Monday, July 18, 2005

Hawks and Weekend Warriors

Last summer I bought Andrew a tent for his birthday. About a month before he had, with typical subtlety, sent me an e-mail showing exactly what he wanted--just in case I was wondering what to get him. Not being too slow in the head I marched down to make the purchase (save those shipping costs!) at Andrew's home-away-from-home, that Mecca for Mountain Men, REI. As far as Andrew is concerned, forget Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth is where you find all things Gore-Tex.

Now this was not just ANY tent, this was the Eureka Blue Mesa 1610. Complete with six vertical feet, three rooms, forced air heating, indoor plumbing and a state-of-the-art security system. Most tents aren't as big as they claim, if a tent says it sleep two, it's a de facto one-man tent, if it says four then it might fit two comfortably, three in a pinch, so I figured we'd need a fourteen-man tent to fit our squirming, energetic brood. Lucky for me the Eureka Blue Mesa 1610 sleeps NINE. I got a lot of raised eyebrows when I went to the check-out counter with my receipt for a nine-man tent.

"NINE?? That thing must be as big as a house! Who needs a tent for NINE?? Did you know this sleeps NINE ma'am? What are you going to do with a NINE man tent?" Etc, etc. Duh! What would you do with a tent? As if I decided to plop down all that money on a whim, that I really didn't know what I was buying and just wanted to keep REI in business. Really people! I told them that I was a first-time camper and that I wanted a tent that could be easily spotted from space in case I got lost.

Only problem with the whole arrangement was the shipping took much longer than expected and the beloved tent wasn't going to arrive for almost a week after Andrew's birthday. That meant that twice a day after his birthday he would "drop by" REI on the off-chance that his baby had come early. I told him to stop bugging my good buddies down there at the store and soon he took to disguising his voice over the telephone every hour so they wouldn't know it was he. But it's kind of hard to forget the freaks that bought that nine-man tent.

When it finally arrived I got a call from Andrew who was bouncing around, calling from work to tell me his tent was here and that he now had it in his possession. For a moment I panicked and had mental images of him trying to set the huge thing up in his office over his lunch hour and getting wedged between the tent and the wall, stuck until the janitors arrived for the night-time cleaning.

Racing home after work, he set it up in the back yard so he and the boys could brave the wilds of the suburbs in a fierce man-against-nature revelry that night which culminated in them setting up the sprinkler overhead to give the tent the full-strength Weather Extremes Test (WET for short). I can report the Eureka Blue Mesa 1610 passed with a four-star rating.

This long and honorable tradition of bonding with nature has now formally passed to our son, Spencer, as he reached a rite of passage this week: Cub Scout Camp. He came home that first night and made us sit at the dinner table for half an hour while he related every tiny detail starting with their first assignment to create a troop mascot and yell. They opted to call themselves the Hawks with their yell as follows:

Hawks, Hawks, we're the Hawks--
Mess with us and we'll throw rocks!

Andrew was amused and wished he could have been there to have chosen his own mascot, the Warriors so he could chant:

Warriors, Warriors, we're the Warriors--
You throw rocks, we'll get our lawyers!

By Friday Spencer had played, whittled, shot, carved, crafted, kicked and hiked his little body into a melt-down of Chernobyl proportions. Andrew had volunteered to chaperone that last day and had rode the bus up with him that morning. I met them at Camp Carlquist that afternoon and spent a great deal of time searching for my own son among hundreds of dirty, dusty, bandage-covered, tired but happy cub scouts.

When I found them Andrew said they'd got together with another troop for a "friendly" game of Dodge Ball, which--if I remember correctly--has pretty much been banned from western civilization as a game not fit to play in our newly-enlightened society. It became apparent that none of the mother-chaperones were present and this activity had been entirely organized by the men who decided on one game of mixed teams followed by another game of adults v. boys. In this second game the men, in true alpha-male fashion, gave it their all, complete with full-power throws and total devastation to the eight and nine year-old egos. Apparently they played with Neanderthal ferocity, not really considering whether the boys might learn more about sportsmanship and competition if they were allowed to remain conscious throughout the game.

Andrew said the boys were losing this second game so badly and getting so frustrated he wanted to help them out and give them a little edge so he "fumbled" the ball and let the boys have a chance to score. When he did this the men on the team got a little tense throwing comments like, "What are you doing?" and "Come on!" his way (at least that's all they threw).

Despite Andrew's efforts at a kinder, gentler, bloodbath Spencer took a ball to the head and that was it. I imagine it was the pain that first brought it on, coupled with exhaustion and sleep depravation, and topped off with a bad dose of losing the game (that was the part that REALLY hurt) but Spencer broke down and walked off the field and wouldn't go back. Boy does that kid hate to lose. I wonder where he gets that from?


Anonymous said...

As always, your stories are hillarious and extremely entertaining. I can't wait till the next posting!