Summer is almost here, boys and girls, and do you know what that means? It means it's time to go to . . . SUMMER CAMP! Neat-o, right, boys and girls? Let's hear it for summer camp!! Hip-hip . . .
(Long silent pause)
Listen up, boys and girls. When Uncle Dave says "Hip-hip," you say "Hooray!" in loud cheerful voices, okay? Because summer camp is going to be A LOT OF FUN, and if you don't SHOW SOME ENTHUSIASM, Uncle Dave might just decide to take you on a NATURE HIKE where we IDENTIFY EVERY SINGLE TREE IN THE FOREST.
I happen to know a lot about summer camp, because, back when I was 18, I was a counselor at a camp named Camp Sharparoon. There is some kind of rule that says summer camps have to have comical-sounding Indian names and hold big "pow-wows" where everybody wears feathers and goes whooooo. Actual Indians, on the other hand, give their summer camps names like "Camp Stirling Hotchkiss IV" and hold dinner dances.
Camp Sharparoon was a camp for youths from inner-city New York who were popularly known, at the time, as "disadvantaged," which meant they knew a lot more about sex than I did. I was in charge of a group of 12- and 13-year-old boys, and when they'd get to talking about sex, I, the counselor, the Voice of Maturity, the Father Figure for these Troubled Children, would listen intently, occasionally contributing helpful words of guidance such as: "Really?" And: "Gosh!" There were times I would have given my right arm to be a disadvantaged youth.
Talking about sex was one of our major activities when we went camping out overnight in the woods. We counselors mostly hated camping out, but we felt obligated to do it because these kids had come from the dirty, filthy streets of the urban environment, and it seemed that they should have the opportunity to experience the untamed forest wilderness. Of course, the untamed forest wilderness contained infinitely more dirt and filth than the urban environment, not to mention a great deal of nature in the form of insects. This is why we built the urban environment in the first place.
Nevertheless, we'd set off into the woods, carrying our bedrolls, which we took along so the campers would have a safe place to go to the bathroom. Bed-wetting was a problem on camping trips, because the campers would never go out to the latrine at night. They were concerned that they might be attacked by the Swamp Man, who, according to the traditional fun campfire story we wise mature helpful counselors always told at bedtime to put the campers in the proper emotional state for sleep, was this man with slime in his hair and roots growing out of his nose who would grab you and suck your brains out through your eye sockets. So we generally woke up with at least one bedroll dampened by more than the dew, if you get my drift.
Fortunately, the campers always handled this potentially embarrassing situation with enormous sensitivity and tact. "VICTOR PEED HIS BED!!" they would shriek, their happy voices shattering the stillness of the forest morn, alerting the tiny woodland creatures that it was time to flee unless they wished to become the subjects of primitive biological experiments involving sharp sticks and rocks. Heaven help the toad that wandered into our campsite. One minute it would be a normal toad, maybe two inches high, and the next minute, having become a subject in the Two Heavy Flat Rocks Experiment, it would be a completely different style of toad, no thicker than a wedding invitation but with much larger total square footage.
You ask: "Well, why didn't you, as the Voice of Maturity, stop them from doing this horrible thing?" To which I reply: (a) If God had wanted us to be concerned for the plight of toads, He would have made them cute and furry. (b) As the old saying goes: "A disadvantaged youth who is crushing a toad with a rock is a disadvantaged youth who is not, at least for the moment, crushing the skull of another disadvantaged youth." You must realize that these campers needed to work off a great deal of nervous energy caused by eating nothing, breakfast, lunch and dinner, but Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. The raccoons always got everything else. When I hear scientists claim that, after human beings and game show contestants, dolphins are the smartest animals on Earth, I have to wonder what kinds of designer chemical compounds they (the scientists) have been snorking up their noses, because anybody who has ever dealt with raccoons knows that they are far more intelligent than we are. My campers and I would spend hours rigging up these elaborate Crafty Old Woodsperson devices whereby you hung your food in between two trees so the raccoons couldn't get it. The raccoons would watch us on closed-circuit TV from their underground headquarters, laughing themselves sick, and as soon as it got dark they'd put on their little black masks and destroy our devices instantly, using advanced laser technology.
If we ever decide to get serious about space travel, what we need to do is convince the raccoons somehow that campers have placed food on Jupiter. The raccoons will find a way to get it.
Well, boys and girls, looks like Uncle Dave got so caught up in telling old "war stories" that he completely forgot about you! That's one of the great things about camp, boys and girls: It leaves you with so many memories, which will stay wedged in your brain until you die! Possibly on your way to the latrine.