What era? Mmmmm... 1964?.. yes, surely, perhaps just a little earlier... though it doesn't matter overmuch, the land I'm remembering is exactly the same today, in 1998. I'm not exactly the same... I couldn't climb the hills and tracts with the same inexhaustion, not without practice. Except here: on Paper.

There are Boy Scout Days I'm talking about, mostly. Boy Scout Days with Explorer Scout overtones. During the BSA era one camped with Rules and Supervision, masked by the words Competition and Scoutsmanship. These the days where one's campsite was checked by Authority Figures... silouhettes from somewhere, who judged your competence as a group of young campers... no one Scout being singled out for commendation or rebuke. A Team; that's what you were, you and your Troop (so recently a "Pack" of little boys, Cub Scouts in Easy-To-See Blue and Yellow, now wearing the special Not-Quite-Military brown and red). And, as lackadaisical as my Troop could be, sloppy, happy and unfocused, the challenge of a Camporee or Projectoree infused all but the most idiot Tenderfoot with the desire for the Laurel.

Assigned a parcel of scrubby land in trail line of other Troops, sites were hewn from the woods, Nature given over to the defining hand of boyhood-under-instruction. While remembering to cut no tree bigger around than your wrist, the area was cleared as the Ones Who Knew discussed the watershed and the latrine placement, the cook tent and so on, handing out tasks to the beginners, teaming up Those Who Knew a Little Less Than Them with Those Who Knew A Little Less Than Nothing. The work was done by all as each secretly eyed the slope or flat, considering what amount of pain one would suffer or extract to lay claim to what part suddenly became the obvious Had-To-Have tent site in the entire area. Possibly in other Troops this tent placement had a set of rules. Beyond the rule of Gravity and Rainfall, our Troop relied more on Basic Boy Rules. If you could boast or brass or sneak or somehow lay claim to your spot, suddenly it was yours and accepted by the Troop as a whole. There were times, of course, when one's Spot of Spots conflicted with the Centerpiece of the Campsite...some project the Scout Master had secretly developed for this weekend and sprung on the amazed troop; well, in those cases the Previously Blessed of the Neatest Tent Site generally had to find an entirely new, uncleared area, way up the hill, over to the side, out of the way.

Having had this happen to me more than once, I'm amazed that it never occurred to me...when way off, out of the Scout Master's line of sight, one got away with a lot less Volunteer Work. In addition, one was much closer, not to say deeper in the woods, the fundamental goal of the entire Exercise, as far as The Boy Inside was concerned.

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