Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Angel: Part 8

Sunday, December 23

            The electricity was out again. Not for the whole building like last time. This time luck had just targeted the stage lighting. The whole sanctuary was lit except for the part that was supposed to have every eye focused on it. It was ironic for certain, but it was an hour until the show and Jeff wasn't in the mood to see the humor.
            "How soon did you say that she could get here?" he asked Samuel for the hundredth time.
            "She'll be here in a few minutes," Samuel answered. "Don't worry about it. She fixed things last time, and this time it's just the lights. My bet is that she'll have it running in less than thirty minutes."
            "She'd better or this play is toast," Jeff said over-dramatically.
            "Jeff, you're freaking out again," Samuel said in a calm voice. "I thought that we had already talked about this."
            "We did, and it's a good concept except for when you actually have to practice it," Jeff said. "I can't calm down. My nerves are fried."
            "Stressing about it isn't going to fix a thing," Samuel said reasonably. "Besides, what is it that you've learned this week?"
            "That God's in control," Jeff said, "but..."
            "No but's," Samuel cut him off. "God doesn't deal in them." The doors at the back of the sanctuary crashed open and Michel rushed in lugging her massive tool box. "As it happens, you're angel of electronics is here."

Christmas Angel: Part 7

Saturday, December 22

            It was 8 in the morning, and Jeff had already been up for two hours. His brain was full of everything that had happened in the past few days, and he had only been able to grab a few hour reprieve from it last night. Less than twenty minutes ago he had bundled up to face the cold weather and walk the streets in an attempt to forget the things that were bothering him. Last night it had seemed as though he knew exactly what it was that he had to do. He had also been fully prepared to let God take care of the results. They say that clarity comes with the light of day, but for Jeff it had only brought confusion and uncertainty. He still knew what he had to do, knew it in his heart but not in his head. He kept worrying about what would happen and how he could change the outcome.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Angel: Part 6

Friday, December 21

“Try that scene again,” Jeff called from his usual seat in the second pew. “It was good, but this time, try to make me believe that you’re actually invested.”
As the actors began the scene again, Jeff smiled to himself in contentment. It seemed that when he wasn’t stressing out, the actors didn’t either. At the beginning of the week, they had had their lines down almost perfectly, but over the past two days, their bearing and carriage had become significantly more believable. Either he was a much better director than he knew, or his assistant was correct.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Angel: Part 5

Thursday, December 20

             Jeff smiled to himself as he locked up the church. Play practice had just ended, and it had been a good one. The actors knew their lines almost impeccably now, and the technical problems were a thing of the past. Samuel was proving to be invaluable, and Jeff wondered how he had managed before. The man could do almost everything and seemed to have precognition. He knew what Jeff wanted almost before he knew himself and had it done in no time. He also had a lot of initiative, often perfecting sets or costumes without any orders to do so. The man was a theater god, it seemed.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Angel: Part 4

Wednesday, December 19

            When he had gone to sleep the previous night, Jeff had had every intention of ignoring Samuel's suggestion to forget about play practice. He knew that the suggestion had been made with good intentions, but the play was his responsibility, and he simply couldn't leave it to someone that he hardly knew. He wasn't sure exactly what happened or changed during the night, but when he woke in the morning, he had decided that he would let his assistant take care of practice today. Perhaps Samuel was right; he did need a break from it for a day.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Angel: Part 3

Tuesday, December 18

            It was almost ten o'clock before Jeff woke up. In the wake of the power outage, he had postponed practice for today until the afternoon to give the power company time to fix the problem. It might have just been his slightly pessimistic mood carrying over from the previous day, but he didn't have a lot of confidence that they would get t he job done in time for practice. Nevertheless, he would be there well ahead of time to get everything ready if the electricity was fixed and to cancel if it was not. He owed that to his cast and crew. But practice wasn't until two o'clock; he could lay in bed for another hour or so, but he wasn't tired anymore and probably wouldn't be able to sleep. Not to mention that his sleep last night had been filled with nightmares that he didn't even want to think about revisiting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Angel: Part 2

