My cousins Lew and Phil Groebe invited Chip and me to join their Boy Scout troop, which met in a local gym in Morgan Park. We wore Boy Scout uniforms for our weekly meetings and looked forward to the campouts in the wilderness. The troop informed us they had arranged a three day canoe trip for us as the first long camping outing. When the day for the canoe trip arrived a torrential rain came down and plummeted the area making a roaring noise from the powerful wind driving it. This worried me as I was the youngest, had never been in a canoe before, and was new to Boy Scouts. The scout leader drove us to a location that had a number of steel canoes that seated two scouts with their equipment. Since Lew was the oldest and very muscular and I was the youngest, we decided that Phil and Chip should select one canoe, while Lew and I would choose another. We loaded our back packs, tents, and sleeping bags in the canoe in a driving rain storm as the winds blew furiously. The downpour completely soaked us and our equipment before we ever put our canoes in the water. What was promised to be an exciting adventure had me shivering and fearful from the start. The river our troop selected for the canoe trip contained many large rocks in it and an incredible number of tree blockages along the way. Lew explained we had to “portage” each time the canoe could not continue while the pelting rain blasted us. We had to lift our canoe out of the water and carry it with all our equipment to a place where the river continued unblocked.
By the time we had finished, we had portaged seventeen times during this wet, cold, and strenuous outing. The scout leader brought food for us at a campsite set up along the route each night for our three-day ordeal. Totally exhausted by the time we took the canoes to the truck, I was relieved we finally entered the large van and drove to Morgan Park stopping the constant drenching we had experienced. My first major test of endurance of such magnitude was a lesson that taught us never to quit a difficult task and how to bond as a group. We were proud to have survived a true test of our determination, skill, and strength. Believe it or not, despite the struggle we had many jovial moments, laughing and shouting with glee when we glided in our canoes and raced each other stroking our oars as fast as we could under a canopy of forest trees in the wilderness oblivious to the cold wet rain.
During the summer we enjoyed a week at a Boy Scout camp in Michigan called Camp Owassippi. We had assigned tents with four of us to a tent that came with mosquito netting for each of us. Hikes, star watching, knot tying, campfires, singing, and Indian tales kept us busy and made the week enjoyable. After the first night however, I awakened to a mosquito net full of spiders and screamed fearing they had entered inside where I slept.
Lew, Phil, and Chip laughed as they had planned this hazing by moving hundreds of daddy-long-legged spiders from their netting to mine before I awoke. The joke was on me making me laugh realizing it was all in fun with nothing to fear. We were comrades in the Boy Scouts and joyful cousins.