Monday, August 08, 2005

The noble savage, part 2: The Second Part

It was hot and dry. This much I knew, because the pine trees were wilting under the blazing sun as much as the sparse yellow grasses that lined the loose dirt trails that would kick up little puffs of dust as you walked along them. Definitely hot, and only one source of respite: the pool.

This was a pool without concrete, lifeguards or that annoying sign that would dictate when kids were allowed to roam freely and when wrinkly old people could swim laps. Rather, it was both the single source of salvation from the arid temperatures and an intimate test of a young teen's manhood. 15 feet across and 10 feet wide, with a depth that varied from 3-5 feet depending where you walked on the muddy bottom, it was a natural construct whose purpose served all of the campers. The rub was, while you had the option of going in clothed, the end result was that you would have a damp piece of cloth rubbing your naughty bits until it dried. So we went in naked, albeit awkwardly and with great self-awareness. Myself, I quickly disrobed and fled into the murky water, then avoided all of the other campers.

Once in, it was glacially cold, and you didn't even mind the mud squishing underneath one's feet. Layers of dirt that had accumulated were washed away (and would return within hours of exiting the pool). Glorious, except for the fact that there were 15 other naked boys keeping to themselves in random spots. There were, of course, some older campers who preyed upon the shyest of us, but I went unmolested.

Every so often, "white" (read:leaders) would come and trade with us. We had endless supplies of beads given to us, but the traders had awesome things like rabbit skins, knives and, perhaps most coveted, paint. They spoke to us in what I would later recognize as French and were more generous than their real-life counterparts were. And yet, the Elk society was a very sorry one, because we could never gain any paint, which could be used to decorate our teepees or used as a body decoration. It was then that my genius plan was hatched: I would, somehow, get some paint for our society. Sure, it lacked in the details and execution, but I knew I would perservere.

And that's how I found myself holding the bottle of Tabasco sauce one kid has smuggled in. He had a smug expression, but more importantly, he had two glorious bottles of paint- red and yellow. We could have opened a McDonalds with that much red and yellow paint. At hand, of course, was the challenge. If I downed the entire bottle, both containers would be mine. Really, it wasn't the Tabasco that worried me. I was more worried about the aftereffects, in which I might have to subject myself to the dank and forbidding toilets that reeked of the worst of demonic evils. And yet I drank; I drank that whole bottle in one good, long pull. With a gleam in my eye, I nodded and he handed the paint over with a grimace. I strode confidently back to our camp, the paint held high over my head in victory.

What they did not see was how my nose was running like a faucet and my eyes watered and reddened as if I had just seen Beaches twice. My guts were in a knot. Once the paint was secured, I ran for the water fountain and alternated between drinking and vomiting. But I had succeeded.

Others were not so fortunate; the Shield society, which was composed primarily of campers that had attended for more than two years, decided to take our precious paint. Theirs was a cunning plan- sneak down the ravine border and up into our camp, taking us completely by surprise. It was strange, then, to watch them dispassionately from our campsite as they attempted to sneak down into the ravine. They had made some good progress, but then they stopped. We waited, but they didn't move. Finally, one of them shouted, "Poison Oak!". The procession made it's way rapidly back out of the ravine, and they troubled us no more. I'm fairly certain I saw some of them soaking sullenly in the pool later.

The week was drawing to an end- we had lived the lives of our fantasy Indians as best we could. There was some consternation when the entire tribe met with some more "white" people, who bore a document that the "chief" said he could not read. As it was passed around, bravado became silence as we each realized it was written in Cyrillic. But our travails had passed; all that was left was what I will call the "battle royale" and the sweet, sweet roasted pig.

In the battle, we were separated into two teams, and marked with armbands. Team members could be "killed" by maneuvering them into a center area. I am certain that had any responsible adults been there, we would have been taken away. Scrapes and cuts were numerous, along with bruises. As for my fate, I was doing well with a group of bigger kids. Somehow, I got separated and cornered; although I fought like the Devil, I was undone. I satisfied myself with the fact that one of my captors was holding his arm and other bled from his lip. So I sat and chatted with my neighbor, exchanging our battle experiences. We didn't even notice the buses pulling up.

"Everyone get into the bus, NOW!" came the order. We complied without too much resistance. As we rounded a corner, it became obvious. Fire licked at the edge of the road, and we were mere feet from an inferno. Quiet overcame us all.

Aside from that, however, it was pretty uneventful. We escaped easily. We were evacuated to a nearby school and spent the night there, where we feasted on Red Cross provided KFC and orange juice, rather than suckling pig. Kind of a letdown, but some fried comfort food after a week of more earthy fare was probably what we needed. Some of the older kids cried. Most of the rest of us wondered where our normal clothes were. The fantasy was over, burning on that hillside. We wanted to go home.

And so, home we went the next day- another bus ride, as if we were war orphans being shuffled around. The parents came; a blurb in the local newspaper; life went on. But Indian Camp never came again.


At 11:30 PM, Blogger chica bonita said...

you drank the whole bottle of tabasco sauce for the paints? ewww... *shudders* i don't think i'm even able to drink the mini size one.

At 3:20 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe said...

You had proper toilets at camp? We didn't...ugh!

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Knows It All said...

Total Lord of the Flies meets the Great Outdoors. Good stuff.

At 8:16 AM, Blogger August95 said...

Thanks for dropping by my place. You are a wonderful story teller. Agh to the tabasco sauce, I bet you were feeling that for days.


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