Monday, December 17

            Jeff woke early the next morning to avoid the rest of his family. After the short altercation with them last night, he didn't really feel like confronting them until later. He stopped by the kitchen and grabbed some of the leftovers from dinner last night, then headed outside and toward the church. He felt better than last night, but probably only because he wasn't living in a state of miner hypothermia. His problems with Melissa kept crowding his mind. He just needed to get to the church and get busy with something to occupy his mind.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Angel: Part 1

Sunday, December 16

           “Lights! Camera! Action!” Jeffery Byron thought. “Or whatever they say in theater.”
            It was the first full rehearsal of his church’s Christmas play and he waited with baited breath, hoping that it would go well. The actors seemed to be getting their lines in previous practices and the crew had just finished with the props for the sets. The sound and light guys were the only variables in this equation that might ruin things. Or so he thought.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Christmas Angel: Introduction

"Christmas Angel" is an original Christmas story written by your's truely. In my own fashion, I am trying to convey the true meaning of Christmas in a (relatively) new and fresh way. Enjoy the story and come back preiodically before Christmas to read all 8 parts.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Philmont Journal: Day 13

Day 13: June 22, 2012

            We only had 4 or 5 miles to go today so we didn't start right off. We were unable to get signed up for program yesterday so we did it today at 8 am. The activity was spar pole climbing which is essentially climbing really tall, wooden poles with no handholds whatsoever. Instead, you climb using boot spikes and a strap that run around the far side of the pole. Again Nash bragged that he was going to beat us all and again he was beat. My youngest brother beat him by the most. The whole experience was fun; there's just nothing quite like hanging out over empty space by nothing besides two spikes on your boots! Out crew went quickly (because we were awesome and competent like that) while some of the other crews had issues. of course, the problems always seemed to be with that one kid. You know the one that I'm talking about; the one that probably joined scouts because his parents made him and looks like he hasn't seen the like of day in two or three years. Invariably, they try and try to get up the pole but just manage to look like a cat trying to climb a sanded down, greased tree trunk. One that's made out of metal.
            After the program we headed down to the burrow pen and tried to wrestle our two devil spawn into their packs. Murphy seemed to be a lot better from the previous day and went into his pack much more easily. Within 28 minutes, we were on the trail. With the end of our trip in sight, the hiking went by quickly and we arrived at Ponill, our last camp, at 2 or so and took our burrows down to the pen to return them. The wrangler that we were returning them to was really funny in a straight-faced, sarcastic sort of way. It was at least a quarter of a mile from the porch (where we left our packs) to the burrow pen, so when Michael left our crew sheet with his pack, the wrangler made him go get it. Michael went running up to get the sheet and running back. The wrangler took the sheet, looked at it, and said, "Have you gotten this thing stamped yet?" Of course Michael looked at him a little weird because stamps aren't a thing but answered that he hadn't gotten it stamped yet since we had just gotten into camp. The wrangler told Michael that he would have to get it stamped before we could return our burrows. The look on Michael's face was hilarious until the wrangler told him that he was kidding.
