story: richard stamats
let me start with this quote "the past is what you remember, imagine you remember, convince yourself you remember, or pretend you remember" by harold pinter and based on that here is my view.
a few of us were together in the same cub scout troop, danny aiken & dwight fraze it was danny's mom who was our den mother. i really looked forward to joining the boy scouts and we were amongst the youngest on the trip.
when it was decided to have this exciting trip it was necessary to get funds to buy our bus. some of the best times in the preparation were collecting paper for recycling. at first we went in cars and a small truck to neighborhoods all around fort wayne. on longer occasions when we could we got a big truck. it was a sight to see my mother, a very inexperienced driver carting us all around the town. i loved it when we got into these houses where folks had magazines and newspapers that were 20 plus years old, that was a bonanza for us. we collected tons of paper, but i never knew how much money was collected in total. often the air was brisk and the enthusiasm high. we had so much energy as we bounced out of the truck and scrambled back and forth. then as the truck carried us the insulation of paper kept us pretty warm, now i wonder why that is still so vivid in my mind.
some things are foggy, but i believe we also sold johnson & johnson first aid kits door to door. for me that was a fiasco. i did all right in selling the kits (didn't like it though), but because there was a very long delay in the products getting to us a few angry customers called.
the personal preparation for the trip included getting real camping gear, the right sleeping bag and air mattresses, which got used twice—once as a mattress and then as a float. it just took too long to inflate. then finding the proper shoes for all that hiking, pocket knives and flash lights. i must have visited the reliable store a dozen times looking at their camping stuff and being tempted to buy one those grab bags. then looking around your own possessions at home trying to figure what would be the most important and vital for the trip. by the early morning of the trip i was so keyed up one would think i had caffeine for my blood.
images flash in my mind more easily than any particular stories can be recalled. often the recollection is fragmented, incomplete or out of order. the first event of any note happened in illinois when our bus came to a stop. after a while we were permitted to get out, but stay near. i can now imagine how much fear there must have been among our chaperons. that one of us would be left behind at some rest area or gas station along the route. the line of vehicles was miles long, but at the vanishing point we could see a tall plume of smoke. i took my first photograph.
arriving in a park outside the cave near hannibal, missouri the atmosphere was electric. it was twilight and we made ready to camp. i believe we got a tour of the cave the next day. i remember seeing this portrait of mark twain someone did using candle smoke on the ceiling. it was a dry cave so no stalactites. (i say i believe, because time confuses these experiences with my family travels through many of these same locations.)
will resume when time permits...