My days as a Boy Scout remain in my memory as neither notable nor misspent. In a small town, along with Little League, it became something for boys to do as an alternative to smoking catalpa tree seed pods.
(Sadly, that was a thing.)
Once, during a Scouting weekend in a neighboring town, I had my picture taken and published in the local newspaper. My newsworthiness stemmed from demonstrating how to fry an egg atop an emptied tin can.
The black-and-white photograph showed my rather prominent burr head and me hard at this task. In the half-century or so to follow, I have yet to cook another egg this way. I am convinced, however, that I could.
At summer camp, my troop would make its way to a forested place called Camp Lewallen, there to live rustically for a week, work on merit badges, paddle around Lake Potashnick and, in the case of my friends, try to avoid the torment of older boys working toward their Eagle rank.
Scouting might have camaraderie at its core, but the post-pubescent part of our ensemble picked unmercifully on younger campers, who, in turn, set a goal to stay out of their way.
They did supply one non-Scouting trick that proved fun and surprisingly effective. Sneaking into someone’s tent late at night, you applied shaving cream to a campmate’s hand, then tickled their face with a leaf. I saw this work as intended at least twice, both times with great hilarity.
As with the egg fried on the tin can, I have not been party to this in some time.
The summer days stretched out, but night left us to a world of flashlights. We wandered about until the scoutmasters coaxed us into our tents long after “Taps.”
My mind ran to this the other night when, during a storm, the electricity at my house went out for a few hours.
In the midst of some streaming show, a power hiccup occurred and my wife and I found ourselves in darkness. For several beats, we took this in, before I muttered the very cogent comment, “Um, that’s weird.”
Had I thought about it longer, I might have come up with the same thing. We’re blessed that electrical outages are weird.
One study a few years ago revealed that about 1.3 billion people around the world live without access to electricity.
That includes about a quarter of the people in India, a democracy with nuclear weapons but many of its citizens living in darkness. That includes sub-Saharan Africa, where seven in every 10 people lack access to electrical power.
In our case in St. Joseph, we composed ourselves momentarily and let cell phones lead our path to a working flashlight, after which my wife and I pondered on what we should focus the light beam. It would let us move safely around the house, but we had no place to go.
We discarded the idea of calling the utility company (surely, they knew the lights had gone out) and wondered if an emergency number existed to inform us how the Netflix program ended (it really had reached a crucial part).
Settling into the darkness, I offered that this really must be how our grandparents spent their years before rural electrification, a candle sufficing for a room’s light. Their candle, we conceded, probably did not have the “Beach Walk” scent of the one we lit.
Finally, we went to bed, only to be awakened hours later by the various beeps and squawks of re-energized devices and appliances. What a pain, goes modern thought, having to reset the clocks.