            After turning in our burrows, we headed up to the porch for a talk which turned out to be incredibly entertaining. I arrived to it about 10 minutes late, and the first thing that I remember was the girl who was giving it talking about the shower schedule. Essentially there was a set number of times that crews could shower, and one of the adults from a different crew was not happy about it. Later we speculated that this man was drunk out of his mind when he signed up for this trip because he thought that he was at the Hilton with the way that he expected to be treated. I mean seriously dude, have you ever heard of roughing it? He wasn't pleased with the schedule, the fact that only one shower slot was open for the rest of the day, or anything for that matter. Naturally he was ticked off that the schedule only ran until 3 pm (to conserve water for dinner. I guess he would have rather gone without food)and that all of the times left open for the following day were too early. He was on a real role, chewing out the (female) ranger in what I thought was a very un-Boy Scoutly manner and it seemed like he would go for a while until he said irritable that he hadn't had a shower in eight days!
            "Wow!" I said. "You had a shower eight days ago?! You're lucky!" (we hadn't showered in 12 days) That kind of took the wind out of his sails and he shut up after that.
            We did arrive in camp in time to sign up for a pistol shooting event called the "Action Cowboy Shooting" program. We sat through yet another ridiculously long safety briefing like we did before any semi-dangerous event at Philmont (these events included rifle shooting, spare pole climbing, rock climbing, whittling, preparing food with sharp knives, preparing food with dull knives, eating marshmallows, and sleeping on foam). Once the great brief was over, we headed to the range. Before we could shoot, we had to come up with western names and catch phrases. I gave up my best name to Paul and went with Pistol Pete (Paul's name was Presto Paul the two toed cowboy. "Sometimes I don't get the pistol all of the way out of the holster," he explained). My catch phrase was "Help your local medic...double tap!"  As you can imagine, this went over like a lead balloon with the staff, but for that to matter to me I'd actually have to care what they thought. After all of the hoops that we had to jump through, we got to shoot a whopping 5 shots out of the .38 specials. It was fun but seemed like a bloody lot of work to go through for five shots. It's be like going through a huge long safety brief and such so that I could climb five feet on a climbing wall (I'm over 6 feet tall).
            It was close to dinner time, so we headed back to camp to get ready. Today we had a "Chuck Wagon Dinner" which meant that we didn't have to cook. We were happy to see that though we were not eating dehydrated meals, they stuck to their policy of not feeding us enough food. There's nothing quite as bad as actually being, oh I don't know, FILLED UP by your meals. Too much energy is bad, or something like that. Anyway, while we were getting our dishes from camp, Nash spotted a baby bird being fed by its mother. It was so cute; there's nothing quite like seeing an animal throw up into another animal's mouth in terms of cuteness! The mother finished and flew off, followed moments later by the baby. Near as I can tell, this was the figurative 30 year old bird who still lives in his parents' basement.
            The final highlight of the evening was the cantina show that the staff put on. They were very talented (probably still are) and sang songs and played the guitar, fiddle, piano, and even an upright base. The best part of the show, however, was our fire safety briefing. "There are 3 signs that something is on fire," the guy said. "1. smoke, 2. heat, 3. THERE'S FIRE ON IT!" He also had such gems as, "Statistically, 99% of deaths by forest fire happen in the forest while only 1% occur in tents. So should you find yourself in an inferno, head for your tent and wait it out. Statistically, you are more likely to survive." My personal favorite was, "We all remember Stop, Drop, and Roll. Should you find yourself on fire, Stop next to your friends, Drop them with a fire punch, and Roll all over them."
            All in all, Ponill was a good camp for our last night of the trip.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Unsung Heroes: Jason Dundrum Part 6

