Let Sleeping Bags Lie
June 2nd, 2013

In this morning’s newspaper James Green of Heber City addresses the specter of “boys sleeping next to each other in a tent” who “may be tempted to push the limits.”

Limits? Hey, I was a Boy Scout once and I don’t remember any of my tent mates ever trying to push any limits—mainly because, in those days, there simply were none. Did Johnnie ever try to climb into my sleeping bag? Are you kidding? Compared to my J.C. Higgins sleeping bag, an eviscerated Tauntaun was like a Serta Pedic Perfect Sleeper. It wasn’t stuffed not with eider down but with something called Kapok, a Tibetan word meaning “weight without warmth.” And of course it had never been laundered. In the words of Han Solo, “And I thought they smelled bad on the outside!”

Mr. Green, an Eagle Scout with a bronze palm and three wood badge leadership training beads, is concerned about homosexual boys in the ranks. Me, I wonder about grown men whose credentials include wood badges and training beads. I mean, seriously, does that stuff count for anything on a resume?

Myself, I never rose above the rank of Star—but, still, I learned quite a lot about basic camp craft before I finally aged out of the system. I learned, for instance, that rubbing two sticks together to start a fire doesn’t work. Better to bring matches—and maybe a bit of gasoline. I learned that a canoe made of birch bark will sink like a rock. And I learned that the official Boy Scout pocketknife isn’t really good for much. I vastly preferred the World War II military issue bayonet I picked up cheap at Bob’s Army Navy Store.


Some will argue that a bayonet isn’t so much a tool as it is a weapon, and I agree. A weapon is what you’re surely gonna need should some olfactory-challenged idiot try to climb into your sleeping bag at night. In the meantime, you can have a lot of fun with a bayonet. You can stage homicide scenes such as this one, in which Tommy Longhurst lies dead with my bayonet lodged in his armpit while Ricky Larsen prepares to give him forty whacks with an axe.

camporee mayhem copy


This is the sort of stuff that went on every night inside our tent; that is, until David Brown accidentally blew it up at a camporee while preparing a batch of nitroglycerine. It’s not unheard of for canvas tents to catch fire, but David’s was the only one that ever exploded. Happily, all of us got out alive—which, when you stop to think about it—is probably the best outcome any Boy Scout can hope for. That is, unless for some reason you are bound and determined to earn an Eagle Badge, a bronze palm and three wood leadership training beads.

-Richard Menzies