Scout on the rails

Bang! Boom! Smash! The loud racket at the front of the train car broke the tranquility of my staring peacefully out the window. It seemed that one of the duffel bags had rolled off the overhead rack, landing on the head of its owner and his three companions. The ruckus that then followed was quite comical as the leanest of the group attempted to pick up the bag, which was filled with summer gear, and fell backward into the opposing seats across the aisle. Naturally, across from the boys were a group of young ladies who were equally amused and upset by the intrusion of the young man and the duffel bag, which were all now on the floor of the train between them. The ladies had their feet in the air now, shrieking and laughing at the same time. I am not sure which was louder, but this would continue all the way into the Port Jervis station.

The duffel bag itself was hard to miss, being an unusual shade of a bright red—odd, I thought, since mine always was the drab military green. The other odd part was the writing on the side of the bag: “BBB3” followed by even larger writing, “TROOP 366.” Growing up as a kid in Brooklyn I was an Eagle Scout with Troop 366 located out of the local Catholic grammar school, which was now a public school. I wondered if this could be my old troop and a few kids heading to camp up in Ten Mile River (TMR) Scout Camps in Narrowsburg. What a coincidence that would be. I have fond memories of my days in summer camp at TMR. One of our assistant scoutmasters was Ray Bushholtz, and he was a battalion chief with the NYC Fire Department. Mr. B was a great guy and always had some wild ideas to try at camp. One year I remember helping to unpack a load of rope with him; his mission that summer would be to build a rope bridge in camp.

This bridge would have made any adventurer proud. It would be a single rope to walk on, with two hand ropes to hold for balance, suspended between four large trees—two on each side—tied in the shape of an X. The scouts would help by practicing our knot-tying skills, and they had better be good, or someone was going to pay the price when it gave way.

I remember it took us two full days to complete, with Mr. B inspecting the knots and having some redone that were not up to par. Once it was completed, it was quite an awesome sight to behold. A person would start from the ground with a little help; next thing you would be up in the air between the Xs, daring to take that first step across the bridge.

Mr. B was looking around for a volunteer when I heard him say, “OK, Caska, you’re the biggest guy in the camp; you’re going first.” Just my luck, I thought to myself, but I was up for the task till I was between the Xs, ready to take my first step. I remember the look on the faces of the other kids the most, followed by how much the bridge swung. Gingerly I took my first step, followed by the second and third. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, and if you fell you would only be a few feet from the ground. From the top, though, it looked like a long way down.

I eventually made it across to the cheers and jeers of my fellow campers. A day I will never forget. I never got to ask that kid if he was in my old troop; he was off the train in a flash when we pulled into Port. In my mind, for a brief time, I was a Scout again. I was smiling as I stepped down from the train. Good memories will do that.


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