            Jason was at the city gate well before sunrise the next morning. He had stayed at the tavern until early this morning, discussing and improving the plan that he had devised. Immediately following that, he had gone to his house with Brandon and they both had packed what they could. Now they stood side-by-side at the city gates, waiting for the villagers to arrive. They hadn’t gotten any sleep since noon on the previous day, but the effects of that wouldn’t hit them until later; right now they had enough energy to take on an army.
            Seven men on horseback approached the gate and stopped when they reached the two men there.
             “Well, Jason,” the leader said. “Let’s hope that this plan works. We’ll meet you at Lake Caplin as soon as we can and let you know how much support you’ll have.”
            “Very good,” Jason said. “I’ll make sure that our men move slowly. We’ll reach the lake in exactly seven days. If you arrive before that, wait for us to go into camp.”
            “We’ll meet you there,” the rider said. To the other horsemen, “Gentlemen, you know what your jobs are. See you in a week.”
            Jason watched as the horsemen rode off in all directions. Whether their leader realized it or not, he had given them purpose by calling them ‘gentlemen,’ something that they had never been called before. For the first time in their lives, they had been called not by the name of slaves, servants, or property but of real men. For the first time, they had a cause to fight for.
            The rest of the villagers began to arrive soon after the riders left and continued to trickle in until half an hour after sunrise. By the time Jason surmised that the full number had arrived, the small army stood one hundred and thirty-seven strong. Only about half of them were in what Jason considered to be the optimal fighting age with the rest being too old or too young, but he wasn’t about to complain. There was a lot to be said for having bodies on the battle field no matter the age, even if it was just to scare the other side.
            As Jason scanned the make-shift army, he noticed the ill preparedness of the group. Though it was to be expected out of a group of peasants, it still didn’t make him happy. There was only a handful of weapons among the people, a few swords and spears. Most of the soldiers, Jason already thought of the ragtag bunch as soldiers, were armed with pitchforks, quarter staves, scythes, sickles, and other tools. Bows were scattered throughout the army, but they were hunting bows and not intended for war. It was uncertain what use they would be against armored soldiers. Jason gave an inward sigh while keeping his outward visage one of utter confidence. He had known that what he was proposing would be difficult, but the magnitude of that difficulty was just now setting in. He nodded to Brandon who called out the command to move out; coming from Brandon, no one could mistake the command for anything else, and the small army left the city and began their long journey to Lake Caplin.
            The army snaked its way across the terrain at a pace much slower than Jason would have liked but no slower than he expected. He and Brandon walked off to the side of the soldiers, examining them throughout the day.  They didn’t move like a well-trained army because they weren’t one but instead stretched and compressed like an accordion. Their bearing was nothing like that of an army nor did it appear as though their discipline was. Jason had known that they wouldn’t be as disciplined or as skilled as trained soldiers, but even so the quality of their abilities disappointed him.
            Most importantly of all, they appeared to lack unity. Grudges and feuds ran through the ranks which was to be expected of the citizens of a town, but Jason knew that they would tear the unity of the group apart which would be devastating to them in battle. He would have to do something about it, but what he didn’t know. At least he would have time to think about it on the march.


