We hit the road for our first Cub Scout camping trip, to Westgate River Ranch, an outdoor oasis in the middle of anonymous, sprawling scrubland — a wonderland of vast fields, bulls standing sternly at fences daring you to come just a little closer, a rodeo arena with its dazzling orange dirt, a saloon, all on the wide and wild Kissimmee River. Other than a lesson on the joys of being immersed in the outdoors while with a couple hundred outstanding people, here’s what we learned:
1. Breathing in bugs from a bug cloud seems to bring on no adverse health effects.
2. Body odor dissipates surprisingly quickly while outdoors, even after three days’ worth of sweat and grime and campfire smoke have formed a slightly sticky layer of grossness over your entire body.
3. By day, a horse’s whinny is nourishment for the soul. In the middle of the night, it might as well be a car alarm.
4. Scratch that. It turns out that, in the middle of the night, a car alarm is much worse than a horse’s whinny.
5. Returning to your tent and seeing all your food being methodically marched away on the backs of ants might be more myth than reality, but the carpenter ants covering our tent tarp as we packed up were probably capable of this feat.
6. Even a hammock that’s knotted to trees by Scouts can come flying off if the boy inside it is swung with enough torque by his fellow, well-meaning Scouts.
7. It’s possible for a group of den leader dads running what was supposed to be a kids activity to put together an entire scarecrow before realizing that they didn’t exactly involve the kids, who were off playing over yonder somewhere.
8. Witnessing a hundred exuberant elementary-schoolers run after a terrified calf during a rodeo “Calf Scramble” shows that you can experience delight and horror at exactly the same time.
9. Attending a bull-riding competition does not really solve the mystery of why someone would ever want to ride a bull.
10. When they team up together, wildlife, sunshine, games, sweat, fires, marshmallows and friends will out-woo iPads in the bid for kids’ hearts. And it’s not even close.