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The ants got marching one by one...
Heath was more than happy to have the platform tent to himself this year. He had been going to Scout camp for four years, and this was the first Summer the Camp employed Heath as an Assistant Counselor. Every year prior to this, he had to share the platform with another camper, usually a friend in his troop, but nonetheless he had less space on the platform.
As a weeklong camp, Camp Retreat staff had twelve full campsites spread across 350 acres. They installed two single metal-framed beds to each tent on large wooden raised platforms to keep the campers off the ground. None of the Scouts had to bring their own bulky tenting gear and they slept in relative comfort for the week. Camp Retreat had been using the platform tent approach for as long as the Camp was in existence, and it was a novelty in the State.
Heath could be on his own now. Fine by him. He could go to bed when he wanted without fear of disturbing a tent mate or vice versa. He wouldn’t be able to pal around with anybody and chat during the night, but he had all day during the seven weeks to do that. For once, he’d be on his own.
The first night alone was wonderful. Silence. No snoring or excessive noises from tent mates. When he got up to get a shower the next morning, he noticed a small trail of tiny ants near one of the metal center poles that supported the Army canvas tent. The ants were all around the metal marching in and out between the wooden floor slats. A few had meandered up the pole a few inches. The vertical climb was obviously too much for them, though they were trying.
“Great,” Heath thought. He crushed a few with his shower sandal and ran to the shower. Even though he slept great, he was running behind.
As the Camp Bugler for those seven weeks, Heath had to be on time every morning. No exceptions. His shower would have to be fast, and if there was someone in the single stall shower, he’d have to wash up at the sink and take a shower later.
When he returned from the shower, he first checked the center pole, and sure enough, more ants. He checked his watch and he only had a few minutes to get to the dining hall, so he dressed and ran the 200 yards to be there on time with his bugle in hand. All of this week’s campers were already lined up and waiting for Reveille and the raising of the American flag.
When he blew the first notes to Reveille that morning, he saw one of his new tiny tent mates walk up the tarnished bell of his bugle. Since he knew Reveille down cold, his mind could wander to how many other of the tiny friends were in and around the horn. No one else would have to know about his new friends, but hopefully they would be a trend.
Heath didn’t pay the ants much attention that day or any day that week for that matter. His new routine was to stamp out a few ants in the morning and hope they didn’t invade his tent throughout the day.
In the middle of week four, another staffer stopped by Heath’s tent and the ants were the first thing Manny noticed when he pulled open the canvas flap.
“What’s with the ants?” Manny asked.
“Just my guests, that’s all,” said Heath with a nervous laugh.
“Dude, you’ve got a mess on your hands. My dad’s an exterminator and…”
Manny opened the flap, jumped off the platform, and turned on his flashlight app. He shined the light under the platform.
“Just what I thought, Heath. I’ve seen this before. Here, take a look.”
Heath knelt down and looked under the platform.
“Eww,” he said. He counted seven large ant hills under the platform, and they all were showing signs of plenty of activity.
“Might want to see if you can get a new tent, Boss. I’ve seen worse in my father’s business, but not many. Surprised they’re not crawling on you all the time, especially if you have any sweets laying around.”
Two days after he had moved to a different tent platform nearby, Heath was feeling good about his situation.
How’d I endure those ants for all those weeks? I got lucky.
Even as he blew Reveille on the last day of the fourth week, he was considering his good fortune.
Reveille started out normal, but then Heath glanced down at his mouthpiece and three ants were on the move towards his mouth with another dozen mounting a reinforcement attack on the stem of the horn. The two dozen on the bell now were of little concern when the first three marched onto Heath’s lips.
“Interesting rendition of Yellow Rose of Texas, Heath,” the Camp Director said later. “How ‘bout we stick to the traditional Reveille next time.”
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