Jason and Brandon sat at a distance from the army eating food that they had packed. The provisions of most of the soldiers were less than he had expected which meant that he would have to start tasking people to scout ahead of the army and hunt for food. It was just another problem to stack on top of all of the others. This was turning out to be a lot more trouble than Jason had expected.
“Are you going to finish your food?” Brandon asked.
Jason looked down at the bread that he still held but was not hungry for. With a shake of his head he handed it to Brandon who quickly scarfed it down. Jason watched his friend, knowing that he should eat, but not finding the appetite. Something about having the fate of so many people resting on him made him not hungry.
“Brandon, you know what our situation with food is, right?” Jason asked suddenly.
“Yeah, we don’t have much of it,” Brandon answered. “It’ll never last for a week of marching.”
“I know,” Jason said. “That’s why I need you to take a group of soldiers to scout ahead and hunt for the army.”
“Sure thing, Jason,” Brandon agreed.
“I want you to take the people that you think will make the best soldiers and work with them while you’re scouting,” Jason continued. “This army has no cohesion, and it needs some. Take people who have potential but don’t get along. Hopefully pushing them into a group together will force them to work out their differences.”
“You don’t think that that will cause problems between them?” Brandon asked. “What happens when they don’t settle their differences and are at each others' throats the entire time?”
“They’ll need to work out their differences if we’re going to survive a single battle,” Jason countered. “I’d rather have the rough patches out here where it isn’t a matter of life and death.”
“If you say so, boss,” Brandon conceded. “When do you want me to start the hunting? Today?”
“No, we have enough to last for another day or so,” Jason said. “Start mixing with the soldiers and choose the ones that you want to take with you. You’ll begin scouting and hunting tomorrow morning. Since you’re scouting, you’ll be leaving considerably before the rest of the army.”
“Understood,” Brandon said. “Is that all on that subject?”
“I think so,” Jason said. “I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.”
“In that case, I would like to bring up a few things that I have been observing,” Brandon said.
“Knock yourself out,” Jason said.
            “Well, obviously all of our soldiers are peasants, so they have no idea how to do things in a military setting,” Brandon began.
            “True, but then again, neither do we,” Jason countered. “Everything that we ‘know’ is all guesswork and observation.”
            “Half of the power of an army is their ability to look impressive,” Brandon said, “but we can’t do that unless we’re uniform and all look the same. We may not know the way that the baron’s army does things, but that doesn’t matter. All that we have to do is standardize what we do so that we look professional and cohesive.”
            “That is probably true,” Jason agreed. “What are you suggesting?”
            “I think that we should set aside an hour or two every day after we are done marching to teach the soldiers a standard way of doing things like marching. That way we’re all on the same page. I also think that it would be a good idea to evaluate the men on their fighting abilities and train them as much as we can.”
            “That is a good idea,” Jason agreed. “I would put you in charge of that, but you are already going to have to be dealing with your group of scouts. Do you know anyone else who might have the ability and experience to teach the soldiers?”
            “Not yet, but I’ll find out,” Brandon said.
            "Good," Jason said and stood up. "Now, go spread the word to get ready to move out."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Unsung Heroes: Jason Dundrum Part 5

