Thursday, August 1, 2013

More midnight raids at summer camp: Showdown at Camp Alaflo.

(by Michael)

When I was a kid, I loved summer camp:  a full week away from home with other kids my age out in the woods.  We had plenty of opportunities to escape adult supervision and do really fun stuff, like swing on vines, stalk deer, and, most of all, pull pranks.  I was a mischievous child, and pranks were a very important part of my week at scout camp, much more important than earning merit badges.  I spent a lot of time planning and preparing for pulling pranks at camp, and I also enlisted the aid and confidence of my fellow scouts in my troop.  While I had a lot of fun concocting and pulling various pranks on people, this story is about when it got out of hand and I learned why we are cautioned by our elders to behave ourselves.
After my first year of summer camp at Thunder Scout Reservation my troop started an annual tradition of bombing another campsite with water balloons on the last night of camp, all in good fun of course.  After three years of attending Camp Thunder, our troop then started attending Camp Alaflo for summer camp.  This did not change our annual tradition, though.  Something else did.  The first mistake was letting the younger scouts talk me into ambushing another campsite on the first night of camp rather than the last night.  The reason why we had always done it on the last night was because we would leave camp the following day before people had a chance to ask around to find the culprits (and before any of us had a chance to blab about it).  So, we got overzealous.  We decided to bomb a campsite where other scouts from our church were staying.  We got ‘em good.  They were sleeping in cabins; it was like shoot fish in a barrel.  I must say, it was fun and exciting.
Of course, the younger scouts in my troop couldn’t keep their mouths shut and by the second day of camp the other troop knew who to blame.  They didn’t say anything about it, though.  I was on edge.  I knew they would try to get us back, so we keep our eyes and ears peeled.  The big camp-wide campfire program was on Wednesday night.  While we were at the campfire, we noticed that the other troop was not there.  I knew they were up to something and had taken that opportunity try to ambush us.  We didn’t want to leave the program early because we didn’t want to arouse the suspicion of our scoutmaster.  As soon as it ended, we hurried off down the trail toward our campsite, knowing something was about to go down.
As we approached our campsite, I could see that they toilet papered the whole place.  I was ahead of the pack, and before I got all the way to there, I saw the boys from the other troop hiding around the corner (not very well for an ambush if you ask me).  I shined my flash light on them and saw them holding water balloons in their hands with big grins on their faces.  “There they are!” I yelled as my comrades caught up.  Then threw their water balloons toward us, but they all seemed to burst as they let them go, so we hardly got wet at all.  It was a pathetic effort, in my opinion.  They turned and ran away toward their campsite, and we chased after them.  We caught up just enough for Cornelius to kick one of them in the butt.  Steven, my brother, wielded a staff as he ran after them.  We quickly gave up the chase and went back to our campsite to clean up their mess, but were shocked by what we found.  They had done a lot more than toilet paper.  They knocked down all of our tents, dragged some of them into the woods, scattered all our stuff around, and sprayed dish soap all over everything.  Our stuff was all scattered, dirty, and in some cases wet.
Now, we were angry.  The more we saw what a mess they’d made, the angrier we got until we huddled up and decided to head down the road and kick their butts for real.  As I gave the rallying cry, I was interrupted by one of the scoutmasters, “NO YOU’RE NOT!”  He told us to stay there and clean up and he would go talk to the other troop’s leaders.  By then we knew that we were all in trouble.  We were just as guilty as the others.  They just took things too far.  Still, everything was going to be out in the open now. 
The scoutmaster returned with the other boys and their leaders.  Our leaders made us all stand face to face and explain how we ended up in this mess.  They made the other boys apologize to us for what they did.  They had really messed up, because they also trashed our scoutmasters’ tent, so they were pretty ticked, too.  Surprisingly, though, my stuff was untouched.  My tent was gone, but my cot and everything on and around it was just as I left it.  Jacob was not so lucky.  He was my tent mate.  His stuff was scattered all over just like everyone else’s.  I figured they knew which tent was mine, but not which cot, and in an effort to trash my stuff, they guessed wrong and trashed Jacob’s stuff instead.  I later felt guilty and apologized to Jacob that it had happened to him.  Anyway, the scout leaders made those boys pick up all our stuff that they’d scattered into the woods and put our tents back up.  They made us keep our distance and just watch.  Some of the boys taunted us with sinister grins, which provoked Cornelius and others to breathe out threats to them.
When the mess what pretty much all cleaned up, our leaders made us all come together and stand in a circle.  They made us each stand next to a boy from the other troop and hold hands.  As we all stood in a big circle holding hands, they had each one of us in turn say a prayer asking God to forgive us and help us forgive each other so that we could all be friends again.  It was one of the most humbling experiences I can remember.  I can’t say we all got along well after that, but we didn’t fight, and we didn’t do any more pranks on each other or anyone else.  We had learned our lesson. 
Sometime after summer camp that year, my friends and I were talking to some girls from church about what had happened because the girls knew the other boys, too.  I mentioned how they must have confused my cot with Jacob’s because I’m sure they were targeting me.  They told me that those guys actually thought I was a cool guy and liked me the most out of the group, which surprised me because I figured they would resent me, being the leader of their rivals.  We all eventually did become friends.  In fact, a couple years later we all went on a snorkeling trip together for summer camp and had a lot of fun.  Most of us eventually served missions and kept in touch afterwards.  Summer camp that year at Camp Alaflo was pretty dramatic, but now it is a [somewhat] fond memory.  We all had to grow up a bit and learn that we cannot control the consequences for our actions, so we must control our actions.
This is the only picture I have from Camp Thunder days.  They kid in the middle is Fidel Castillo.  Disclaimer:  Tom Winters is pictured here, but he was not our scoutmaster at the time any of the events described in this blog occurred, and other pranks not described here he was likely unaware of.

Once bitter rivals, now friends.  Pictured here are many of us who were involved in the great fiasco at Camp Alaflo.  This picture was taken a year or two after that at a state park in Key Largo.  We don't look too friendly here, I confess, but we really did get along better then.  Sorry the lighting is bad.  (Look for more to come about the Florida Keys trip in future posts)

Speaking of pranks.... Poor Jamie... he was always the first one to go to sleep, and such a sound sleeper he was.

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