That night I waited in anticipation as my father drove away, the red 4Runner screeching down the hill with surprising speed. There were five others there with me, some older, some younger, but all there for one thing: The Ordeal.
Shiver shiver, little children, for the Bears are out to get you and the wolves bite hard!
To be honest, I don’t remember much of that night, whether it be because I don’t want to remember it, or because it was so dang AWESOME that I was slightly out of phase the whole time. But either way, I’ll do my best to recall.
We headed off, our things slung over our shoulders, following a boy dressed in mock Native American attire. I tried not to giggle as I watched his elaborate headdress, rocking back and forth as if it was taunting us. We arrived at an over dramatized Native American fire, staring at three others in their stoic, emotionless places.
After about 10 minutes of hollering and swearing oaths and dancing, we were all ushered up the hill in complete confusion. My twelve-year-old brain was still trying to make heads or tails of what was going on, and to make it all worse, I was told to stop while the rest of the group went on.
Plunged into complete darkness, I hastily laid out my stuff where I thought they were supposed to go and settled down for the night. Critters were scurrying, insects were buzzing and- Oh no, thunder was rumbling.
The rain went from sprinkles, to a shower, to a massive torrent of water pit-pattering down through the ground as if each drop was a full-fledged rhino. My sleeping bag quickly soaked through and I found myself in a pool of ice-cold rainwater. Resisting the urge to scream, my mind hollered, “Rain, rain, go away! Come again another day!”
But the ritualistic approach to all of this was broken as one of the older boys ran up to me. “Come on! We need to hurry!” he yelled over the rain, and I quickly pulled on my cold shoes, wrapped my belongings in my ground cloth, and ran with the boy through the darkness, hoping beyond hope that I would survive the night.
We made it to a cabin with an overhanging porch, and we all huddled below it. Quite accidentally we kept triggering motion-controlled floodlight, but before long we were purposely keeping it on to give us something to do. I unrolled my ground cloth to take inventory, but I soon fell short of myself:
My clothes were gone.
Everything else was there – My backpack, my water bottle, my sleeping bag and pad, the ground cloth itself… The only things missing were my jacket and the clothes I had been wearing before changing into pajamas.
I shouted to one of the leaders, “My clothes are missing!” Upon which they grabbed flashlights and headed back into the woods, hurrying upon seeing my cold, shivering figure. All I had when it came to clothing was my shoes, a white T-Shirt, fuzzy pants, and my glasses. Everything else that was meant to cover a person was lost in the woods.
Two boys and I waited under that cabin for what seemed like years. We silently conversed, and I tried not to cry at the prospect of spending the rest of the night in the cold rain, with nothing but a T-Shirt and thin pajama pants to keep me warm.
The boy leaders returned, availing nothing from their journey but the shirt I had been wearing, which now resembled more of a rag than a shirt (it had been torn on a tree branch). I thanked them and we were told to go to a pavilion, and we headed across the parking lot, running at full speed.
The caretaker of the camp, an older guy with a pointed white beard, came speeding towards us on a four wheeler. Upon seeing his face we all shrunk back: He was VERY pissed off.
“What are you kids doing? Stop vandalizing my property, assholes!”
We all stared dumbfounded at him. We weren’t vandalizing anything! Upon telling him that we weren’t meaning to mess around the camp, he rolled his eyes.
“That is such bullshit,” he glared at us, his eyes sending sparks into our very souls. I instantly recalled Santa, with the handlebar mustache and long white beard. Now I knew what he did with his spare time! And he hated kids!
At that moment the adult leader, a large man called Brother Peterson, arrived and took over the conversation. He told us to go to the pavilion and we did, laying out our sleeping bags and attempting to stay warm.
The rest of the night consisted of having to move to another pavilion, then a very uncomfortable and wet sleep followed by the rest of the ritual (which I cannot explain due to secrecy). The caretaker promptly kicked us out of the property we were using the next morning, not giving a crap as to what we needed or the condition we were in.
We continued forth, heading down to Bro. Peterson’s house to find service to do. It feels weird to be doing service for an odd ritualistic thing at the house of the one leading it, but we put those feelings aside and continued pulling out tall grass anyways.
And let me just say this: The next day of school was the most heavenly thing in the world. No arguments.