The Whip-poor-will and the Shoe

I was a Cub Scout leader for a couple of years, while my son was in the Pack.

We took them on occasional camping trips, and this next one was going to be our first overnighter.  The land was owned, or leased, by Scouts Canada, so it was assuredly safe and free from trespassers.  Myself and a female leader shared the responsibility for the group of about twelve boys.

We got to the bush, established our tents, and then it was time for a nature hike, followed by some organized play activities, which took up most of the afternoon.  Two of the boys were brothers, and it happened that the younger one got stung by a bee.  It became obvious very quickly that he was allergic, although we had not been informed beforehand.  His older brother came running, and rummaged through their belongings until he found the epi-pen.  Things soon calmed down, but the boy wanted to go home, so we drove to the nearest phone and called the parents to come get him.

All was well for a while, until the evening.  It started to rain pretty hard, and we were all forced into our tents.  Most of the boys were fine, and enjoyed the delicious isolation.  Some got out their flashlights and played games they had invented.  I could hear giggling coming from the tents……all except one.  During a break in the laughter I could hear a boy crying.  At this point I had already bedded down, so I had to get up, put on some clothes, and run through the rainstorm to his tent.  He was homesick, and missed his parents, and didn’t want to stay.  It was about 11pm by this time, and just pouring.  I tried to calm him, and brought him to my tent, assuring him that he could stay with me.  He would be safe, and we could take him home in the morning.  He said okay, but continued to whimper off and on, and was evidently not going to fall asleep.  Being very tired from the day’s activities, I had a hard time sitting up with him and talking, and I think it was about 2am before sleep actually took us.

Dawn came early that morning, but not quite as early as some very irritating birds that decided to make their perch in a tree overhanging my tent.

It was about 5:30 a.m.  I do not know if you have ever heard the call of the Whip-Poor-Will, but to me it sounded like a person whistling.  Three notes.  Over and over.  Just when you thought you could not take it any more, there would be a pause, then blessed silence.  I got comfortable again, then closed my eyes…….then……Three Notes.  Over and Over.  Another , then another, joined the chorus.  I was beside myself.  Got up in my boxer shorts, grabbed my flashlight, went out in the still dribbling rain, and spotted the branch they were on.  Silence again.  I tried making a noise, stamping my feet against the tree to scare them off.  No.  Then, the 3 notes, the start of another chorus.  By this time, the girl with whom I had started this venture woke up, and peered out of her tent to see what the commotion was.  Just at the exact moment when I had had enough, I took off my shoe and threw it forcefully at the little buggers.  That appeared to have worked for a few seconds, but they all came back again and resumed the song.  The two most humiliating things for me happened next.  My shoe remained in the tree, having been caught between two branches, and my compatriot broke into peals of laughter.

To bring this to a close, I remained awake and shoeless for the balance of the morning, while she prepared some welcome coffee and breakfast, giggling about every two minutes.  The homesick boy was still blessedly asleep at 10 a.m.

Oh, and it was one of those trees you could not climb, with branches beginning very high up.  I had visions of coming back with a ladder, but never did.  I am sure my companion will keep this as a precious memory.  Every time I have met up with her since then, she cannot stop giggling.


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