            “So, do you think that this will actually work?” Brandon asked as he and Jason headed back toward the tavern. It had been several hours since they had left, and they were hoping that almost everyone had cleared out by now.
            “It has a good chance of working, yes,” Jason answered with more confidence than he actually had. He knew that the most important part of a plan was to get people to trust in it, even if it was shaky.
            “So what are we going back to the tavern for?” Brandon asked.
            “Mr. Sheridan said that he would get a group of supporters together to meet me later tonight,” Jason explained. “There are several parts to my plan, and every one of them needs a reliable person doing it. Tonight I’ll have several people to choose from to do these things.”
            “I can do something,” Brandon said, hurt that his friend hadn’t considered him first.
            “I know you would try your best, but let’s face it Brandon, you wouldn’t be able to convince the king that his barons have risen up against him, nor could you convince the barons that the king is planning to dispose of them. I will feel best if I have you backing me up when I go to talk to the other peasants.”
            Brandon nodded and dropped the issue. Jason’s answer had stung, but he knew that it was true. He was not the diplomatic sort; in fact, his attempts to reason with people often ended with him throwing someone out of a window. This approach was actually pretty effective for your normal everyday peasant who had just cheated at Poker, but kings tended to not take kindly to it and Brandon was rather attached to his head.
            Jason led the way around the back of the tavern and used a service door to gain entrance to the building’s kitchen. Mr. Sheridan’s daughter and son were there cleaning and looked up only briefly to see who had entered. The boy motioned with a thumb to a private room off to the right and Jason headed straight for it. Brandon headed toward the main room of the tavern and began his patrol as had been agreed upon before. With the giant on guard, no one would be entering the building without Jason’s knowledge.
            The room that Jason entered was small containing only a small table and a dozen or so chairs. Stacks of small, colored chips stood in front of each chair, poker chips if Jason was not mistaken, and a large floorboard in the corner had been pulled up. Jason decided that the chips would be used for camouflage to hide the true purpose of the meeting should someone walk in on them but wondered what the raised floorboard was for. It was too small to be an escape passage. Mr. Sheridan sat at the head of the table and was flanked on either side by five men. All looked up as Jason as he entered the room.
            “Jason,” Mr. Sheridan said. “Take a seat and we can begin.”
            Jason stepped to the only empty seat, the one on the end of the table, and sat down. All eyes were on him and once again he felt a moment of discomfort. This gathering would be examining his plan in detail and, whether he liked it or not, their decision would decide whether it succeeded or not.
            “So, Jason,” Mr. Sheridan said. “We’re here because we think that your plan may have some merit to it. Explain it again in full with all of the details so that we know exactly what will be required of us and the people.”
            For a long time Jason explained his plan much as before in the tavern but with many more details. The men would periodically stop him to ask questions and challenge certain aspects of the plan, but Jason was never stumped. He had thought through the situation thoroughly and had contingency plans for everything except for one situation. He didn’t bring it up himself and hoped that no one would think of it, not only because he thought it unlikely but also because it would be the single most detrimental thing that could ever happen during his scheme. To his relief, no one at the table thought to ask the right question, and an hour after Jason began, they had all agreed to the plan. During this whole process, one of the men, one of the only educated peasants, had been writing on several sheets of paper. When the council had finished questioning Jason, he spread his notes across the table with two large maps, one of the surrounding areas and one of the whole country. With a pencil, he began to mark lines and symbols on the maps, indicating the different stages in Jason’s plan.
            Jason watched as the process continued, amazed at the way in which the scribe was able to transpose his plan onto the maps. He was unfamiliar with all of the symbols that were used but was still able to get a fairly specific idea of what was being drawn. Probably because he had invented the plan and knew all parts of it intimately. He listened to the scribe talk as he wrote, correcting him occasionally. In a quarter of an hour, the whole thing was on the maps on the table and another discussion began. Once again, the council began to question and discuss different aspects of the plan, and Jason had to defend them again. Several suggestions were made to improve the plan, many of which he refuted and dismissed easily, but some of which he agreed with a saw implemented. One of the most obvious was that he had planned on waiting until all of the peasants were assembled to talk to them, but one of the men in the room suggested sending out riders to meet the armies coming from each village to talk to them separately. This way, the opinions of a large crowd wouldn’t affect the arguments that were being made. Should one group of villagers reject them, the others might still agree. This would also give the conspirators a larger support base when they reached the barons’ armies.
            Three sharp raps on the closed door interrupted their deliberations and immediately the maps and notes were swept off of the table and stuffed under the floor board in the corner. One of the men pulled a deck of cards from his pocket and began to shuffle and deal to each of the members of the council. Twelve people was a few too many for the typical poker game, Jason knew, but perhaps it would stand up to scrutiny should that be necessary. He collected his cards and looked at them, not really understanding what he was seeing. He had never played poker before, leaving such ventures to Brandon who was inordinately good at this sort of thing. People began to throw chips into the middle of the table and his quick eye picked up on what was happening. He matched the bid of the man before him and waited for the biding to come to an end. Calling for two cards like several of the men before him, he looked at his new hand and still didn’t understand what he was looking at. He knew that multiple cards of the same kind was good, but he didn’t know how good. He continued to bid until the end and laid his cards on the table with everyone else. Apparently two cards of one kind and three of another was good enough to win all of the chips in the middle of the table. As he raked the pot toward himself, he decided that poker was actually fun.
            Two hands later, there was another knock at the door, this time only one. The council instantly forgot about their game and pulled the maps back out onto the table and began to debate and discuss again. Jason settled back for the long night that he knew lay ahead of him.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Unsung Heroes: Jason Dundrum Part 4

