Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Father-son outing creates memories, mosquito bites


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Jul 22, 2010; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

Father-son outing creates memories, mosquito bites

I’m a city boy. I admit it. When someone says to me, “Let’s go camping,” I immediately think of the movie “Deliverance.”

It may surprise some of you that my son is a Cub Scout. The trick to keeping your son’s interest in Cub Scouts is to find a den leader that is very good at motivating small boys whose only conception of the outdoors is that’s where Donkey Kong roams after he beats up Mario. Fortunately, my wife and I were lucky enough to find such a person and my son has enjoyed every year.

Last year was the first time my son and I went camping with the scouts and I noticed right away the list of needed supplies included a tent. We purchased a small two-man tent for the boy and I. We also purchased an air mattress and enough snacks to feed an entire pack of Cub Scouts. The vanilla wafers came in handy, as it turned out, but you had to be there.

With one year under our belt, we were ready for Webelos Scout camp this year. The driveway to the camp looked like it belonged in “When Alligators Attack” with swamps on either side of the gravel. I would learn later that the swamps acted as natural filters for the nearby lake. They also acted as a wonderful breeding ground for mosquitoes.

I was prepared this year for Wisconsin’s unofficial state bird. I had vitamin B12 and I had 100 percent DEET. One of the other Scout dads came to the fight with little personal fans that blew insect repellent around him and his son. The 100 percent DEET worked until the humidity caused me to sweat it off and did nothing against the giant flies. The vitamin B12 had no effect whatsoever. The little fans worked about 80 percent. The other 20 percent of the mosquitoes made life miserable. At times the mosquitoes fell on us like Stuka dive-bombers over Poland.

At a Scout camp, the kids are kept occupied with learning about first aid, poisonous plants and reptiles, shooting a bow and arrow, and how to leave no trace when camping in the forest. The parents are there to try to get the kids to drink plenty of water and spray insect repellent.

The kids had a great time. However, even they balked at the announcement of a relay race in the summer heat. Unlike a regular relay race on a track, this one more resembled an obstacle course with different activities at each leg.

My son’s den leader explained in a direct manner to the boys that the camp has planned a relay race, and that was what they were going to do. Our boys, looking like future cast members for a remake of “Stripes,” began to divvy up the different legs of the race (with direction from the den leader). Soon, we had something of a working team ready to go.

When the race started, the attitude of the boys changed. Suddenly the competitive spirit took hold and they each tried as hard as they could. When improvisation was called for, the boys adjusted.

One of the smallest boys was the bottom end of the wheel barrow race but he would not quit until he reached the flag pole. My son was in the leapfrog portion of the race and did picture perfect leapfrogs (unfortunately, there were no style points). Another boy ended up running two legs of the race in succession. Still another boy ran straight up some steps in the Kettle Moraine that would have made me pass out just walking in that heat. Two more boys did the Frisbee relay while a third carried the “baton” (a soda can).

For one moment on a hot afternoon, seven boys teamed up to do the best they could and turned in a great effort. They didn’t win, but they showed pride.

For the thrill of that one experience, I did not mind that the air mattress in my tent never inflated, the food was terrible, I had no communication with the outside world, and I had insect bites in places only a doctor should see.

OK, I minded. But it was worth it.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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