How to Be a Terrible Tentmate: A Really Dumb Camping Story

For most if not all Boy Scouts, the pinnacle of what’s called a “Scouting career” is a trip to Philmont Ranch, the premiere Boy Scout camp of the world, located in New Mexico. Sadly, many troops simply don’t have the means to get there, and such was the case with my troop. Fortunately, a Scoutmaster from another troop invited me and asked me to invite some friends from my troop. So I shared a tent with a guy named Daniel, who I’ve known for a long time and now goes to college with me. But knowing each other so well, we often get on each other’s nerves, and such was the case during this trip. However, we tried our best to avoid annoying each other, and this was one of those times. It didn’t really work.

Where the story picks up is in the middle of our trip. We hiked 100 miles in ten days, so you might imagine that halfway through, after about fifty miles through the mountains of New Mexico, every little thing irked us more than usual. We got to our campsite that afternoon, and we began to set up camp. The first order of business, however, was to treat foot blisters. I was fortunate enough to not get any the whole trip (I still don’t know how), but Daniel was not so lucky. On this day, he had the most and worst blisters of the whole crew, so he spent quite a bit of time with the Scoutmaster as the latter treated the blisters and bandaged his foot.

“Hey Michael,” Daniel said. “I’m probably going to be a while, so would you mind setting up our tent?”

“Sure thing,” I replied, and walked over to our backpacks to pull out the pieces of our tent.

I laid out the body of the tent on the ground, and then I reached for the bag of tent poles. I dumped the tent poles out, but when I began to connect them, I saw that one of them had snapped in the middle. I glanced at Daniel at the other side of camp, but he wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. I knew that this would make him unhappy, because this was his tent, and on that day, the tent poles had been in my backpack. We were all tired from the day’s walk, and I didn’t want to make Daniel irritated or inconvenience anyone else by helping with our broken tent. So what was I to do?

I walked over to another Scout and asked if I could borrow some duct tape, which he lent me. I wrapped the Spiderman duct tape around the broken part of the pole, and then I hurriedly stuck the pole in the tent where it was supposed to go. By the time Daniel was done being treated, I was just finishing the tent setup, and it all looked pretty normal. So I said nothing. That proved to be a mistake.

We went to bed that night and all was well. But then the morning dew formed on the tent, which got the duct tape all wet, and while we slept, the tape must have slipped, because the tent had essentially collapsed on us. But our heads were covered by our sleeping bags, so we didn’t notice.

Very early the next morning came the Scoutmaster’s call: “Get on up, boys! Let’s get ‘er goin’!”

On hearing his call, I immediately sat up, quite surprised to find myself outside. I looked around and realised what had happened. I had just sat up through the doorway of the tent! But without saying a word, I laid back down and covered my head again, hoping it would all go away. I heard Daniel groan and stir in his sleeping bag, knowing that he would soon see what had happened. So I acted fast.

“Daniel,” I called. “Are you up?”

“Yep,” he replied groggily. “I guess it’s time to get movin’, huh?”

“Well, you don’t have to right now,” I said. “It’ll be, like, thirty more minutes before the Scoutmaster actually comes and gets us up. Don’t bother to get up yet. I’m certainly not.”

“What?” Daniel asked, confused. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Sure it does,” I explained. “He’s been doing that this whole trip.”

“No he hasn’t,” Daniel rebutted. Then, after a pause, he asked, “Is there something wrong?”

“No!” I replied, a little too eagerly. “Uh, no, not at all. I just don’t want to feel lazy if you get up now and I’m still here snoozing, ya know what I mean?”

But Daniel knew me too well.

“Okay, there’s something wrong,” he decided, stirring to get up. I desperately tried to stop him.

“No! There’s nothing wrong! Not a thing! We don’t need to be up yet! Don’t bother to–”

But it was too late.

Unfortunately, because I had tried to hide it, Daniel thought I had broken the pole accidentally myself and didn’t want to admit it. Actually, he still thinks that. But being good friends, we quickly moved past it… as long as you don’t ask him about it. It probably made things worse that I forgot the poles at the campsite, and if not for another crew’s Scoutmaster carrying the poles six miles to give them back to us, we wouldn’t have had the poles at all. Daniel wasn’t happy about that either.

Two years after this experience, my dad was rummaging through the attic, and he started pulling out gear from that Philmont trip. And one of the things he pulled out was a bag of tent poles. I opened the bag to find that one of the poles was snapped… and it still has the Spiderman duct tape wrapped around it.


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