Gabe pulled the dark green duffle out of the trunk of his SUV, I'll have to talk mom into repairing the hole near the zipper. The last three repairs he did himself have ripped out. Next came out the camp stove and the tent and he set them on the ground before stooping to tie the tent onto the bottom of the metal back pack frame. It is a mile to the camp site; the boys each have their own gear and won't be much help carrying anything. The tent secured, he turned his attention to the electric cooler. Still plugged in, good. I'll have to come back for it, I can't get everything at once.
He shut and locked the vehicle’s back door and told the boys to get their packs on. The five of them were running around in different directions playing tag. The other leader of their Scout troop, Rob, was running around too. He acts more like a boy than his son does. Gabe shook his head as he picked up the packs and placed them on each boys’ shoulders. “Let's go boys, a whole week of fun and adventure awaits us.” Gabe loves Scout camp but worries this week may add a few gray hairs to the ones already taking up residence in his dark brown hair. A week on the water with five 12 year old boys and another leader who might as well be 12 himself is enough to drive anyone crazy. But he loved his son, Sean, and would do anything for him. Slapping on a smile, he took off at a run. He teased the boys about beating all of them to the camp site. He knew it was a lost cause; he carried twice as much weight on his back pack frame and a camp stove in his arms, but he gave them a run for their money.
Sure enough all five boys beat him, but Rob came along at a leisurely pace behind him. He was not the least bit phased at being the rotten egg in the race. Boys were assigned to set up tents in a small clearing. It was near the camp center, but far enough away they would be left alone when they wanted to be. Most meals they would eat with the other troops, but they had arrived a day early so they would cook for themselves tonight. There were also a few meals throughout the week Gabe had planned to eat off by themselves.
Others were assigned to set up the stove while Gabe headed back to the car for the remaining supplies. Leaving the last laughing command to Rob to make sure no one fell in the river. Since it is 500 feet away, that shouldn't be a challenge.
Twenty minutes later he returned with the cooler of food and the back pack frame full of empty plastic jugs ready to fill with water. Gabe counted heads and noticed one of the boys was missing. He scanned around for him and then asked Rob where Jake had gone. The color drained from Rob's face as he spun around quickly looking for Jacob. “There he is,” Quinten called, pointing toward the river. Jacob stood balanced on a large rock throwing small stones into the rushing current attempting to launch them as far as possible.
“Jacob, get over here.” Gabe yelled, frustrated. Realizing the tone of his voice, he headed toward the water to meet him half way and apologize and talk it out away from the other boys. Jacob walked toward him, head down, afraid of the consequences. “Jake, I'm sorry I yelled at you. I worry about your safety.”
“I'm sorry, Mr. Josephs, I just wanted to see if I could throw the stones across the water. I never did make it onto the other side.” Jake's remorse was real and Gabe smiled at him and placed his hand on the boy's shoulder.
“Jake, you're 12 years old, and I need you to be the responsible young man I know you are. I want to be able to trust you to do things safely this week and always let us know where you are.” Gabe's soft tone reassured Jake everything was good now and he wasn't angry, just concerned.
Leaving Jacob, Gabe walked over to Rob and bumped him on the arm. “Man, I need you to step up for me this week and keep the boys in line. I'm not calling their parents to tell them we lost one. That's not a position I want to be in. Understand?” His voice was even and strong enough to get the point across, but without creating distance between them.
“Of course,” Rob responded and then pointed out they did get the tents up and they were ready to cook dinner. A wide smile broke through Gabe's short dark beard and he clapped his hands together.
“Well then, let's get cooking!” He called all the boys over and started handing out cooking and preparation assignments.
The next two days went well. The boys followed directions and made it to most of their merit badge workshops on time. The afternoons were spent rafting down the Kern River in central California. Blue skies and puffy clouds greeted them as they pulled the inflated raft from the water near the end of the day. There were several troops at the camp this week, but each troop traveled separately through the rapids. A large troop already waited on the shore, so Gabe had his boys pull the raft up to the parking lot where they would meet the bus. It would return them to the camp in time to eat dinner and clean up, before the planned evening activities.
Twenty minutes later, two more troops had arrived and the guides were loading the brightly colored rafts onto a trailer pulled behind a large red camp truck. The bus rumbled into the lot, narrowly missing a few scouts running through its path without paying attention. Rob called the boys together, telling them to get their supplies ready to board the bus. Gabe was very happy that after the first mishap Rob was more focused as an adult leader. Even so, Rob was still always ready and willing to drop everything and go play games with the boys. Gabe loved playing around and having fun, but responsibility comes first. An emergency can ruin a good time faster than anything.
The bus door opened with a gust of air and the noisy boys all loaded on. Gabe teased them about not having enough room and having to store a few boys in the luggage area under the bus. They were deciding who should go underneath and why, when a shorter blond haired boy with the bluest eyes Gabe had ever seen stepped on looking for a free seat to occupy. He walked slowly, unsure, past most of the members of what seemed to be his troop. Getting closer to Gabe's seat, he noticed the boy hadn't decided on anyone to sit with. The boy glanced at Sean, Gabe's son, sitting alone in the seat in front of the other boys in their troop. Sean looked back at the boy and smiled.
“I love your creeper shirt,” Sean blurted out at him. The boy smiled and relaxed and asked if they could share a seat.
“My name is Chris,” he introduced himself and launched into a complete description of his mods and the Minecraft programming class he attended each week. The boys shared ideas and the conversation moved onto other games they were interested in. All six boys were laughing and jumping in to share their opinions.
They all unloaded at the camp and Chris walked off to join his troop. By then they had figured out he and Sean were in one of the same merit badge workshops and could see each other the next day. Gabe was glad his son would have a new friend from camp. Sometimes, Sean was shy. He chooses his friends carefully and doesn't always add new friends easily. Once he considered someone a friend they were friends for life, at least “for life” as a 12 year old can.
The last four days flew by. Whenever the troops did anything together Sean and Chris were inseparable. Gabe really liked him and thought he was a good kid. He was funny too, once he opened up. His dry humor wasn't always appreciated in the passing gas world of young men, but Gabe thought he was a riot. Chris told hilarious stories of his mom with only one mention of his dad who lived a few states away in Colorado.
Gabe, ready for the end of the week to come, longed to sleep in a real bed and take a real shower. He allowed Sean to give Chris their phone number and email address so they could keep in touch. Chris explained he wasn't allowed to give out his phone number unless he asked his mom's permission first. So, it was left to Chris to contact Sean to get together once they left the camp. Gabe would start shooting a new series next week and it would be good if Sean and Chris spent some time together over the summer. Gabe worried that Sean spent too much time in a world of mostly adults. Chris was a good kid that Gabe would happily invite over whenever he wanted.