The Small Troop

By Jerry D. Haight

Darkness came early on that night in the summer of 69.  A small troop was heavy laden with full backpacks and gear. Their objective; get to a high mountain lake in California. To reach their goal, they would travel through the foreboding woods, up hill most of the way with the only light on their path, being the fleeting illumination of half a moon mostly hidden by rain soaked clouds. The trail by day was fairly clear, but that night hidden by leaning branches, leaves beaten down by the rain, trees that seemed to move and block the trail and new streams formed by torrents of rain made it treacherous and almost impassible. All too often a step would land in a puddle deeper than shoe top renewing the ice cold water soaking socks and feet sending painful chills up the spine to the brain. Recovering from the shock of the last puddle, a low hanging branch steeped with cold rain would smack into face and neck sending chills down the front. “Let’s look at the map” said one. “Why bother, when we have no point of reference and don’t even know where we are” replied another. “At least some of the time, we can see the moon and know that we are traveling in the right direction.” “How long did it take two years ago when we came this way?”  “I don’t know, but it didn’t seem this long” “Sooner or later, we are bound to find it”. “What time is it?” “I can’t see my watch very well but it looks like it is close to nine o’clock”. “We’ve been gone almost four hours now.” “Can you try your flashlight again”? “Yea, but all it does is shine on the rain. I know where the rain is but the light just can’t penetrate it.” “Let’s turn back.” “Look if it has taken us almost four hours to get here, it may take us four hours to get back.” “It can’t be much further.” That’s what I thought two hours ago”, “Should we stop and set up camp before we get there?” “Have you seen a flat spot since we left?” “Well no.” “Then, that’s your answer”. “But even my underwear is soaked.” “We will have plenty of time to dry out when we get there.” “Hey, I think I see some light.” “I do see some light.” “This is a darned parking lot.” “They must have put a road here since last time.” “And the cars, there must be forty of them.” “Last time we had the lake to ourselves.” “Well, that’s not the case now.” “Let’s set up camp, get these wet cloths off and get dry and get some supper.” Later. “Aah, these sleeping bags sure are nice and warm.” “All is well that ends well, we still might catch some fish tomorrow.” “Good night Dad.” “Good night Vince, good night Bill.” Later still. “ “Dad, I just saw an animal pass our camp.”  “What was it?” “I don’t know but it wasn’t too big. It was black with a white. . . .” “PEPPER, you darned dog, get out of my sleeping bag, you are soaking wet, cold, your feet are muddy and you smell like a skunk”. A popular commentator said “there are times when there is no use worrying; nothing is going to turn out alright. So just deal with it.” And we did that night. When the sun came up the following morning it was a new day.