Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Snakes why did it have to be snakes?

Thanks for your lengthy response to my questions of eligibility to be recognized as a "legitimate" scout in today's world.

What I see happening here is that the collective responses to my initial contact information has released a whole string of memories and emotions in me and I find that I am now finally putting in print things that I should have written down years ago but have been too busy to do so. I have often been told "Drake you just have to write your stories down before you get run over by a garbage truck while out on the road on your bicycle." I find this format very conducive to doing the writing. I had been looking for a way to get started writing my memoirs and possibly this is it. So, tell me more about setting up a 'blog.'

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you mention several things that I would like to comment on. One is the Order of the Arrow, Lodge 9. I was a member of that lodge and was inducted in it at Camp Cowaw in 1947.

First though, let me tell you some of my memories about Camp Cowaw. I had served in the summer of 1947 as the Nature Instructor. That was the year the song "Nature Boy" was a popular hit and that name became my unofficial title for the duration of the summer. I recall the first night scouts were in camp. The camp director told all the young scouts that if anyone saw a rattle snake they were to call Drake. Well it wasn't too much later when someone yelled "Drake - snake." So I went running with my forked snake stick and there was a large, healthy rattler coiled up, rattling and poised for a confrontation in the center of a large ring of kids all waiting for Drake to put on a show of how to capture a rattlesnake. What they did not know was that I had never confronted a rattlesnake before but with a show of bravado I went forward and executed a perfect pin and took the snake behind the skull with the left hand while holding it pinned with the stick in the right hand. Once in my grasp I carried it like the pied piper with a string of scouts following me to the reptile tank. When I dropped it in the tank I got a rousing cheer from the gang. It became fairly routine after that but that first one was a true baptism under fire. Later when I led a group of the scouts on an overnight hike to a camp on the other side of the 'mountain' I carried with me several rattle snakes in a sack to trade for copper heads which were found on their side of the hill but not on ours. I am not too sure I would do that today.

The camp nurse was young, beautiful and a wild flirt. It didn't take long and the camp director probably decided that the next camp nurse would be 80 years old and a strict disciplinarian. On Saturday nights a group of us "older scouts" would squeeze into my car, with the camp nurse, and drive to Stroudsberg, PA where we would head for a German bar and soak up the beer and have a rousing good time! I have forgotten what else we did... ;-)

When it came to nature studies I was truly a "nature boy." I probably knew the name of every wild flower within 20 miles of Manasquan. I had a large collection of tree cross sections - about 3" in diameter and 6" tall with a section cut out to show the cross section and then a diagonal at the top. In addition I had amassed a collection of animal skulls which I got from kids back when I was going to Allenwood Grammar School... which in those times had four class rooms for the eight grades. There were eleven members in my 8th grade. A number of the boys had trap lines in the winter and would give me the skulls of the animals they caught. I also ended up with a cow skull and a horse skull which I carefully cleaned, hinged the jaws and installed a spring so the jaws would flex. I spotted a dead cat along the roadside and over time watched it rot. Finally I took it in the house and put it in a pot of water and set it on the bed of coals in the furnace hoping to boil away all the remaining flesh, skin, etc. Well, at about 4:30 pm while I was up in the attic of the house working in my 'museum' where I had my collections of all sorts of things I heard my mother come home. She was early. Knowing that her routine was to go to the basement, shake down the fire and put more coals on it I raced to the basement in time to see her open the furnace door and find the cat boiling away. Her reaction still makes me feel guilty that a kid could do that to his mother. The net result was that I had to buy her a new pot as that one was not permitted back in the kitchen. I was sure it was sterilized by boiling and could not understand her reaction. I was able to fully reconstruct that cat's skeleton. It was a great addition to my collection.

More, later.

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