As I saw people getting ready for camping trips and traveling for the Memorial Holiday weekend, I had a chilling flashback to an ill-fated scouting trip of my own, from yonder years of my youth.
I was probably about 13 years old when this unfortunate escapade occurred. First off, however, you should probably know that my family has quite a scouting reputation! And by reputation, I don’t mean the “Eagle Scout” kind!
No, in fact it all started with my Dad many years ago when he was a young whippersnapper. I don’t know all of the "Dennis the Menace" moments that transpired from his younger scouting years, but the culminating event of his scouting experience occurred when he threw a can of pork and beans in a raging campfire one night, which resulted in a piece of exploding-hot-tin-can-shrapnel embedding itself in the scoutmasters dairy-aire as he lectured them by the fireside. He wasn’t actually kicked out of scouts… just strongly encouraged not to ever come back again!
So, the prestigious scouting legacy in my family began, which my brother’s and I carried on in all our genetic glory. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the camp outs and most of the activities. It was just all the uniforms, silly cheers, and leaders who treated it like a religion which rubbed me the wrong way. I guess I didn’t like feeling like my worth as a person was based on whether I met a certain dress code or had a certain number of patches in my possession. For many kids, scouting is a wonderful and very important part of their life and development, and I fully support anyone who wants to be involved. But it just didn’t fit my mold.
The particular camp-out I will reminisce about today was one of the most dreaded memories – A WINTER CAMPOUT!!!
It began on a Friday afternoon, when I got home from school and my mom reminded me I had a scout trip that weekend. I had totally forgotten, and in a mad rush to make it to the church on time before everybody left, I threw in a flimsy, thin, little, almost-see-through nylon sleeping bag, my little tin camp-cook kit, and an extra pair of socks. It was only as I was walking out the door that I realized this was one of the outings where we were responsible for bringing out own food.
In a rush I grabbed a kid’s favorite – a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese for dinner, along with some eggs wrapped up in a towel for breakfast the next morning and shoved them in my back-pack, and away I went.
Only later, after a tiring and bone-chilling snowshoe hike for several miles through the mountains, did I realize that instant macaroni and cheese also required milk and butter to complete the recipe.
Struggling to melt enough snow in my little pot to boil the noodles, as everyone else was preparing to go to bed, I suffered through choking down cold, crunchy, cheese-powder-caked noodles and then nearly freezing to death through the long winter night in my flimsy sleeping bag! To top it all off, the eggs I had hastily wrapped in a dish towel were crushed in my back pack when I retrieved them the next morning.
It’s not that the other scouts weren’t willing to share and help me in my plight; they most certainly were – for the right price. $5 for a hot dog, $2 for a hot dog bun, and so on. Of course I didn’t have any money way up there in the wild, so I suffered. My scout leaders chuckled and extolled the lesson I was learning about “Being Prepared”. I didn’t appreciate their advice and being the source of their object lesson at the time, but looking back now, I guess I should thank them for the lesson I learned – The Hard Way.
Life is tough! It has a way of throwing some pretty unexpected things at us without any warning at all. Loss of a job, illness, financial collapse, natural disasters, accidents, warfare, and an endless list of possible calamities can befall us when we are least expecting them. So what can we do to be better prepared for the uncertainty of the future ahead of us?
Please humor me as I share a few thoughts on the subject… and do it with the help of some squirrels. (My wife thinks squirrels are cute, so I often send her text messages with pictures of dogs or squirrels to brighten her day. That’s another lesson in treating your wife right guys, but for today, we’ll stick to preparedness).
1. Food and water supply. If disaster strikes or your income stops, you won’t be able to just go to the store and get more supplies. You may have to make do with what you have on hand. Having a few basic emergency provisions in your car or in a portable back pack is also a good idea, because you never know where you will be when an emergency happens.
2. Have an alternative cooking or heating source. If there is no electricity or you run out of gas for your grill, what are you going to do? There are a variety of portable cooking stoves or rocket stoves that will allow you to use twigs and branches to cook or heat a space, so that you can simply use things all around you as a fuel source.
3. Some form of shelter. If you are away from your home or on the road, do you have a basic way of making an emergency shelter to stay out of the rain and elements? Emergency blankets, tarps, blankets, etc.. are all possible ways to stay warm or make a temporary portable shelter in an emergency.
4. Have knowledge of basic first aid, CPR or other simple medical skills and supplies. These skills might not only be important for your own personal injuries, but can help those around you in need.
5. Have a means of personal protection. You hope you never have to use force to protect yourself, but being prepared will often keep you out of trouble if a situation went bad.
This may also include knowing some personal self-defense skills.
6. Stay in shape. Even if it’s just walking or some other basic way of keeping your fitness levels up. This will come in handy if you had to walk a longer distance to find loved ones, as well as the fact that improved fitness levels will help your body cope better with the stresses of an emergency situation.
7. If possible, have an alternative source of communication. If the phones and cellular systems all shut down, do you have a plan or way to communicate with your family or loved ones, or at least have a designated meeting place in an emergency?
8. Group together with friends and family if possible. Having a reliable support system and team effort would be crucial to any type of moderate to long term survival. In a real emergency, it would be tough to make it on your own for an extended period of time.
9. If possible, have some extra clothing in your emergency bag, or a way to dress in layers, so that you can adapt to changes in hot or cold temperatures.
10. Find a simple way to keep yourself entertained. It might be a simple deck of cards, singing, or even a journal to help keep you mentally relaxed at times.
11. Stay calm! Even though things might get crazy in an emergency, panic rarely does any good. Being able to keep your wits about you can make all the difference in getting out of a situation or being able to help others.
12. Learn how to pace yourself. There may be times when you will have to go for extended periods to keep safe, but learning how to be aware of when you need rest and recovery is also important to avoid overexertion, dehydration, etc…
13. Learn self-confidence! When things get tough, it’s often hard to cope if you don’t have a belief in what you are capable of. The truth is, all of us have hidden reservoirs of courage and capacity that we should learn to tap into.
14. Don’t count out the importance of religion. I don’t care what your personal beliefs are, having a sense of what is morally right and wrong is what makes us human. When things get crazy in an emergency or natural disaster, having a belief and understanding of the truth that there is a higher power we can draw on for support is invaluable!
15. Don’t hesitate to pray! Sometimes desperate situations drive us to our knees and being able to reach out to a God who loves us, is a reservoir of power just waiting to be tapped into.It would seem pretty selfish of us to only call upon God in our emergencies and expect Him to deliver, if we haven’t ever learned to thank and trust in Him when things are going good.
16. If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.When things get tough, the time or preparation has already passed. If everyone is expecting others around them to take care of them, then nobody will be prepared and we will all suffer.
But if we all do our part to be prepared individually and as families, then we can weather the storms of life together all the easier!
Take my word for it. It's no fun freezing your keester off and eating crunchy macaroni noodles in dried cheese power! Learn a lesson from a former bad boy scout and BE PREPARED!!!