When four teenage boys get together, without a clear thinker among them, anything can happen and usually does. The chances that it would be something that Mom would not approve of are usually the rule and not the exception. There are usually only three things boys 16 to 18 years old think about and they are adventure, girls and food, but not always in that order.
Bob and his younger brother Wally, Richard and Mungo were chosen to represent their church at a statewide youth conference. Mungo was a nickname that had been shortened from Humungo, which was shortened from humungous. He was the largest of this foursome and, in fact, he was really large. This guy was a lot of fun be around and was always game for anything adventurous. This group thought of themselves as Christian young men and would never purposefully misrepresent or embarrass their church or family.
The youth conference was held at Camp Kulaqua in northern Florida. In its earlier days Kulaqua was a wild and beautiful place. A big, deep spring that was surrounded by large cypress trees and deep swamps was its central attraction. For housing in those days, there were only tents with sawmill shavings for floors, one bare light bulb hanging in the middle of the tent, and tent flaps for doors. The boys' campsite of four man tents was located on one side of the campgrounds and the girls on the other. Adult representatives were scattered here and there among the campers for supervision. They had their hands full and slept very little during those two days. With over 200 young people in attendance, socializing was bound to take place and at any hour.
Friday night was both fun and informative. Our four young men saw many of their old friends and heard some fine preaching. Most of the sermon that night was targeted at challenging the young people not to be afraid or embarrassed to be different, to step up and do things without concern about being noticed.
That very Sabbath morning the boys took the preacher up on his challenge. Maybe not in the context of his sermon, but they did get noticed. That morning found my four friends among some of the first to the food hall and then back to the tent to get dressed and ready for early services. Things were going well and because they were early, they were compelled to take an early morning stroll down to the river. The trail was well-kept and posed no threat to their church clothes or shoes. However, as they progressed down the trail, there was evidence that some wild hogs must have been visiting during the night. They had rooted furrows across the trail in several places, which was not an uncommon thing in this river hammock. Some of these animals were tame hogs that had become wild and others were the old wild breed that folks around there called piney woods rooters. These old rooters were smaller than the feral hogs, but they did have scary tusks. Their tusks stuck out about three or four inches on either side of their snout and could pose real danger if the animal were cornered. Bob and his Granddad had been run up an orange tree and kept up there for a couple of hours by one of these mean old tuskers. It almost killed his hunting dog by taking all the hide off on one side of his body. This earlier incident kept Bob alert to the possible need to take to a tree. However, surely no self-respecting wild boar would harass four nicely dressed young men on a Sabbath morning walk.
The woods smelled earthy and a heavy fog was lifting as the boys ambled down the river trail. They could hear a couple of owls getting in their last hoots before going to bed for the day. Then they heard a sound that they did not want to hear. From somewhere in the foggy thicket to their right, came the snorting grunts of wild hogs. Although they couldn't see them, their low rumbles were unmistakably threatening. The boys stood quietly and listened, but detecting no movement in their direction, they continued down the trail. Common sense screamed at all of them to turn back, but the call of the wild was just too strong. Suddenly the grunting sounds shifted, now they were coming from behind them and getting closer. This was the time for an escape plan. It was clear that Mungo was not going to be able to shimmy up a tree. He had spent too much time at the dinner table, too often. There was no turning back, so they double-timed it toward the river. They figured that since this trail formed a big loop back to camp that they would lose those hogs once they rounded the bend. As they jogged down the trail and around the bend, suddenly they came face to face with the tusker and his harem. Now that tusker began tossing clods of muck into the air as he sized-up the boys while planning his attack. Two old sows backed him up and echoing his threatening grunts. There was no doubt that the boys were not welcome in their hammock.
Cut off from the trail back to camp, they turned and headed back to the river. There, to the left, was a deep stream near the trail with a big log lying across it. The log seemed just made for their escape, since hogs don't normally walk logs. Three of the group made it without a speck of mud on their shoes or clothes and stood proudly on the other side marveling at their accomplishment. That moment of glory lasted only a briefly as they watched poor Mungo get baptized in black swamp water, church clothes and all. He had put considerably more pressure on the log than it could bear. After all four were on the other side, it was discovered they were on an island of muck and grass. The only way off that little island was the way they came, over that deep stream. The log bridge was gone and now it was for certain that their Sabbath go-to-meeting clothes were not going to church. Just as they were about to start to wade across, the tusked rooter reappeared with his girl friends. This threat cut off any possibility of returning to camp on that trail. The boys threw sticks and mud balls at that ugly warthog, but he didn't scare and only got madder.
After a long discussion, the four decided to pull off their shoes and swim across the swamp to another trail. It was time to put some swamp between them and those pigs. Perhaps those rooters had never been taught about the normal behavior for their breed because they immediately proceeded to swim the stream in pursuit. After about 45 minutes of wallowing in swamp slime and ooze, the hogs were finally evaded.
A new concern loomed heavy on four young minds. With the swine incident behind, they would have to face people - and girls. The only way back was right through the girls' campsite. Surely the girls had all gone to church - no such luck. It seems that the boys were not the only ones to be skipping services. As they approached the tents from the dark woods looking like four dirty swamp monsters, girls screamed and ran in all directions. Some girls watched and some giggled as those poor backsliders with no dignity left, slipped into their tent. A while later, after getting cleaned up, they quietly entered the food hall to find all eyes turned toward them. They felt the humiliation and despair that only a backslider, caught in his sins, could feel.
Their good clothes were ruined and their shoes had shrunk two sizes. The new church pants had dye all around the waistband from their leather belts. However, the preacher's challenge from the night before had been met, and they had overcome at great sacrifice. They had stepped out and done something and gotten noticed.
The next Sabbath this adventure was recalled from their local pulpit. How did their pastor find out about this escapade? They had each agreed never to mention this adventure to anyone, especially at church. Now that it was out in the open, the pastor said he would hog-tie them for a report on the plans for the youth for the coming year. The congregation chuckled.
After reading this story a person could conclude all kinds of object or moral lessons. However, the four involved learned their lessons well and over the years have handed down much wisdom and advice to their successors. Not that it has ever been taken seriously, especially when directed toward 16-18 year olds.
There's been a lot of water under the bridge (log) since those days. All those big, youthful adventures have supplied a lot of good memories over the years. By necessity, due to normal aging processes, some priorities have changed over the years though. However, these four old friends of mine still have only three things on their mind. That would be Heaven, a good night's sleep, and I can't seem to remember the third.
- Uncle Burney
(Story by Burney)