Moon Lake Adventure

I spent this past weekend at exotic (and mysterious) Moon Lake, speaking to a group of 11-year-old Scouts. Great kids! I had a great time (and even looked for the legendary Moon Lake Monster, but without luck).

bearAnyway, I opened my talk with one of my favorite Scouting stories, which went something like this:

A bunch of years ago I spent 18 days backpack through Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Now, there’s a lot of bears at Philmont, so you can’t keep any food in your tent at night. Yeah, you do that and every hungry bear on the mountain’s gonna try crawling into your tent with you.

So every night before you go to bed, you’ve gotta take all your snacks and candy and anything else that smells like food and put it in a burlap sack called a “bear bag.” Then you take the bag about fifty yards out of camp and hoist it into a tree. That way, if any bears come wandering by, they spend the night trying to get into the tree instead of your tent.

At first, we were all really good about loading up the bear bag, ’cause none of us wanted some nosy bear sneaking into our tents. But there were a couple of problems. First, we weren’t seeing any bears. We weren’t seeing any tracks. And after a couple of days we started thinking maybe there really weren’t any bears, and that they were just a story made up to scare everybody.

And second, sometimes you’d put six Snickers bars into the bear bag, but you’d only get three back the next morning. So we all started getting a little lax about loading our best snacks in the bear bag.

One night after everyone had gone to bed, I went out for a little night hike. When I came back I was trying to be as quiet as I could, so I didn’t disturb anyone. There was one tent on the outskirts of camp, and as I got close I could hear a couple of the guys talking inside. One of the boys was saying, “Dude, quit moving around . . . you’re kneeling on my glasses!”

“Oh, sorry, I thought you were wearing them.”

“I am wearing them!”

Well, I started to walk around when I heard one of the kids go, “Shhhhhhhh!

And man, I froze, ’cause I believe in Bigfoot and I was sure someone had just heard him. But nothing happened, so I finally took another step and heard, “Shhhhhhhh! There it is again!

And this time I realized, “Ah, they hear me!”

But just to make sure I took another step and sure enough, “Shhhhhhhh! There it is again!

Followed by: “What do you think it is?”

“I bet it’s a bear!”

And a horrified voice: “I didn’t put all my stuff in the bear bag!”

“Where is it?”

And in pure panic: “It’s right here!

And the next second ZIP! went the zipper, and the next instant Pop Tarts, licorice, candy bars, power bars, raisins, bubble gum, and trail mix comes flying from the tent.

The next morning, we all searched the bushes for whatever was left of the guys’ snacks, but never did find any of it, which proved there was a bear in camp.

But I sure ate good that week.

Moon Lake Adventure

Boy sCOUTI was recently invited to speak to the 11-year-old Boy Scouts from Altamont, Utah, at their yearly overnighter at spooky Moon Lake in the High Uintah Mountains. Last year I gave a funny talk about scuba diving, and even though this was an entirely new batch of kids, I decided that this year I’d tell them some funny flying stories.

Once I got there, though, and started meeting the boys, I realized I’d prepared the wrong talk. I had to change things on the fly, and started out by telling them about my trip to the doctor that morning, pretty much ad libbing the whole thing. This is how it went . . .

“Wow, I’m jazzed to be here again. I have to apologize because I’ve been limping around all afternoon, and I know some of you are curious about what’s wrong. You see, something really weird happened to me this morning, and I normally wouldn’t talk about it, but I figure we’re all friends and you won’t judge me too harshly.

“I had to go to the doctor, and he’s a nice guy but he told me that he needed to give me a couple of shots. He stepped out and talked with his nurse for a minute, and a few minutes later she came in carrying two syringes. And they were HUGE! When I first saw them I thought they were bazookas. They were so big she wasn’t carrying one in each hand, but she had her arms curled in front of her and was carrying them like chunks of firewood.

“I looked at the doctor and said, ‘Dude . . . you gonna hunt deer with those things?’ And without looking up from his papers he said, ‘No, these are for you.’ I just shook my head and said, ‘I’m not on fire, man, if you’re thinking of using them to hose me down!’

“He just gave me a sour quit’cher-whining look, so I just sighed and started rolling up the sleeve of my shirt.

“Now, have you guys ever seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas? And you remember how the Grinch–when he decides how he’s going to ruin Christmas for all the Whos in Whoville–he gets this evil grin that just curls around his face? Well, the doctor started grinning at me and he got the same evil grin and he said, ‘Dude . . . these aren’t going in your arm . . .”

“Oh, man! I couldn’t believe it! And I’ll skip what happened next (except for telling you the nurse said all the neighborhood dogs started howling when I screamed), but then I sat down–carefully–while the doctor wrote me a prescription. So then I was finished, but when I stood up to leave, I tripped and fell flat on my face. One of the shots had put my leg to sleep–completely to sleep!–just like the shots do that you get at the dentist. You know how your mouth goes funny and you can’t feel anything and you talk funny for a couple of hours? Well, that’s what happened to my leg. And even though I got the shot at, like ten this morning, my leg’s still asleep. And I’ve been really worried about it because I know later we’re all going on a night hike, and I know there are a lot of bears around here, and if one starts chasing us, I’ve only got one good leg to run on and you know the bear’s gonna come after me, right?¬†Yeah, everyone’ll start running and I’ll be hobbling along and he’s gonna be¬†thinking, ‘Get the slow guy! Get the slow guy!’ ”

Well, by now the kids were all howling, and I was having a great time too. I never gave a single word from the talk I’d written, but was sooooo glad I decided to go off script. I told them a few of my favorite funny bear stories, like the one where a fisherman’s standing in the middle of a river . . . well, I’ll save that for another time.

The point is that it’s times and experiences like this that makes being a writer so much fun. (I’m almost willing to go back to Doctor Deadleg just to get some new material!)