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Dogs Of Boytown

CHAPTER XII
CAMP BRITCHES

Spring came, and with it more training for Romulus, until Sam pronounced him a fairly well-broken bird dog. May drifted into June and June into July. Another school year came to a close and another long vacation period began. The great dog show was now a thing of ancient history and things were a bit slow in Boytown. It appeared essential to the happiness and welfare of numerous boys and dogs that something new should be undertaken.

It was Jimmie Rogers who suggested it, though there were a dozen active, eager minds ready to seize upon the idea and develop it. They were sitting on the bank of the swimming hole near the brickyard, resting after an hour's swim and warming themselves in the sun. The dogs were either wandering restlessly about in search of new adventures, or were stretched out at their masters' feet. The boys were somewhat languidly discussing the events of the Glorious Fourth just past, and bemoaning the fact that another one would be so long in coming.

"Fourth o' July's all right," remarked Jimmie, 184 "but I think the most fun in the whole world is camping out."

"Ho!" scoffed Harry Barton. "When did you ever go camping out?"

"I camped out one night with my father in an old shack over Oakdale way," asserted Jimmie.

"That isn't camping out," said Harry. "Camping out is living in a tent in the woods all summer, catching your own fish and cooking your own grub and—and everything."

"Did you ever do that?" demanded Jimmie.

Harry was forced to admit that he never did.

"Gee, I wish we could all go camping out this summer," said Ernest Whipple. "It would be great fun to take the dogs along."

"Well, why can't we?" inquired Jimmie.

Many of the boys held inwardly a well-founded notion that there would be serious parental objections to a plan of this kind, but their ready imaginations caught fire at the idea and they were soon in the midst of a lively discussion of plans that gradually settled down from the wild and fantastic to the faintly feasible. When they separated that afternoon it was with the hopeful belief that they were going to organize a camping expedition.

The expected parental opposition developed promptly and decidedly, but when a dozen American boys get 185 their hearts set on anything short of discovering the North Pole something is sure to happen. They did not quickly abandon their rosy project and they set about conquering the opposition by means of a determined siege.

The chief point of objection, of course, which indeed appeared insurmountable, was the natural belief on the part of parents that it would not be safe or wise to let their boys leave home and go camping out without the guardianship of some older person. No arguments could be invented to prevail against this. But help came from an unexpected quarter.

Theron Hammond's older brother, Alfred, a student at Yale and a steady, reliable sort of fellow, was spending his summer at home and was finding Boytown a bit dull after the activities of Junior year at college. One evening, when Theron had broached the subject for the fortieth time and his father had once more given a firm refusal, Alfred put in his oar.

"Aw, father," said he, "let him go and give us a little peace in the house. It won't hurt him."

"But, Alfred," said his father, "you know very well it would never do to let those boys go off alone. None of the parents would permit it."

"Suppose Horace and I went with them," suggested Alfred. Horace Ames was a classmate of Alfred's 186 who was also languishing in summer idleness in Boytown.

That put another face on the matter entirely. It must not be supposed that the victory was won at once, however. It required two weeks more of the siege to win capitulation all along the line. But the boys conquered at last. They liked and admired the college students and accepted their alliance with enthusiastic acclaim. Alfred talked it over with his chum, and the more they discussed it the more they felt that the conducting of this boy-and-dog camp would be great fun. Horace had brought home with him from New Haven the ugliest-looking and gentlest-tempered bulldog ever seen in the streets of Boytown. His name was Eli and Horace vowed he would give Eli the pleasure of camping out with the other dogs of Boytown. Eli was in training as a football mascot, and Horace asserted that a summer experience of this sort was just what he needed.

As their interest in the project grew, Alfred and Horace decided to take an active part in the campaign, and they called personally on every one of the doubting parents. Little by little they won them over until at last the success of the plan was assured. Mrs. Whipple was the last to give way, but Mr. Whipple had already been enlisted in the cause and he proved, as ever, a loyal advocate.

187 "You must remember, mother," said he, "that Jack is eleven years old now."

"Yes," said she, dubiously. In her eyes Jack was still a rosy-cheeked baby.