            “My proposition to all of you,” Jason began, “is that we arm ourselves as best we can and go to meet the baron. Now I know that it has been said that I think that we should go and fight for the baron, but I do not. We should go and agree to fight for him only if he does something for us.”
            “And what exactly do you think that you can get out of the baron?” a villager asked.
            “Rights,” Jason answered immediately. “Freedom, for instance, to enter and leave the baron’s lands without his express permission. Rights to own property. Freedom from imprisonment without cause. Rights such as these that no one can take away from us. That is what I would bargain with the baron for.”
            “Bargain with the baron?” a dissenter snorted. “You cannot bargain with the baron when he holds all of the cards.”
            “He doesn’t hold all of them,” Jason shot back. “He has called for us to assemble and help his army. That means that he finally had need of us, and his need is a weakness. That is our bargaining chip.”
            “I still don’t think that it will work, and I’m not willing to risk my life on some half-baked plan that you invented,” the villager said.
            “You risk your life by staying here,” Jason countered. “If you wish to save your measly skin so much, you will go to fight for the baron anyway and take your chances with the king’s army. We find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place; the trick is to find a way to squeeze out from between them and come out on top.”
            “And you have a way to do that?” a villager asked.
            “I believe that I do,” Jason answered. “If our baron has resorted to recruiting us, that means that he and the barons that he is meeting with have finally run out of resources and fighting men to run this war off of. If my guess is correct, and I know that it is, all of the other barons have done the same thing to try to bolster the numbers of their own forces. That means that there will be a lot of men just like us who think like us and are as unhappy about the situation as we are. I will talk to them and see what I can arrange. Unless I miss my guess, I can get them to make similar demands of their barons. If we can put all of the barons in the same tight spot, they are more likely to cave.”
            “There’s a problem with your plan,” Brandon said so that all could hear him. He hated to speak out against Jason, but he had thought of something that needed to be addressed. If he was right, Jason would have thought of it already anyway.
            “I have explained as simply as possible the basics of my plan,” Jason explained to the crowd. “What is it that worries you?”
            “The demands that you are going to make of the barons,” Brandon started. “The barons’ power is limited by the king, but if they do win and give us the rights that we demand, they will have even less power than they do now. What would convince them to continue the war?”
            “That, my friend, is the most important aspect of my plan,” Jason said with a smile. “I will arrange for a messenger to go to the king and bring him news of the rebellion of his barons while simultaneously convincing the barons that the king has grown tired of them and plans to eradicate their positions entirely. If either side believes the claims, the war will certainly happen. The barons will have no choice but to stand and fight the king, even if they do not like our demands.”
            “So you are going to tell the king what is going on?” someone called. “Won’t that give him time to prepare his armies? That would be very dangerous to us.”
            “That’s not true for two reasons,” Jason answered. “First, tipping the king off will give his time to gather his troops and meet us in a field to do battle. He’ll do it because it is a way for him to assert his authority by winning in the field. That gives us a much better chance of breaking the back of his army without trying to do it over the walls and defenses of his castle. Second, make no mistake that in the barons’ army, we will be the lowest soldiers on the totem pole, especially after the demands that we will make. If we are forced to attack the king in his castle, we will be the first men to charge the walls and also the first to fall by the arrows of the king’s archers. We stand a much better chance of surviving the battle if it takes place in a field. Also, tipping off the king will work to our benefit because it will put the barons on a tight schedule. They will be forced to accept our demands quickly so that they can raise an army that can stand up the king’s.”
            “So now all of the sudden you are a military and political genius?” a villager called.
            “I would never claim either of those things,” Jason answered. “I have simply thought through the whole situation and made conclusions that any idiot can make. We must go to fight for the baron, but we do not need to do it on his terms.”
            The tavern was silent for several long moments as Jason let his words sink in.
            “Think over what I have said and make a decision,” he finally said. “I will meet anyone who is coming at the gate tomorrow at sunrise. Come armed and prepared to travel for we will move out as early as possible. We will discuss other important matters on the journey.”
            Without another word, Jason jumped off of the bar and headed for the door, Brandon following close behind. The crowd parted to allow them through, most staring in awe at the small man leading the way. Even compared with the giant behind him, he was by far the most impressive man in the whole building.

