I read your “Scouting Smoke Signals” article from the February 9 issue of The Waynedale News with much interest and fond memories of my days in the Boy Scouts. I’m now 71, so the following account happened a while ago.
BSA Troop 29, in Bantam CT, along with Litchfield, Morris and a few other surrounding troops, had access to a cabin in the woods. The White Memorial Foundation owned about 4000 acres around Bantum Lake, and had plenty to spare for philanthropic uses. They built a cabin and dug a well on five acres of wooded land set aside for the exclusive use of local Boy Scout troops.
During warm weather we camped in the pine trees around the cabin and cooked our meals on a potbelly stove. Stir-yer-own pudding was a favorite and so were hot dogs for lunch and bacon and pancakes for breakfast.
There was a stand of dead Chestnut trees about half a mile from the cabin that had been killed by the Chestnut Blight in the 30s. They were still standing back then, ranging from 18″ to 36″ in diameter, and were quite tall.
It was a big job for a 14-year old boy to cut down a 3-foot diameter tree. Chestnut is a very heavy, dense wood that makes excellent campfires, but after the tree was cut down with an axe, it had to be buck sawed into 3-foot lengths, which was hard work indeed. Then it had to be split in quarters or eighths, so we could carry it back to the cabin. “Jack Armstrong” and “Shanks Mare” was our only choice. It’s a fact that you are warmed three times if you burn wood, once when you cut it, once when you drag it home and once when you burn it.
My neighbor was my age and also in the Boy Scouts. One winter we nailed a wooden box on a pair of old wooden skis. On Saturday morning we put our camping gear and food for a weekend in the box and dragged the sledge over a hill and skied down the other side to the south shore of Bantum Lake. We removed our skies, put on our ice skates and drug the sledge across the frozen lake to the south shore, probably about 4 mile. Then we changed back to our skies and drug the sledge up the hill to the Boy Scout cabin. In retrospect I’m surprised that my parents ever let me go, especially since my father was a worrier and had to be in charge of everything I did.
Instead of camping in the cabin we set up our tent in the pine trees and piled snow around it to keep it from blowing away and to help keep us warm. We dug a pit right in front of our tent’s entrance, put stones around it and built a reflector fireplace. There was plenty of kindling lying around and some split Chestnut wood piled outside the cabin leftover from a previous trip. We weren’t cold during the night because we had army surplus sleeping bags. On Sunday afternoon we broke camp, loaded our stuff back in the sledge and tracked back home, none the worst for the wear or the cold. I remember that particular camping trip was one of the best I ever went on.
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