It was early 1969. My Boy Scout troop was in the second day of a three-day hike around Galiuro Mountain in Southern Arizona. Our progress had slowed a bit. Some of the younger boys had tender feet and were having difficulty with blisters. We stopped to treat those blisters. Boy Scouts delight in basic first aid as a survival measure.
But on a hiking trail timing is everything; and we had a specific destination. And we hiked on.
In the early evening we set camp and carefully built a fire. We made a marvelous dinner of chicken and beans and bread, and even a peach cobbler and all of this from a couple Dutch ovens. I remember the Dutch ovens because I had the duty of hiking with one in my gear. They are cast iron, and heavy.
I was the senior scout in our troop; an Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow. And I was older than any other boy. So it was logical that I was recruited for Mr. Gaston’s scheme. Our Scout leader hatched up this idea that around the evening camp fire he would tell a scary story and when it was over I would terrify the boys making eerie noises from the darkness outside of camp.
At the appointed hour I slipped away from the troop. And Mr. Gaston engaged his tale. He told this terrible story of the monster of Holdout Spring, a Lost Dutchman-like gold miner who lost his way in the mountains and went quite mad. The monster would come out of the dark with a hatchet in his skull and a terrible claw of an arm and eat the eye-balls of young boys as his favorite meal.
Ah, it had to be scary. Here we were in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, a mountain away from civilization down in Tucson, and only the scarcest light from a sliver of the moon in a cloudless sky… and a hungry monster prowling in the darkness.
Some bit later, as the boys muddled around a dying fire always the master of timing… from the darkness I let out a baleful croak which could be nothing more than the monster himself in the dark gloom just outside of camp.
To the boy, every last one, they let out a scream and took off running.
I should take some pride in this telling, my masterful timing and the convincing scary wail I made in the night… but for this problem: The scream was not a cry of terror at all, but a war cry! And they took off running not away from me, but right at me.
They were armed, by the way, these boys. Rocks are plentiful in the mountain and most of them had walking sticks made from the stalk of the century plant. I ran clambering in the darkness, scarcely able to see my footing, a fugitive with missiles and spears whizzing by me and not always missing.
It took me maybe ten minutes to lose them. It felt more like two hours. And for a time I truly feared for my life and was the only one anywhere’s near Rincon Peak who was actually terrified.
I don’t remember much more about the night. It was more than forty years ago after all. But I do remember this. One of the boys reported to me later in camp that… “We nearly got him!”
Lordy mercy, I guess they did.
Never fire over any one, even if he what is called ‘ducks,’ or stoops to allow of your doing so. A keeper or beater should never be encouraged in, or allowed to ‘duck’ or stoop; the practice is a bad one, and should be for ever discountenanced. If no one fired over a ducked body the habit would soon fall into disuse. Sportsmen and others would do well to bear in mind that an accident deprives the injured man from earning his livelihood, and the poor wife and children suffer: better to forego taking a shot for safety sake and let the bird escape for another day than run any risk. This should be made a hard-and-fast rule.
From Hints on the Use and Handling of Firearms Generally, and the Revolver in Particular
Lieut. H. Onslow Curling ~ 1885
Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. Be sure to check out my distance training series: The Jokers Notebook; an (inexpensive) elaboration and improvement on the work I did in Go the Distance.
 Some care should be taken when harvesting the stalk of a century plant as a walking stick. Hornets will drill a hole in the stalk and lay their eggs there; and the young hornets will eat the pulp of the stalk as their first meals in life. So, always shake the stalk first. If it does not erupt in an angry buzz, it is safe to break away from the plant.