Old Three-Legs and a Camping Trip to Remember
They were more like brothers
The two boys had grown up together since kindergarten. They lived next door to each other, and were closer than brothers. When James joined the boy scouts, Steven signed up too. That had been two or three years ago, and they had spent many hours working on getting their badges, doing all the requirements carefully and having the Leader, Mr. Anderson, sign each place needed to finish what they needed to get their outdoorsman badge.
It had taken the two of them a long time to earn this badge, for there had been a lot to learn. They had to prove they knew how to tie all the knots, show in front of the whole scout group how to safely use a pocket knife,and having to recite all the rules they had to know in order to go on this camping trip, had been the last of a long list of requirements, or they would not be allowed to go on this camping trip at all. This was a big trip for the boys, for it was not just staying a night or two at a regular camp site, that was for the younger kids. They had spent half the summer preparing for this campout, and Mr. Anderson was taking only those who had every requirement finished, and had all the rules of the wild memorized for this trip was far out in the woods, where there would be no B-B-Q's , no bathrooms, no cabins, no anything but what nature had put there. It could mean someones life, if for example, a boy approached a hurt animal, or someone left food out.
The boys had to remember everything they had to bring, for the scout leader expected them to be prepared. This trip was almost like a graduation test sort of, and if all went as planned, both of the boys would get their outdoorsman badge, their wilderness badge, amd their first aid badges when they returned home.
James was confident about this excursion, and couldn't wait to go. Steven, on the other hand, had confided a secret to his best friend. This secret, something he had not told anyone before. rather embarressed him, but there wasn't anything he couldn't tell James. "I am afraid of the wilderness," he finally confessed to his friend.
"What do you mean you are afraid of the wilderness? Scared of the trees?" James teased .
"Oh shut up, you know that's not it, I am just afraid of something bad happening, like getting lost, or eaten by a bear, or bitten by a snake, stuff like that." Steven scolded back.
That was all that was said, and finally the day of the trip came. Everyone, and all their gear piled into the cars of the leaders and a few parents, and the next thing the boys knew, they were out in the wild mountains. They planned on sharing a tent, and set it up in the most level place they could find. It took longer than they thought, for there were rocks and sticks they had to move or sleeping wouldn't be comfortable. They all finished up together, had a quick supper, and gathered at the small campfire Mr. Anderson made for them to sit around and discuss what would be happening tomarrow.
"Now I want to remind all you boys to be sure to remember to put your flashlights under your pillows, in case you need to get up during the night, and if anyone has any problems through the night, remember the buddy system, and someone come get me, my tent is the big green one under the only oak tree here," and he pointed it out to everyone. "Are there any questions? No, alright then, scouts, hit the sack, we have a big day ahead of us tomarrow."
The boys scattered into different directions, each pair finding their own tents in the dark. James and Steven were not far from Mr Andersons tent, and they crawled in, finding each their flashlights, Steven held his while James zipped the tent up securely. " Wouldn't want any visitors during the night," he said to Steven.
"Like what kind of visitors?" Steven asked, without trying to sound scared. " Bugs and that kind of things you mean?" he asked.
"Well, those too, but I was thinkiing more along the lines of snakes, looking for a warm place to sleep, like in your sleeping bag with you!!" James said and jumped at Steven in the dark.
"Oh great, you just had to say that didn't you? I had not even thought about snakes at all" Steven said rather quietly. With that, both boys scrambled into their bags, and snuggled down, pulling the bags up around their chins. It was getting cold. Steven was laying there, wondering just how much sleep he would actually get. "James?" he whispered.
His answer back was the last thing Steven wanted to hear right then, and that was James snoring. Great he thought to himself, just great.
Steven must have fallen asleep right after that for the next thing he knew, he woke up out of a sound sleep, and sat straight up. He had heard something...."James,?" he said, did you hear something?"
All James did was "snooooooooore". Steven reached for his light and was so glad it was under his pillow. As he sat there trying to find the button to turn it on, he heard it again. Sure enough, he knew something woke him up. Not only did he hear something, but he heard it right outside of his tent. Not just outside of his tent, but right next to his sleeping bag, just then realizing that whatever was out there was only a foot or two away from him. It was so dark, he truly could not see his own hand in front of him. He was so scared, he just froze. The animal took one more step closer to him, and was trying to sniff Steven, right through the tent. He could feel the hot breathe of the animal, and could hear it as he sniffed in, and as it breathed out, he could again feel it's hot breath against his face. It was then that he realized how thin that tent really was. There was literally a fraction of an inch of soft material between him and death. He was so scared he could not move, or could not even call out to James and wake him up. He was afraid if he shouted he might scare whatever it was into attacking him.
