a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

Take Me Home

< by Zack Mast >

The only summer camps I ever attended were Boy Scout camps. Both were in the Adirondacks—maybe the most beautiful region of the world I know, since I haven’t been to Europe. One was called Sabattis, and every year at the opening campfire they’d make us sing the same song, a dulcet ode to our new week-long home:

Scouting roads

Take me home

To the place

I belooooong

Sabattis Scouting Reservation

Take me home

Scouting roads

Years later, I realized that John Denver must have attended the same camp and cashed in a crude parody, but as a nerdy, awkward teenager, I found the song comforting, an annual incantation that said, It’s okay to breathe. The air’s cleaner here.

The other camp was called Massawepie, and here’s where I spent my more formative Scouting years. One year, my friend Joe and I agreed to be elangomats (Lenape: “friends”) for the Order of the Arrow Ordeal. The OA is Scouting’s honor society of sorts, the Ordeal a ritual in which troops elect Scouts to camp out under the stars, fast, and perform a day of manual labor, all under a strict vow of silence. Joe and I had been through it a year before, so we agreed to help the new recruits. One of them was a small, runtish kid, who smiled incessantly below his bleach-blond hair and a blue baseball cap.

In the middle of the night, I heard a banshee break the vow. “SPIDERS!” it shrieked. “GET ‘EM OFF!” I ran to the source and jolted it awake.

The kid had night terrors. His troop, I surmised, only voted him into the Ordeal so they could get some damn sleep.

I did my best to comfort him. “No spiders,” I said. “No big ones, anyway. Go to sleep.”

But no one slept that night, and in the morning we subsisted on single slices of white bread before we set to work. I groggily pointed to the ground and explained the task: haul these rocks away to form a clearing in the woods. The Scouts groaned and shuffled off.

The kid, wide awake and more alert than anyone, ran up to me and smiled. He nodded, as if to say, “Thank you,” and skipped over to help lift the heaviest boulder, a mass ten times his puny weight.

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