"It is never too soon for boys to gain self-reliance," said Mr. Whipple. "This camp will do Jack a lot of good, and Ernest, too. They'll have to hold their own on a common footing with the other boys, which is what they must do in later life. And Alfred and Horace are as reliable and trustworthy a pair of young fellows as I know. They won't let anything happen to our boys."

So at last even Mrs. Whipple granted a reluctant consent, and fourteen boys, besides the two older ones, were at last enrolled as members of the expedition. At first it had been understood that the camp was to include only members of the Humane Society, and would be a sort of club outing, but Mrs. Hammond suggested that the invitation be extended to include also any boy in town who owned a dog, on the ground that this might serve to recruit new members for the society. Alfred seconded this.

"The more the merrier," said he.

So the invitation was sent abroad and had already been accepted in two cases when the troublesome question of Dick Wheaton again arose. The boys didn't want Dick at the camp, and Dick evinced no interest 188 in the project, but the bars had been let down and there seemed to be no good excuse for not admitting Dick. Mrs. Hammond advised them to invite him, but before they had done so, the matter was taken out of their hands; the difficulty was solved for them.

One night Gyp, tired of his ill treatment, heartbroken, hopeless of ever being able to win his master's true affection, and doubtless seeking a happier home, ran away and was never again seen in Boytown. So Dick, since he no longer owned a dog, was automatically eliminated, much to the relief of those who did not want him. It seemed a just retribution that he should lose the creature that loved him so, but it is doubtful if Dick cared very much.

"I only hope," said Mrs. Hammond, when she was told about it, "that this will teach Dick a lesson and that poor Gyp will find a good master and pass the rest of his days in peace and happiness. He is a dear, loving little dog, and he deserves it."

Including Eli, there were fourteen dogs in the party, which was more than had at first been counted on, for not all the members of the Humane Society were dog owners, though the outsiders all had to be. It happened in this way: Frank Stoddard had long been pleading with his parents to be allowed to have a dog, and at last they surrendered and gave him one on his 189 birthday. Mr. Stoddard believed in doing nothing by halves and so he purchased a really fine young collie, sable and white, named MacTavish, and usually called Mac for short. So Frank had a canine companion for the camp and his cup of joy was full.

And there was still another new dog in town. Elliot Garfield's uncle, who knew of the boy's earnest desire to own a dog, sent him early in August an Old English sheepdog. The uncle wrote that he was going to travel a bit, and that if Elliot would guarantee to give his dog a good home, he might have him for his own. You may believe that Elliot was not slow in agreeing to that proposition. It was a pedigreed dog, named Darley's Launcelot of Middlesex. That was a name no one could be expected to use in calling a dog, and even Launcelot seemed a bit strange. So Elliot, who possibly lacked originality, rechristened him Rover.

Most of the residents of Boytown had never seen an Old English sheepdog before, and Rover attracted not a little attention on the street. Some people even laughed at his big round head, with hair over his eyes, and his shambling gait and lack of a tail, but they soon got used to him and came to admire his wonderful gray and white coat. And Rover turned out to be one of the jolliest dog companions in Boytown. He loved the water, and when he got his coat thoroughly 190 wet he seemed to shrink to half his normal size. He was really not much bigger than Romulus, but when his hair was dry and all fluffed out he looked as big as a Newfoundland.

With Rover and Mac added to the party, it began to look like a pretty big affair, as indeed it was. Alfred and Horace entered into the spirit of the thing with zest and arranged for the tents and general equipment. They had both been camping in the Adirondacks, and they knew just what was needed. So they drew up a list of the things each boy must provide for himself—warm blankets, a bag to be stuffed with sweet fern for a pillow, mosquito netting, and an aluminum plate, bowl, and cup for each boy, a dish for his dog, knives, forks, spoons, etc., besides the requisite clothing and toilet articles. It was all done very systematically.

There was one thing that bothered Alfred and Horace, and that was the cooking. They ordered a store of supplies, the boys having all contributed to a fund for that purpose, but that did not solve the problem of three meals a day. The boys had been inclined to pass over this detail somewhat lightly, but Alfred and Horace knew from experience that feeding a dozen hungry boys was no joke, and they didn't intend to have their vacation spoiled by the necessity of turning to themselves and doing all the work.