Slowly he moved his thumb and clicked on his light. He was horrified to see the outline of an animals snout, pushing the tent in towards him, pushing it in to get a good smell of him. To Steven it looked big enough to be the muzzle of a bear. He began to shake, he was so scared. Suddenly the nose of the animal retreated, and for a minute Steven was curious as well, to know what it was. As the nose pulled back and began to lose contact with the tent, Steven slowly put his finger on the tent where the nose had been, seeing if he could feel it. The tent felt slghtly warm, and immidiately he saw the steam of the animal sniffing him.
The curiosity overwelmed his fear. If he didn't find out what was out there, he would never be able to go to sleep, for the whole rest of the night. He knew he would just lay there in tghe pitch black of the night, and imagine what it was that was about to eat him alive. Slowly he crawled to the front of the tent, and even more slowly he unzipped the tent, with one hand, and help the flashlight with the other. He crawled on all fours just far enough to stick his head out, and shone the light on the side of the tent where he had just been sleeping. There, right next to his side of the tent, was a dog, a dog who looked to be very dirty, and hurt. He had probably been someones pet once, for he showed little fear of Steven.
Wow, was he glad it was over, it was just a dog. He called to the dog, "Come here boy", and as the dog turned, he saw something that almost made him sick. The dog was injured. He only had three legs. Something horible had happened to him out here in the wilderness, and he had lost a leg. Now Steven felt really sorry for him, and thought "boy, he probably hasn't eaten in quite a while."
"Are you hungry boy?", he asked the dog. The dog just stood there, and maybe whined just a little as Steven talked to him. Steven crawled out of the tent, and went over to the scout leaders car, and emerged with a chunk of cheese, and a half a loaf of white bread. As he approached his own tent again, he once more tried to wake his friend, but still only got a snore out of him in return. He sat down in front of his tent, indian style, and broke off a small piece of cheese and threw it to the dog who was just sitting there. The dog ate the cheese. With each piece of cheese and bread he tossed, he threw it a shorter and shorter distance, and kept calling to the dog, saying, "Come on boy, I wont hurt you, come here. " Finally, after most of the food was gone, the dog was within reach, and Steven very slowly, with caution, reached out and let the dog smell his hand, then reached up and scratched him between his big old ears. The dog wagged his tail, and eventually came over and layed his head into Steven's lap. Steven spent the better part of an hour, just stroking the dogs big head. Finally, Steven got cold, and told the dog he had to go in and get some sleep. "I'll see you tomarrow boy." With that he zipped up the tent and went back to sleep.
The next thing he knew, his eyes flew open, and it was morning. Memories of the dog came flooding back into his head. Had he just dreamed the whole thing? He jumped up and opened the tent. There layiing curled up in front of his tent was the three-legged dog, as if he were guarding him. "Hi boy," he said, and reached down to pet him again. It had not been a dream.
Steven crawled out, scooting the dog over, and sat as he had the previous night, and the dog just crawled into his lap, as if he had known him forever. Steven was so happy, he hugged the dog, and just then he heard the tent of his scout leader unzipping.
"Look, " he was about to say "at the dog I found during the night.", but he never got those words out. His scout leader shouted over the top of him, "Steven, do not move a muscle. That is the Biggest wolf I have ever seen in all of my years of camping in these hills."
He had to be making a mistake, Steven thought, this is not a wild animal. Suddenly, all the rules of the scouts rushed into his head. All those things he had learned, he had simply disregarded. Not only had he approached a wild animal, but he had fed him. Not only had he done that, but the animal was injured, therefore dangerous. The seriousness of what he had done, hit him hard, and his heart started pounding. The scout leader told him to stand up very slowly, and move away, and he had a gun. No, he couldn't let that happen, it was his fault not the wolf's.
"Please don't, " Steven begged. "Let me prove to you he isn't dangerous. He stood up and petted the wolf as he had the night before. Then he said to him, "Go, go on, get." and the three-legged animal backed slowly off towards the woods. The scout leader held his fire, and the wolf retreated to his forest home.
Needless to say, Steven did not graduate with his friends, for he had broken just about every rule he had learned.. He did not get any of the badges he had tried to earn that summer. But, there was one good thing that did come of his whole camping experience, and that was he had lost his fear of the wilderness.
Steven and James went camping almost every year after that, in the same place. "Ol' Three Legs always showed up when they did, and every time would walk straight up to Steven. He seemed to have a special trust for him, for he never let any of the other boys touch him. Steven knew that Ol' Three Legs had been sent to watch over him, keeping him safe and just knowing this, Steven never feared the wilderness again. He also never broke any of the rules again, for he realized how different this story could have ended. Never feed a wild animal, and never touch or mess with a wounded or hurt animal. Those things he would never forget again.
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