Robert “Bob” Smith was my sophomore biology teacher at the American School of Monterrey, Mexico. He was also my scoutmaster. Sitting around the campfire one night during a backpacking trip into the nearby mountains, he told his young charges stories about rattlesnakes and other denizens of the wild. He explained that because snakes are cold-blooded, they have been known to escape the cool of the night by crawling into the warm bedding of unsuspecting campers. He had our attention. In response to our queries, he told us that if we found ourselves with a snake in our bed that we should hold really still and get help.
As we prepared to retire for the night, we retreated to a refreshing little stream in order to brush teeth and wash the dirt off our youthful faces. A blockage in the stream had resulted in a small pond—and the small pond was alive with little frogs. They were no bigger than the end of your thumb but they were active little boogers as they hopped all over the place. A devilish little thought crept into my muddled little mind.
We gathered up a couple of dozen small frogs and contained them in a mess kit. We picked out one of the younger, less experienced scouts and, while he was occupied away from his bed, we emptied those frogs from the mess kit into the very bottom of his mummy bag. As the sound of the bugle echoed off the pine-clad mountains and the embers glowed weakly from the dying fire, my buddies and I feigned slumber.
All of a sudden, there was a weak cry from the frog-laden sleeping bag. “Hey, guys. There’s something in my sleeping bag!” “Come on, Zimmerman,” said one of my buddies, “Just because Mr. Smith told us about snakes in our beds, you don’t have to pretend that it’s happening to you! Go to sleep!” “I’m not kidding! There’s something moving in my sleeping bag!” Zimmerman’s voice was quavering and his lip was quivering.
“I think he’s telling the truth,” I declared. We gathered around his sleeping bag and began a systematic questioning of the unsuspecting victim of our prank. “It’s down by my ankles. I can feel it slithering around down there!” After exploring several options, we told Zimmerman that, under the circumstances, and to keep him from being bitten, there was only one thing we could do.
As he lay rigid, not moving a muscle, we gently unzipped the mummy bag from under his chin down to the middle of his stomach, while keeping apprised of the “venomous snake’s” whereabouts. We then surrounded the bed, took a good grip on the sleeping bag and, at the count of three, proceeded to dump Zimmerman on his head with little frogs hopping blissfully all around him. Needless to say, instead of being overjoyed at his rescue and at his rescuers, his mouth turned down and he became a less than happy camper.
Well, Zimmerman survived the ordeal and, believe it or not, we actually remained on speaking terms and maintained a friendship that endured. Erwin T. Randall said, “Real friends are those who, when you’ve made a fool of yourself, don’t feel that you’ve done a permanent job.”
John Burroughs described a friend as, “One who’ll lend as quick as he’ll borrow, One who’s the same today and tomorrow, One who will share your joy—and sorrow, That’s what I call a friend. One when you’re gone will miss you sadly, One who’ll welcome you back again gladly, One who, though angered, will not speak madly, That’s what I call a friend. One who’s been fine when life seemed rotten, One whose ideals you have not forgotten, One who has given you more than you’ve gotten, That’s what I call a friend.”
You just can’t let a bunch of little frogs, planted by little minds, to come between friends…