I was a scout leader of eighteen boys. I don’t know what happened in our community, but there were two sets of twins, and almost all the children born at that time were boys. They were great, although they weren’t above trying to challenge me. I often found myself carrying two or even three packs up the mountain, and never came down until I knew all the boys were safe.
I’m no longer a scoutmaster, but I still enjoy being with young men. I’m getting old; I struggle more. This year we hiked five miles to Hidden Lake in the Jedediah Wilderness. It wasn’t a steep climb like last year when we climbed Mount Borah, Idaho’s tallest mountain. But we didn’t camp on Mount Borah, so we only had to carry food and water.
My field was heavier this year, but I still wasn’t far behind the boys. I have to admit, I packed a few extra things. I was on a big adventure with the young men once when we took horses to the Tetons. Horses and food were all paid for. The outfitter obviously didn’t know how much the boys ate, and we spent a week being so hungry that the bears dared not approach us for fear of being eaten. Since then, I’ve always packed frozen bread dough and oil to make scones. This year was no exception. And when we settled down for dinner in the evening, the boys happily enjoyed the scones and honey butter.
While I carried my backpack for the return trip, it was much lighter and the trip was mostly downhill. I was grateful because I was still in so much pain after the hike that I could barely walk. However, my muscles quickly warmed up and the pain subsided.
As we walked, I enjoyed listening to the young men talk. It helped me know what was important in their life. The boys told of a family in our community who go on a long vacation almost every year. Very often this includes a cruise or a trip to an exotic place that few boys have seen. The boys talked about the nice van the family had and how they traveled frequently.
Jason, one of the younger boys, was silent as the others spoke. When we got to the trailhead, we put our bags in the vehicles and started traveling to another lake where we would be spending the rest of the week. Jason was in my van, and as the other boys talked more about the one family, he finally said something.
“I wish I had been born into their family,” he said. “They are so cool.”
“What about your family?” I asked.
“My family is not cool.”
“Oh really? Can’t you think of some good things your family does?”
He was silent for a minute, then shook his head.
“Let’s start with the fact that your dad is the scout leader, and he’s here driving the van with most of our gear and the canoes. And maybe your family doesn’t do cruises, but how many times have you been on horseback riding tours in the Yellowstone backcountry? »
Jason shrugged. “At least twice a summer since I was five.”
“There’s no one in your family who doesn’t know how to ride, even your youngest sister,” I said. “And think of all the fish you caught in Hidden Lake. Then you cleaned them and we cooked them. You can make campfires, hike, camp, and do things other families only dream of. You’ve probably visited more backcountry lakes than most people will see in their lifetime. Every family is the coolest in some way. It’s just that what we do becomes old and familiar to us, and we don’t see it as new and exciting. Some of their family members probably say they wish their family was half as cool as yours.
Jason thought for a minute, then smiled. “My family is cooler than theirs, aren’t they?” »
I just smiled.