Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

More of the Best

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:55 pm, July 29th, 2007

Aaron and I were watching clips of the Wonder Years on YouTube tonight, a show that makes you want to write about being a kid. I’ll hold off on any Winnie Cooper-like stories lest they get too sappy, but instead go for the closest thing to a Paul Pfeiffer tale that I have…

Summer 1989

I didn’t have a lot of close friends growing up – my family moved before I started the third grade, and I didn’t really make any friends the first year in my new school. I then switched to another school for the fourth grade, and Rob, a kid down the block, switched to the same school at the same time. For the next five years we rode the bus together every day, and he became the closest thing I had to a best friend. We joined the Boy Scouts together but never told anyone about it because we didn’t want the other kids to make fun of us – despite the fact that the Scouts let us go rock climbing and whitewater rafting it was far from being a “cool” thing to do. Still, we had a lot of fun and were pretty active through about the eighth grade, and both of us ended up becoming Eagle Scouts together.

Of all the things we ever did in Scouts, the time that I remember the best was the Summer of 1989 at Summer Camp when we earned our wilderness survival merit badge. Amongst other requirements, to earn this badge we had to build a shelter using only rope and natural materials, and then sleep in it for two nights. For most of the kids going for this badge this requirement involved throwing something together in a few hours and then enduring two long nights; Rob and I had other plans. We started out lashing the frame for a lean-to against two trees, and made sure that the lashings were tight enough that we could both jump and hang on the bracings without anything slipping. We then started piling brush onto this structure to create a roof and walls, and we didn’t stop until the roof was a mass of brush about four feet thick. We followed that up by throwing leaves and pine needles on the structure for water-proofing, and then piling about a foot of pine needles inside for mattresses.

That night we slept like babies, but it was the following night, when the camp was hit by a torrential thunderstorm, that our lean-to proved itself. We woke up the following morning completely dry and discovered that everyone else in the camp, most of whom were in tents, were soaked. Rob and I got lucky – we built our lean-to as strong as we did just because we wanted to take a fun requirement and push it to ridiculous levels, but it was still pretty cool to see it succeed as well as it did. At the time it seemed like a memorable event, but looking back at it today it was one of those quintessential boyhood moments that grandpas tell their grandkids about, and that friends reminisce about during the rare times that they see each other again.

2 responses to “More of the Best”

    1. yes. yes we do have wonderful lives. except for the fact that i don’t sleep anymore. that part i don’t like so much. but seeing concerts with girls in cowboy hats is very, very good. i will add a journal entry about it soon, but right now all my brain thinks about is sleeping. i try to write, and all that comes out is “sleeeeepy”.

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