As Boy Scouts, our circle of activities widened. We still had regular meetings and gatherings of course, but we did other stuff too; like a day in the woods identifying various shrubs (like poison ivy) and trees, and such, as well as learning to build a fire, and what knots were useful and how to tie them.
There were extended adventures as well. One fine, if more than a bit rainy, summer weekend we camped with several other scout troops along the Fox River at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles, IL.
I also spent about ten days at a place called Camp Blackhawk, which I heard once was somewhere in Michigan. (Muskegan County, I much later learned. I knew at the time it seemed an awfully long way from home). We did the usual things; ate our meals in the communal mess hall, swam and rowed boats on the rather nice lake, and slept in semi-permanent tent structures, which held bunks for about 10 boys each.
The camp counselors were guys a few years older than we were, and each an “expert” at one of the various activities in which we participated. The counselors stayed in cabins scattered about the lakeside woods near the venues which they supervised; woodcraft, archery, boating, and the like. Even a small rifle range. The cabins in which the counselors stayed all had names; usually puns on the names of movies popular at the time (i.e. “Paintin’ Place”).
On the first day, while taking our initial tour, the rifle range caught my attention. When we were introduced to the counselor overseeing the range, he asked the group if anyone were interested in competing with him — best score for five shots with a .22 rifle. The bet was a quarter, and he would supply the ammunition (which probably meant that it was the camp’s ammo).
No one stepped forward, except finally one. Me. A quarter was a fair portion of the money with which I had been supplied — with the stern instruction to spend it wisely — and the of the rest of the guys all eagerly told me what a fool I was, and that I couldn’t possibly win. But I went forward anyway.
So down I went to the shooting counter and we took turns firing at the target. When 10 shots were expended we walked to the paper targets to learn the results. I discovered that, surprise!, I had lost — and badly. Actually, my shots weren’t that bad, but he was an ace.
I handed over my quarter and received a large number of “I told you so’s” from my new friends. But that was okay, I got to shoot five rounds and to be center of attention for 15 minutes or so, and it only cost me a quarter. I still believe it was money well spent.
The time passed and we cycled through the various activities by day, rowed boats and had water fights after dinner, and generally had lots of fun. And I learned a few things as well, including the theretofore unknown joy of apple butter on breakfast toast. Surprisingly, I won an award on the archery range; an activity in which I had little real interest. But I accepted the award proudly nonetheless. And still have it.
The last day we packed up our stuff and were off on the long bus ride back to Aurora; happy to be going home, but sad to be leaving. A sign, I guess, that we’d had pretty good time.