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I used to be Scoutmaster to eighteen boys. I’m not sure what happened in our community, but there were two sets of twins, and almost every child that was born at that time was a boy. They were great, though they weren’t above trying to challenge me to see if they could all take me. And I often found myself carrying two or even three packs up the mountain, and I never came down until I knew they were all safe.
I’m not the scoutmaster anymore, but I still love being with the young men. I’m getting older; I’m struggling more. We hiked five miles into Hidden Lake in the Jedediah Wilderness this year. It wasn’t steep climbing like last year when we climbed Mount Borah, the highest mountain in Idaho. But we didn’t camp on Mount Borah, so we only had to carry food and water.
This year my pack felt heavier than ever, but I still wasn’t far behind the boys. I must admit I did carry some extra things. I was on a high adventure with the young men once when we took horses into the Tetons. The horses and food were all paid for. The outfitter obviously didn’t know how much boys eat, and we spent a week being so hungry that bears didn’t dare come near us for fear we would eat them. Since then I have always packed frozen bread dough and oil to make scones. This year was no exception. And when we settled down for dinner in the evening, the boys happily enjoyed the scones and honey butter.
As I shouldered my pack for the trip back out, it was much lighter, and the trip was mostly downhill. I was grateful because I was still so sore from the hike in that I could hardly walk. However, my muscles soon warmed up, and the soreness faded away.
As we walked, I enjoyed listening to the young men talk. It helped me to know what was important in their lives. The boys were talking about one family in our community. They go on a big vacation almost every year. Quite often this includes a cruise or some other thing that few of the boys had experienced. The boys talked about the nice pickup that family had and how they traveled a lot and saw a lot of things.
One of the youngest boys, Jason, was quiet as the others talked. When we arrived at the trailhead, we put our packs into the vehicles and climbed in to travel to another lake where we would spend the rest of the week. Jason was in my van, and as the other boys talked more about the one family, he finally said something.
“I wish I had been born into their family,” he said. “They are so cool.”
“What about your family?” I asked.
“My family isn’t cool.”
“Oh, really? Can’t you think of any good things your family does?”
He was quiet for a minute, then shook his head.
“Let’s start with the fact that your father is the scoutmaster and is up here driving the pickup with most of the gear and the canoes. And maybe your family doesn’t go on cruises, but how many times have you been on horse trips into the back country of Yellowstone?”
Jason shrugged. “At least a couple of times every summer since I was five.”
“There’s not a person in your family that can’t ride a horse, even down to your youngest sister,” I said. “And think of all the fish you caught in Hidden Lake. Then you cleaned them, and we cooked them. You can build camp fires, hike, and camp, and do things other families only dream of. You’ve probably been to more back country lakes than most people will see in their lifetime. Every family is the coolest in some way. It’s just that what we do becomes old and familiar to us, and we don’t see it as new and exciting. Some in their family are probably saying they wish their family was half as cool as yours.”
Jason thought about it a minute, then grinned. “My family is cooler than theirs, isn’t it?”
I just smiled.