191 One day Mr. Morton stopped Alfred Hammond on the street and asked him how the plans for the camp were progressing.

"Everything is going finely," said Alfred, "except for two things. We shall have to postpone our start for a day or two because the tents haven't come yet. Then there's the question of the cooking. I'm blessed if I know how that gang of youngsters is going to be fed."

Mr. Morton stood and thought a moment.

"Maybe I can help you out," he said at length. "I'm just starting off on a little vacation myself, and I've been wondering what I'd do with Moses." (Moses was Mr. Morton's colored man-about-the-place.) "I haven't enough to keep him busy during my absence and it wouldn't do for him to fall into habits of idleness. How would you like to take Moses along with you, and guarantee to keep him out of mischief? He was once an assistant chef or something in a summer hotel, and I believe he's a first-rate cook. His services would cost you nothing, because I have to keep up his wages anyway. I'd be mighty glad to know that he was being kept busy."

"Say, that's mighty white of you, Mr. Morton," said Alfred. "Moses for ours. He's just what we need."

So that matter was settled. Mr. Morton explained 192 to Moses just what was required of him, and Moses became a not unwilling member of the party.

The tents, which had been ordered from New York, came at last. There were two of them, good-sized ones, each capable of accommodating seven of the younger boys and one of the older ones. Horace Ames had a small tent of his own which would serve for Moses. On the appointed day the boys congregated at the Whipples' stable, each bringing his personal equipment strapped up in his blanket. The camp site that had been chosen was at Mallard Lake, about nine miles from Boytown, and two wagons with drivers had been engaged to convey the outfit.

Presently one of these wagons appeared, containing Moses, Alfred, Horace, the tents, a stack of old lumber, a box of cooking utensils, and a second-hand kitchen range, besides a number of boxes containing provisions. When the boys had heaved their personal belongings aboard it made a big load. Then the human part of the expedition loaded itself into the second wagon, with much laughter and skylarking, and the party was ready to start. The dogs were allowed to run alongside, and a lively pack they were. Mrs. Whipple, with a look of anxiety still on her face, came to the gate to wave good-by.

They arrived at Mallard Lake about noon, and after unloading and sending back the wagons, they sat down 193 to partake of the picnic lunch that each had brought with him. Then came the task of pitching camp. It was no small thing to accomplish before dark, but there were many hands to engage in it and efficient leadership.

The camp was located in some pine woods that ran down close to the shore of the lake. On the other side of a little cape was a sandy beach that looked like a good swimming place. Across the lake there were two or three farmhouses, where the leaders had arranged for supplies of milk, eggs, butter, bread, and baked beans. All the available floating craft on the lake had been hired, and three rowboats and a canoe lay drawn up on the bank. A little way back in the woods was a spring of clear, pure, cold water for drinking purposes, and a pool where the milk and butter could be kept fresh.

The leaders told the boys, however, that they would have to wait another day before indulging in an exploration of the surroundings of the camp. There was much to be done before night, and all must get to work. The two tents were pitched on a little rise of ground back from the water, and each boy was set to work gathering balsam boughs for his bed. These were strewn a foot thick on the ground inside the tents and the blankets were spread upon them, each boy being assigned his place. They also stuffed their 194 pillows with balsam, waiting till another day to gather the fragrant sweet ferns in a near-by pasture. Each boy also cut stakes and drove them into the ground about his bed to hold his mosquito netting. Ropes were strung overhead to hold clothing, and there were two lanterns for each tent.

Moses, meantime, had pitched his own tent and made his own bed, and now they all turned to to help him knock together a rough shack to serve as cook house and pantry. Then a long dining table and benches were built and a frame erected over them on which was spread an old awning. The range was set up in the cook house, the provisions were stored away, firewood was cut, and Moses started preparations for supper. Soon a fragrant smoke was issuing from the stovepipe, which before long was mingled with the smell of frying bacon and other things cooking that made every boy acutely aware of his appetite. Still Alfred and Horace kept them at work, cleaning up around camp, laying a stone foundation for a campfire, and erecting a lean-to shelter for the dogs in stormy weather, for it was voted not to allow the dogs to come into the tents.

