That's My Story...And I'm Sticking with it...
Earning the Golden Bandage Award
Boy Scout Camp Geronimo 2006
Being an adult Boy Scout Leader can be a rewarding experience. My rewarding experience came in the summer of 2006 when my son Skylar was a member of the troop in Gilbert, AZ. Located on the Mogollon Rim, Camp Geronimo commemorates the famous Native American Chiricahua Leader. If you look up on the Rim you can see from the parade grounds, there are rock formations that look like mounted Apache warriors during twilight. Makes you wonder sometimes.
In the group of the boys from our troop, I was with was a young spoiled boy who had a very expensive walking stick his grandpa had bought him at REI. Since we were at Camp #24, it was a six mile uphill hike. Half way through it, he was in tears and saying he was tired of carrying the stick, suggesting that he wanted to chuck it into the woods. Like the true dad I was, I told him to “suck it up.” This did not go over well, but I will give him credit, he still had that walking stick when we got to the campsite.
Exhausted, I was shown to my tent that I would share with another adult leader in a lean-to style; . I had been put in charge of the medical supplies and medicine, but one of the leaders was a paramedic so that he was really in charge. I quickly found out that I had taken on quite a role on this camping trip.
My real job was to make sure the boys went to the events they had signed up for so that from about 10 am until 4 pm in the afternoon, I was free. I did however get bored from napping and would wander around to keep tabs on what the boys were up to. When the boys came back at 4 pm, we would clean up the campsite and prepare to go to the chow hall at around 5 pm. The dining facility was about three miles downhill, but this buffet style dining hall had some very good entrees. The camp was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary so there was always a little surprise waiting for us at dinner.
As the sun drained from the sky, we would get together with other troops for some entertainment Boy Scout Style which included silly skits and crazy campfire anthems. Lights out was at 9 pm, but most of the boys would stay up until 10 pm. Wearing my headlamp to read by, I quickly found out that the bugs would fly into the light like little bullets. Reading became a hazardous affair. What was even more concerning is that I disobeyed the rule of “no snacks” and heard scuffling noises under our floor boards as I munched on trail mix.
My son was not a water guy like me, but having just filled the pool since we scheduled for the first week of the camp, the water temperature was barely at 60 degrees and for Arizona that was freezing. So when we all jumped into the pool water (one of the few activities adult leaders had to go to) the shock of the cold water could just about knock you out. After that my son refused to get into the water. I managed, but while swimming my laps, I got a discarded band aid that floated into my open mouth. I would go on the last day of camp and get the miler badge for swimming 60 laps that equaled one mile. By then the water had finally reached 60 degrees Fahrenheit and no floating band aids.
Since the camp was on a strict budget, hot water showers were considered a privilege. Most of the spoiled boys did not want to deal with cold water showers, so by the time we left seven days of fun in the sun, there was a stench that could not be ignored as we drove home, a two hour trip at close quarters. It was just another memory that will forever be in my mind. Many of the boys were also not used to open latrines which means the facilities were nothing more than a wooden bench with three holes without running water or in other words you did not have to flush. Flies and other bugs love to descend on these holes en-masse creating clouds of greedy, hungry bugs that would die for these open latrines if they had to. I will not go into the stench that flowed from these places, but once again it will live forever in my memory.
On the last night of camp there is a big bonfire ceremony where awards are presented to the participating troops and we won an award that I had to go up there to receive. What award, you ask? How about “The Golden Band Aid Award?” And when the trophy was handed to me, it was what its title said it was, a gilded band aid. Now your next question would be, “How did we earn such a prestigious award. This memory, too, is forever locked away.
On the first night of camp, one of the boys went off trail and found some poison oak. The burning rash was evident after dinner, so with me and the scout we hiked down hill as it was getting dark (and the stone Apache warriors were visible the entire way) I got the scout to the infirmary without knowing I was going to make several more trips throughout the week. With applied lotion to stop the burning itch, we would now hike uphill in the dark. There was some lighting, but on this rocky trail, dark is still very dark when you are in the woods and we tripped several times on our way back to camp.
