this one time at scout camp

 The Magnificent Seven – Vin (Steve McQueen): “It’s like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question, ‘Why?'”


Sitting around the cabin one night at Scout Camp, ten boys cramped into a tiny space in the woods, swapping stories by flashlight, telling truths and risking dares, we began to play a game.  It was a simple game that required only three things: bug spray, a lighter, and nerves.   Whichever scout’s turn it was would line the palm of their hand with a small amount of bug spray and then spark it aglow.  It wasn’t a natural fire, burning fluorescent blue in the dim light, and it was fascinating to watch the chemicals burn for a few seconds before the heat started to get uncomfortable.  Then a quick slap of the hands or a brush against a pant leg and the flames were extinguished.  It was simple as that, and then it was the next scout’s turn.

Round and round we went.  Each taking up the dare and risking the challenge.  Each pushing the limits and seeing how long they could last before fear, and pain, settled in and they frantically slapped away the small flames.  We were young, and fire held a powerful sway over us, and eventually the dares escalated.  It was inevitable.

So it was, the we lit one poor scout’s feet on fire.  Yes, feet.  He stood there for as long as he could and we all watched in awe of his bravery and resolve until it dawned on him that it might be trickier to put out those particular flames.  (Later he would say it was when he felt the bug spray flames dripping between his toes that he finally gave in to panic.)  He took off in a flash, out the cabin doors and dashing for the lake, for relief, for some sort of freedom from our temporary insanity.

Luckily he wasn’t hurt and he didn’t set the forest on fire in the process, but I will never forget the look on his face the moment before he sprinted out of the cabin, the image of his blue glowing feet disappearing into the darkness, or the sound of the remaining nine of us bursting into laughter so fierce we brought ourselves to tears.

Why, you ask?  Why would we do such a foolish thing and laugh about it?


Vin: “He said, ‘It seemed to be a good idea at the time.'”


Word Count: 447

This is my second contribution to Yeah Write.  I’m hoping you all got a laugh out of it.


74 thoughts on “this one time at scout camp

  1. Mannn, I would’ve fit in so much better with Cub Scouts than I did with the boring Brownies — we had to knit stuff and ya’ll got to set yourself on fire.

    • We didn’t knit anything, but we did learn how to sew… does that count?
      And, I’m pretty sure I would have been playing with fire whether I was in the scouts or not. The scouts just gave me a better excuse and more opportunity.

  2. Awesome story, well told! I love the image of ” his blue glowing feet disappearing into the darkness.”

    “It seemed like a good idea at the time. ” I wonder how many essays I could write with that title : /

  3. That was cool! I went to scout camp once but we were very closely watched and I was more of a nature-watcher myself (given that it was in Hawaii). Cute story.

  4. If I had a nickel for every stupid idea my boy put into fruition vs the girls in the family I may only have about three bucks but that’s a whole lotta nickles…boys are not so bright at that age…

      • oh no judging it as ‘bad’ in any negative sense, i think it’s hilarious, just know from my personal experience, that as soon as we added in new levels and twists, as we always did, this is where it went, and i usually ended up getting grounded or in some sort of trouble. loved the post because it so reminded me of my childhood –

      • Hooray! Made me smile as I was writing it too. I suspect you can anticipate several of these “this one time in scouts” kind of posts in the future.

  5. i look forward to it, and having raised three daughters, though all sorts of ‘adventures’, i am quite happy and amazed to say we all survived intact )

  6. This is so great! I went to sleep-away camp every summer for twelve years, and one year we went through a pyromaniac stage. One of our best nights was the one where we sprayed our cabin number – 32 – with bug spray and lit it up. That 32 burned for a glorious 5 minutes before a counselor came running up and forced us to put it out. Came is amazing.

    • Um… your pyro stage only lasted for one year? I’m pretty sure I’m still in mine, and always will be. Fire? *looks around grinning like a fool* Where?!!?! 😀

  7. Oh, good gravy… I don’t want to hear stories like these — I have such high hopes for my son actually making it to adulthood in mostly one piece…

    • well… there’s a big difference between all one piece and mostly one piece, so what are you actually saying? 😉 I’d also like to point out that a) boys will be boys, and b) I turned out just fine. 😀

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