So I was reading back on the Scouting Magazine blog and came across the post on great campfire stories. I had one pop into my head that I heard when I was a Boy Scout (or possibly a Webelos), told around the campfire by Mr. Fisher. The story builds into a joke but not until the final punchline and if you tell it right you can string the boys along for a while. I’ll tell what hopefully is a decent retelling of my own version of that story below.
“The Worst Thing I Ever Did”
(rewritten and embellished by Middletownscouter based on the original telling by Mr. Fisher)
Boys, it has been a great weekend and we’ve once again learned about the outdoors and about doing our good turn daily. But I want to tell you, I know that it is hard to be good all the time and sometimes we all fail. And that’s okay, we learn from our mistakes and move on. As hard as it is to believe, even I sometimes was guilty of not always doing my best to be a good Scout. So tonight I want to tell you a story about the worst thing I’ve ever done.
It was quite a long time ago in August of 1986. I was about your age, between Webelos and Boy Scouts, and it was the summertime. And boy, was it hot! You couldn’t be outside for more than a couple of minutes without your shirt being soaked with sweat. The kind of heat where you wanted to spend the day at the pool with your buddies watching the pretty lifeguard. You get the picture.
Well, for me that day was even hotter. Because not only was I not at the pool with my buddies watching the pretty lifeguard, I was at the house. Doing yard work. I spent the morning pulling weeds from the garden and edging the sidewalks. Backbreaking labor, on my hands and knees with gloves on pulling prickly weeds from the mulch covered flowerbed followed by using a garden spade to slowly cut a nice clean edge along both sides of the sidewalk and the driveway all down the front of the house. And my Walkman was broken, so I didn’t even have any music to listen to. It was brutal! I think I lost ten pounds from sweat that morning. After a quick respite from the heat for lunch, I was all set to ride my bike over to the pool, but alas, it was not to be! “You’re not going anywhere until the lawn is mowed,” my mother told me. All that work and now I had to mow the lawn? How unfair is that? Needless to say, I was in a very bad mood as I pulled out the ancient lawnmower and got it started up.
Now, the entire time I had been outside that day, so had the neighbor’s dog, Scruffy. They had this little fur ball Jack Russell Terrier that constantly barked at anyone it could see. It didn’t matter that I’d been around this dog for years, it still barked. Neighbors, mailmen, delivery men…it didn’t matter. This dog barked at them all. And it wasn’t so much the barking itself – that’s how dogs talk, after all – it was the pitch of the bark. It was a small dog, and it was a high pitched YIP YIP YIP type of bark. Imagine that, will you? It’s the middle of the summer, 100 degrees in the shade, you’re hot, sweaty, deprived of the chance to hit the pool with your buddies, forced into manual labor by your parents, and all the while there’s this constant YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP…it was too much for any man to take! I was trying to just get it done, get the yard mowed and if I couldn’t get to the pool at least I could take a shower and go to the movies to see Top Gun that night when all of a sudden, COUGH SPUTTER WHEEZE…the mower ran out of gas! I go to the garage to get the gas can and it’s empty! I had used the last of it to fill the mower the week before but forgotten to tell my dad so he could fill it up. Oh no! “Well, at least I was going to get a bike ride in that day,” I thought.
I got a bungee cord and strapped the gas can onto my bike and was rode the two miles each way to get the gas can filled up. Going out wasn’t too much of a problem even though it was mostly uphill. Coming back was a tricky proposition – the gas sloshing one way and then another made balancing the bike pretty difficult, but luckily I was able to coast a good way back since it was mostly downhill. Pulling into the driveway at the house, I hit the curb wrong and went down hard onto the sidewalk. Scraped up my arm and my knee, but worse of all about half the gas spilled out of the can! It just wasn’t my day. While I should have been thinking “A Scout is Cheerful,” I was just getting madder and madder at my poor luck. It was hot, I was injured, forced to do yardwork, wrecked my bike, spilled gas on the driveway and the whole time that stupid dog kept on YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP! It was too much to take!
I grabbed the gas can and went over to the mower, and filled it up. It had died pretty close to the fence between my yard and the neighbor’s and the dumb dog Scruffy was right there barking his fool head off. I had had enough. I went over to the dog’s water dish and put in the last little bit of gas left in the can. The dog, still barking, went over to the dish, sniffed it, lapped up the liquid, then stopped barking. Finally!
I started up the mower and was nearly finished mowing the lawn when I saw the strangest thing. Scruffy was going nuts! Running around in circles making the strangest noise I had ever heard from a dog, halfway between a growl and a yelp. He did this for a minute or two and then suddenly stopped and BAM!, fell over on the spot.
(At this point the story teller stops talking. When Mr. Fisher did this to us, we boys just stared at him waiting for him to go on, not wanting to ask the question we all had in our mind. Finally, one of the boys – or perhaps a planted extra adult if the boys don’t do it – will ask, “Did Scruffy die?”)
Nope, he just ran out of gas!
Note: No animals were harmed in the telling of this story. It is a joke, feeding gasoline to an animal will severely hurt or KILL it. Seriously, DON’T DO IT. Professional driver on a closed course. Do not attempt.