I didn't have a lot of experience as a Scout and had to spend some time with the Boy Scout Manual. Max, on the other hand had spent a lot of time as a Scout. A three day camping trip was planned with other troops in the Longhorn Council and our troop would be judged on camping, cooking, sanitation and fire building with flint and steel. This is a fun competition where the scouts had to start a fire using flint and steel then boil an egg over the flames. They had never won this contest but Max to the rescue. At his home, he placed some cotton rags in a metal 35 mm film can with a lid. This container is about six inches across and a couple inches deep. He put the can with the rags in the oven at 350°F until the rags turned brown, ready to burst into flame. After this cooled he added shredded cedar bark to make a tinder box. We didn't wait until the camping trip to work on the contest. We held classes and practiced until our team was ready to take on all comers. To make sure we had plenty of sparks, we had a broken farrier's rasp and some good flint.
We arrived at the camp site in Palo Pinto County, set up our tents and got ready for all the contests. The next day, Saturday evening, we were ready to compete against all the other troops in the fire building contest. When the whistle blew to start the time, off came the lid on the tinder box. The first strike of flint on steel produced a glow in the rags. Blowing gently on this glow produced a flame and with careful addition of twigs and then larger pieces of wood, the boys had a nice fire with the egg in a can of water suspended over the flames. With just one egg and a minimum amount of water, it didn't take long for the egg to cook. We were finished before most of the other troops had their fires started and won the blue ribbon.
That night was story telling. I had told them the story of Oink Johnson and that won another ribbon. In case you haven't heard the story, two brothers, Jim and Joe Johnson were driving down the road one evening when they spotted a pig in the ditch. They tossed him in the front seat of their truck and were headed home with their prize when a highway patrolman and his partner stopped them for a burned out tail light. Fearing they would be arrested for pig rustling, they put a coat and cap on the pig. When one of the patrolmen asked their names, the driver said, Jim Johnson. The other brother said, Joe Johnson. "What about the guy in the middle," asked the cop. "Oink" was the reply. After a warning to get the light fixed, one of the policeman said to his buddy, "I have seen some ugly people in my day but that Oink Johnson takes the prize."
Before the Saturday contests had begun, Max and I were watching a pot of pinto beans cook in his Dutch oven. We heard a big commotion coming from the Afro-American troop site. Knowing the Scout Master had gone up the hill and that he was alone, we felt like we needed to check on the hubbub. Just as we arrived a rock sailed past our ears. It wasn't tossed at us, it was just the last missile tossed by one of the boys. We gathered them all in a circle and Max asked for a Scout Handbook. He singled out the boy who had tossed the last rock and asked him, "Show me in the Scout Handbook where it says you can chunk rocks at each other!" "It ain't in there," was the reply. "That's right," said Max. If it is in the book, you can do it. If it ain't in the book, then don't do it! Understand!" Nods and yes sirs from each of the boys. A little while later, three of the boys arrived, one of them carrying their troop guidon. One of them stepped forward, saluted and then handed Max a note. It was an invitation to have supper with the troop. We attended and enjoyed some delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Another camp out that comes to mind was just a one night affair. I had a large van I had planned to use to transport the boys to Lake Weatherford. As luck would have it, the van was sold the day I needed it. The only other transport large enough to carry the troop and equipment was a six yard dump truck. The weather was nice and when I pulled up in front of the church to get the troop, it caused quite a stir. Turned out to be a lot of fun. The tail gate on the dump bed was free swinging, didn't hang up and the boys had a grand old time sliding out the back when I raised the bed. Years later, an English teacher friend of mine gave me a paper one of my scouts had written. The title was My Most Unforgettable Character and it was about me and the dump truck camping trip.
Three of those boys made Eagle Scout during my term and all of them earned merit badges along the way. It was a good time and I will always be grateful for Max's help.