Yeller: 12 year-old Boy Scout
Place: Horseshoe Scout Reservation
Time: May 2013
Remember that scene from The Office where Dwight starts a fake fire to teach his coworkers about fire safety?
To 99.9% of us, that was a hilarious scene from a funny show about people acting crazy in an otherwise mundane setting. But I have to think there’s.01% of people that watched that, went to bed, woke up in the middle of the night and whispered, “That’s perfect!”
When I was a kid in Boy Scouts, most of us completed a training course called “National Youth Leadership Training”. For two weekends in the spring, we tent out in an old scout camp, sing songs, tie rope, and do a bunch of team-building games. The whole thing was kind of a joke, just a mandatory retreat that anyone who wanted to hold a leadership position had to drag themselves through.
On day 1 we had to demonstrate how to do first aid on broken bones, cuts, burns, and no one took it seriously. All we did was come up with ridiculous scenarios and make up awful advice on how to treat someone. It was our only solace between singing about frogs, sharpening sticks with pocket knives, and getting those knives confiscated.
And that’s all it took, one round of goofing off. You’ll see what I mean.
The next day we were all sitting in a field playing a game where we try to juggle 5 balloons at once. The game was meant to teach us that instead of handling 5 tasks yourself, we should ask others to help share the load. Because leadership is about ask-
Everything stopped. We all heard what sounded like a pipe bomb go off from a distance. A massive orange smoke cloud appears from behind the main building. One of the leader’s walkies is going crazy, sounds of people screaming over his radio. He steps aside and talks into the walkie for a bit before turning to all of us, and screams, “LET’S GO!”
He takes off running toward the cloud, yelling at us to follow him! “Why are we going towards it?!?!” Some kid yelled back. “They need our help!” The leader yelled back. We all start jogging behind him, all of us asking each other, “Is this real?” It can’t be real, why and how would someone set off a bomb here? But also, this has to be real! Why would they set off a fake bomb in the camp?”
We get to behind the house, smoke is everywhere. This is totally fake. As the smoke starts to rise and clear up, we see a dozen bodies of leaders and staff writhing on the ground in agony, covered in blood! One had a piece of wood sticking through his chest, another’s eyeball had blown off. This is real! I see one kid who has a jacket covering part of his left arm, like he’s pretending that his arm was blown off. These guys are full of it, it’s fake. A scout goes over and removes the jacket, exposing his arm ACTUALLY BLOWN OFF with his bone sticking out! Holy crap this is real!!
Before I go any further, I’ll spoil it for you, this was fake. There was no real bomb, no real danger, just a fake canon, a few smoke bombs, and some professional prosthetics and makeup. All because we made a joke about first aid. But it’s absolutely amazing to me how stupid every one in that meeting had to have been to pull this off. Because you know they had a meeting.
There was definitely a meeting, probably talking about what size font to use for this years songbook, and right before everyone adjourned, someone said “hold on guys, I’ve got an idea, just in case they aren’t taking things seriously”. And not one person was like, “Well we could do that, OR…” because whatever the OR was would’ve been more effective and less traumatic. Also keep in mind, this was a few weeks after the bombing of the Boston marathon, very fresh in our adolescent minds. They couldn’t have thought “maybe it’s too soon” which means they must’ve thought, “they need this now more than ever”. Just ridiculous.
Back to it. After having an existential crisis of not feeling prepared to help a dying man who just had his arm blown off, a leader grabs me and tells me to help him. A group of us run down to him and get a closer look, seeing that the bone is just a prosthetic and his blood is basically strawberry syrup. However other, younger scouts are not convinced. There were kids like 12 years old taking this course. One kid fainted, another kid vomited right in front of me. Another kid got tons of fake blood all over his uniform. As we’re treating everyone’s fake injuries, mad as hell, we hear gunshots go off. Like, just for funsies. The fire department, police and ambulance show up and play along with this whole charade.
After we all calmed down, and/or woke up from fainting, they sat us all down with the policeman who told us all the things we should’ve done were this a real bombing. He told us how we should’ve been more careful to see whether there was another bomb, who planted the bomb, etc. But even he was like, “but I get it.”
That was weekend 1 of 2. Understandably there were far less people the second weekend. That weekend was mostly just us watching the staff regret every decision as they spend all day dealing with parents and lawyers about setting of a fake bomb around their children.
Having an experience like this makes you wonder, about what I like to think I’d do in a dire situation vs. what I would actually do. I like to think I’d be brave, first one to step in, but in the moment, I was terrified, hesitant. Me and the other scouts all shared a special bond that day. The leaders told us not to tell anyone, so we had shared trauma and a secret. But here I am telling you now, because although some may say I’m blowing it out of proportion (pun intended), I know a thing or two about bombshells.
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