Some of my most memorable camping experiences happened when I belonged to the Boy Scouts. I remember those outings as some of the most fun times of my life.
With the Boy Scouts I camped at Jamborees, individual troop events, and annual summer camps. One year I kinda got singled out, and in a way it was a bit embarrassing, but not in the long run. It went something like this:
“I know something that none of the other troops can beat us at!”
That’s not an exact quote, but my Boy Scout Troop Leader’s statement was something pretty close.
It was during one of our Boy Scout summer camps. I went for two weeks every summer while I was active as a Boy Scout. It was when I lived in New Jersey as a kid.
Those camping trips were a lot of fun. I learned all my skills during those times. I earned a lot of merit badges during those two-week outings too.
I learned how to cook on an open fire (my favorite was baking bread). I got my swimming merit badge — there wasn’t a pool but the campground was on a lake. That’s where I learned how to canoe, and I did quite a bit of fishing there.
And they had contests for the scouts – contests to show how good your skills were for the different camping activities.
This particular summer camp my troop wasn’t winning any of the contests. I don’t remember why but the other troops were beating us in every event we entered.
Our Scoutmaster came up with this idea to challenge all the other troops to a freckle contest.
Now if you’ve ever seen a picture of me when I was a little boy you know that I had more freckles than any other boy in the whole world.
Problem was I’d always been embarrassed by all those freckles. They were all over my body, but they mostly bunched up on my face.
I mean my face was just covered with the things.
But my Scoutmaster was determined that our troop wouldn’t leave camp that year without winning at least one contest.
He challenged all the other troops to come up with a scout that had more freckles than I did. And you know what? Nobody even tried. They all knew I had them beat.
Now that challenge was during the first week of camp that summer, and because I went along with competing in that contest, my prize was free drinks at the camp store for the rest of the time my troop was there that year.
And I enjoyed those free drinks every chance I got too.
Another thing happened because of that contest. Everyone at the whole campgrounds knew who I was. Everywhere I went people waved and said hi to me. I was famous for more than a week all around that camp.
And I was a hero to my own troop because I won the first contest for us that summer.
We went on to win some others after that. Could be I boosted the troop’s morale with that win.
Do you suppose we would’ve won other contests if I hadn’t braved the embarrassment over my freckles?
Maybe, but no one’s ever gonna know.
At the time I felt like all that success was because of me. It felt good…and I was never ashamed or embarrassed by my freckles again.
Fortunately I acted on the opportunity when it came my way and agreed to compete in that contest.
The reward of recognition and the cheers from my fellow troop members was a huge thing for me back then, not to mention all those free drinks!
I had a lot of fun that year. It was one of the best camping trips I ever made.