Philmont Journal: Day 12

Day 12: June 21, 2012

            We left Miranda early in the morning today. Actually, I should say that we packed and left our campsite early, but from there were headed down to the burrow pen (or “donkey” pen as I called it just to annoy Steven. He claims that there is a difference between burrows and donkeys but hasn’t actually said what those differences might be) We arrived at the pens before 8 to receive our instructional talk on how to pack and handle our burrows. It seemed easy enough when the wrangler was doing it; of course, she was using the nice one. First she showed us how to gear up and saddle the burrows. The process was rather time consuming and took four people to complete and after all that the stupid animals didn’t even take the majority of our pack weights. After demonstrating the packing and unpacking of the donkeys, the wrangler gave us a few tips on handling them on the trail. Apparently they can be a bit stubborn (go figure. It’s not like they’re donkeys or anything) so the wrangler gave us three methods of getting them to move should they decide to stop. 1) Stand behind (though not in the kick zone) the donkey and wiggle your fingers. Looked more like spirit fingers to me and incidentally never worked with our donkeys, 2) Give them a slap on the rump, 3) Take a stick no bigger around than your thumb and give them a jab in the butt (The first two methods gave us constant results if you count the donkeys ignoring us as “results.” Needless to say, we began to use the third method exclusively)
            So, you know the saying that goes, “There are no stupid questions, just stupid people”? Well, what happened next is a perfect example of this idea in action. After explaining the third method of getting the burrows to move, one of the scout leaders from a different crew asked, “Do we poke them in the butt or the butt hole?” Paul (remember, he’s too smart for his own good) rolled his eyes and said “The butt hole isn’t called the butt. It would be the rectum or anus.” I laughed so hard. To myself of course.
            After the wrangler’s talk, we attempted to pack our burrows. I say “attempted” because, well, it should be fairly obvious. We had two burrows, Eddy and Murphy. Eddy was easy to get along with and was packed in short order; Murphy on the other hand would have none of it. He kept moving around and trying to dash away from his packs making it a nightmare to try to get anything onto him. Between the 11 people in our crew we managed to manhandle him into his gear but it took about an hour to do it, putting us on the trail at 10. It wasn’t the earliest start that we’d ever had, but we knew that we would have plenty of time to get to the next camp before dark.
            The sky was overcast as we pulled our burrows out of the pen and onto the trail. They seemed determined to give us as difficult of a time as they could. Once we started moving, the roles of the burrows reversed with Murphy being the easy one to handle and Eddy being, well, a pain in the ass. Or perhaps just a jackass; I now know why that word means what it does. Stupid donkeys are stubborn as anything I’ve ever seen. We also almost had an issue when Eddy (who is massive for a donkey) got spooked by a truck that passed us on one of the service roads and danced sideways onto Nash’s foot. Now Nash, being the smart man that he is, was wearing steel toed boots which can cause problems when dealing with horses and such since if one of the things stomps hard enough on the steel, it can break and cut off your toes. Luckily Nash was alright with just some bruising.
Despite the difficulty with the burrows, we made good time. We stopped briefly at a campsite with a corral to eat lunch before continuing and finishing the hike at 2 PM. The last descent to the camp, Pueblano, was great fun. It was very steep and Eddy decided that it would be a good idea to run down the trail. The only problem with this idea was that most of our crew as well as the other burrow was in front of him, so Steven and I (combined weight of around 400 lbs) had to keep him from tearing off at breakneck speed. As I said before, Eddy is an uncommonly large burrow, so the task wasn’t easy, especially since he kept wanting to step all over our feet. Luckily we managed to get to Pueblano without any serious problems and went through the whole camp process yet again. We got a porch talk which was probably the funniest one of the trip; sadly it was mostly physical humor that doesn’t translate well into writing.
We set up camp, ate dinner, and headed back to the main camp for a game of “logger ball” which we had been promised was the best game ever, even better than mountain ball. When we got there, it ended up just being a 3 inning baseball game where people were supposed to run the bases backwards in the second inning. I say “were supposed to” because the first three batters on our team ran the wrong direction and all got out. So much for paying attention. Over all, the game was sort of fun though not overly so; it was baseball after all. After the game there was another program but I was too tired out to attend. Instead I went back to the camp and talked magic with two other members of my crew.