tenderfoots get checks on their trapping badges by catching enough for the soup? I’ve fixed ‘em for my mother. I could to that here.”
As if waiting to pounce on prey, the Life-scout cook said, “That’s how I got my first check, so I can give you Tenderfoots a check on your trapping badge. We’ll get you set up.”
They’ll set us up alright! Billy thought.
Six were paired up. Billy, the odd number, was stationed alone. All he wanted to do was sleep, but he feigned being excited to be part of the hunt. He kneeled behind the gunny sack with a flashlight inside until the older boys’ voices faded.
Billy propped the bag open with a branch and left the light inside. He quietly circumvented the parking lot back to the campsite where he older boys and adult leaders were laughing around the cook fire.
He found his backpack, sleeping bag and shelter half where he’d left them against the supply trailer wheel. He quietly spread his shelter half over the small cargo deck on the trailer tongue still attached to the scoutmaster’s old Dodge FWD.
He removed his boots and put them alongside his rolled out sleeping bag, then slid into his sleeping bag fully clothed. He flipped the loose half of the shelter-half over his sleeping bag and tucked it under as far as he could reach. He made sure his boots were covered in case it snowed during the night then pulled the loose end of the shelter-half over his stocking capped head. His wish for sleep was nearly instantly granted.
Billy awoke to vibrations of the cargo platform and the squeaking of the trailer hitch jack. He flipped the shelter-half off his sleeping bag and sat up.
The scoutmaster shouted, “Jeez, Bloom! You scared the wiz out of me. Where have you been? We’ve just spent hours stomping the woods looking for you. We thought you gave up the hunt and lost your way in the woods. I was going to unhitch and drive into town to get the sheriff and your mother.”
Billy laughed and said, “Would you have invited them to have snipe soup for lunch?” He laughed again.
As my octogenarianism continues, my mind wanders as I wonder.
Or could it be that my mind wonders as I wander?