Second night and one of the boys got really ill after dinner, but the wood provided plenty of places to vomit rather than fight the clouds of insects in the latrine. Once again I hiked with the scout down to the infirmary for some Pepto Bimal and then again in the dark uphill back to camp. He still was not feeling well after our ten mile hike.
Next morning the scout was still feeling unwell and so once again we hiked to the infirmary. The nurse at the infirmary kept the scout in one of the beds in her station. By the time dinner came around, the scout was in real pain, so the adult leader of the troop transported the sick scout to a Payson Emergency Care Unit where it was determined he was suffering from appendicitis. From there he was transported back to Gilbert where his parents took him to the hospital to have his appendix surgically removed.
Before our adult leader got back to camp after dropping off the sick scout for transport, I had to hike with another scout who had twisted his ankle. Without any means of transporting him, we were forced to hike with him on his bad ankle. Since he was an athlete at his school, this was not much of an obstacle, but the nurse had to wrap the sprain and so on our return trip he was on crutches. Needless to say, between his learning curve to walk on crutches and the darkness that swallowed us up, we got back to camp past lights out.
I did not sleep through the night. I heard a timid voice call my name and when I looked up from my peaceful slumber, I saw four scouts lined up at the entrance to the tent, one of them being my own son.
Yes, there were poisonous spiders in the area.
So a five mile hike with a scout who had been given first aid by three other boys, one of them my son. Apparently the unseen spider had bit him on his finger which was heavily wrapped with gauze. He was not scared which was a good thing. When we got to the station, the nurse called me in as she removed the gauze from the boy’s finger. I figured there was nearly a pound of gauze on the table when she got done and she could barely keep from laughing as she continued to remove the bandage the other three boys had affixed to his injured finger. As it turned out there was no spider bite that could be detected. The nurse told me if it had been a poisonous spider, the skin would be red and infected, easy to spot. She could find nothing, but she was impressed by the bandage the other three boys had applied for their comrade. Back up to the camp and I could hardly keep my eyes open on the return trip, but the scout next to me was smiling the entire way, relieved that he was not going to die of a spider bite.
Next afternoon the kid with the walking stick came to us during lunch. Naturally he was a diabetic and his blood sugar was dangerously low due to the morning physical activity, but with the chow hall a five mile downhill hike, he was not going to make it safely. The scout leader, a paramedic as I previously stated, prepared the boy’s insulin, but the boy moved and the injection squirted all over the scoutmaster. He radioed the infirmary who provided a ride to the parking lot where he could drive the boy into Payson Emergency Care for some insulin. We did have some snacks that helped raise his blood sugars a bit so it was not so dangerous. We got word later in the afternoon of the boy’s successful appendix surgery and a note from the parents thanking us for taking action.
Last day of camp and the scoutmaster told the boys nobody else was allowed to get sick or injured. I took the boys on the Cat Eye hike of five miles following a compass and a map with markers in the trees to guide them along the correct trail. But as I heard gunfire, I began to get worried since the firing range was getting closer. The guide for the camp said the trail was far enough away that we would not have to worry about it. He was wrong. I heard the Rangemaster yell, “Cease fire!”
Later one of our boys told me that I had wandered into the “unsafe zone” following the trail and when the Rangemaster ordered cease fire, he wanted to keep shooting saying he would aim low. This was not reassuring to me in the least.
So I took the Golden Bandage Award home with me, proud that we had been recognized for something we did in our seven days at Camp Geronimo. Looking at my son, his eyelids heavy and his ripe stench, I knew that his experience had been a good one with the exception of the pool which was the first thing he told his mother when he got home. I showed her the Golden Bandage award and the first aid that had been applied by my son and two other scouts for a non-existent spider bite and she could not stop laughing as she pictured them huddled around the injured boy applying nearly all of the gauze in their first aid kits.
I would go to camp for three more summers until my son quit the scouts and I returned to school at Arizona State University for my teaching certificate. As it turned out there are four major Boy Scouts of America summer camps and I went to three out of the four as a leader, but we never earned another Golden Bandage Award. Something, as it turned out, I was very grateful for. I do love the outdoors and fondly remember my experiences out cavorting with Mother Nature including receiving this dubious Golden Bandage Award I suspect the nurse at the infirmary insisted we received.
Camping in Arizona