During a week at camp in my 11th summer, we had an overnight canoe trip on the schedule. My tent mate Jimmy Hansen and I paddled our canoe in the midst of a canoe armada piloted by other little stinky, sunburned boys. We were headed for an island, trip of about a mile and a half. On the way over our counselors (boys, themselves, in their mid to late teens) in a powerboat came alongside and said, "Hey, we'll give you guys a tow." Great, Jim and I thought. The three counselors grabbed the gunwale of our canoe and off we went, in a minute or two we ahead of the rest of the struggling paddlers. Then the counselor in the front of the supply boat pushed the bow of our canoe down and the counselor running the outboard gunned the engine. Our canoe filled with water and swamped.
Not only were we swamped, all of our stuff, our sleeping bags, our clothing and our secret food stash was floating in the water around the canoe. Jim tried to collect as much of our gear as he could, it amounted to about half of our stuff. I grabbed the paddles before I lost my K-Bar knife, Jim his hatchet and we both lost our compasses and cook kits. I took off my life jacket and Jim used it float our sleeping bags and whatever else we collected.Without the life jacket I managed to flip the canoe over and with the canoe now floating upside down, I got under it. With Jim positioned on one side we flipped it back over. The canoe now had only about 8 inches of water in it as opposed to being full. I balanced one side as Jim climbed in the other, he bailed with a canteen cup and I bailed with a Chicago Cubs baseball cap, it took a half hour or so and we were down to 2 inches of water in the canoe. We piled wet sleeping bags and clothes in the middle of the canoe and paddled the rest of the way to the island.
Our fellow campers were already on the island and were shouting insults at Jim and I. Of course, the counselors joined them. We dragged our canoe on shore, we were soaking wet, our clothes were soaking wet and our sleeping bags were soaking wet. I found myself thinking, if only the head counselor, a guy named Neil, was just a little smaller I would beat him from here to Ely and back!
Jim and I rigged our canoe shelter and gathered with our fellow campers for dinner. Jim and I stood as close to the fire as possible, trying to get dried off. The fire helped, but not much. The ghost stories and the bear stories were told as Jim and I shivered by the fire. The wind started to blow, cold and hard from the Northwest and it smelled like rain. Lightning and thunder and sheets of rain driven by gale force winds chased us into our shelters. The counselors were snug in a big wall tent pitched on high ground about 50 yards from the canoe shelters.
Jim and I were miserable, we laid on top of wet sleeping bags in wet clothes as the storm raged on. The storm broke around midnight and the skies cleared, We laid there wide awake. Jim said, "Do you think they'd let us go back to the cabins?" I said, "Nope, but let's go anyway!" Very quietly Jim and I stripped our canoe shelter, we piled everything we had on the shelter tarp rolled it into a wet, messy ball, put it in our canoe and carried it to the shore line. Jim got in the front and as I was pushing off, I whispered, "I've got an idea."
While Jim held the canoe, I unhooked the gas tank from the counselor's outboard motor, I carried it away from the camp and emptied all but a pint of gas into a clump of bushes. I brought the empty tank back to the counselor's boat, hooked it back up to the motor. Jim said in a stage whisper, "Take one of their oars." I did and Jim dropped it in the middle of the lake on our way back to camp. We were back at camp in an hour or so. We hit the hot communal showers and were safe and warm in our beds by 3am. The next day the shit hit the fan when the canoe campers returned. Neil was outraged and Jim and I were put on kitchen duty until our parents picked us up the next day. Supposedly it was a disgrace to get set home early, we didn't care. When we told our parents what happened, they were actually proud we took revenge on the first of many petty tyrants we'd encounter in our lives. My Dad laughed until he cried. So did Jim's Dad.
That's the story I told my grandson Nova yesterday before he left for 10 days of camp at Mt. Shasta. He said, "Grandpa, that is so cool!"
He he is packed and ready to go!