Moses made good his reputation as a cook, and a prodigious amount of provender disappeared at supper that night. The boys were in high spirits and so were the dogs. The latter, not yet accustomed to their new 195 surroundings, and not realizing that they were to stay there, were restless and excitable and gave some trouble, but they were at last persuaded to quiet down. It was decided to tie them to the lean-to for a few nights until they should learn the rules and regulations.

After supper, while the boys were gathering brushwood for a campfire, Jimmie Rogers hoisted the camp ensign, which created a roar of laughter. I must explain about this ensign and the name of the camp.

Some time before they had discussed the subject of naming the camp, but could agree on nothing. Mrs. Hammond had suggested Camp B. H. S., the letters being the initials of the Boytown Humane Society. This did not fully please the popular fancy, and yet they did not like to discard Mrs. Hammond's suggestion. They began trying to find a word or words in some way made up of B. H. S. Alfred Hammond suggested Camp Beeches. That sounded something like B. H. S., he said, and they would very likely find beech trees about the camp. They adopted this name for want of a better one, until Jimmie, in a moment of inspiration, changed it to Camp Breeches. This name really had no very deep meaning, but somehow it tickled the boys and it stuck, being still further revised in process of use to Camp Britches. The ensign which Jimmie tied to a sapling in front of the camp was an old pair of boy's trousers.

196 It would require a whole book to tell of all the episodes that went to make up the life of Camp Britches during the next week, of the fishing and swimming, the exploring expeditions and berrying parties, of how the boys built a landing wharf for the boats and a diving raft, and how they divided up the routine duties of the camp. Some of these episodes were glorious fun; some were not so pleasant; taken all together they made up a memorable experience. Moses proved to be a master at making griddle cakes and other good things, and once or twice a boy ate not wisely but too well, and required the attention of the camp physician, Horace Ames. But for the most part they were healthy and happy, and incidentally they learned many things about looking out for themselves.

One night a thunderstorm broke, a veritable cloudburst, and the boys had to put on their bathing trunks and go out and dig deeper trenches around the tents to keep the water from running in and soaking everything. On another occasion a high wind blew one of the tents down on its sleeping inmates, causing more fright than damage.

Perhaps the best part of it all was the evening campfire. By that time the boys were physically sufficiently weary to enjoy resting, and, the pangs of hunger being well satisfied through the ministrations of Moses, they 197 would light their pile of brushwood and lie about it, wrapped in blankets on the cool nights, and watch the flames and fondle their dogs, and gossip drowsily. Sometimes there was story telling, at which Albert Hammond was an artist. And one afternoon Sam Bumpus came by special invitation, walking all the way from his shack, and that evening they had stirring tales of moose and deer hunting in Maine.

Then, of course, there were always the dogs. Sometimes it seemed as though there were too many of them, and it was necessary to make each boy strictly accountable for the actions of his own. Mr. O'Brien was a constant source of trouble and unrest, and there were times when it almost seemed as though they would have to send him home. Still, everybody liked Mr. O'Brien, after all. Wicked as he was, he was as smart as a whip and he had a way of worming into your affections in spite of you. Romulus and Remus had to be watched because of a tendency to go roaming off together on hunting expeditions of their own. Rags was, as ever, a general favorite and heaps of fun, and Rover, the Old English sheepdog, proved to be almost as playful and humorous. He was wonderfully active for a dog who appeared to be so clumsy. He could hold his own in a scrap, too, as Mr. O'Brien learned to his sorrow. In aquatic sports, Rover shone.

198 Speaking of the dogs, there came a night when one of them nearly upset the entire camp. It was the handsome collie, MacTavish. He strayed away from camp in the evening and managed to get into trouble with a little animal that is sometimes found in the woods whose method of defense is peculiar. It was a black and white skunk. MacTavish returned, very unhappy, just as the boys were getting to sleep. Seeking help and consolation in his distress, he entered the tent where his master lay. In less time than it takes to tell it every inmate of that tent was out in the open air. Moses and Horace took the collie down to the lake, washed him as thoroughly as they could with strong tar soap, and then tied him out in the woods where the poor unfortunate's howls disturbed the camp's rest all night. They could not send him home, and it was two or three days before he was entirely fit for human companionship again.


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