Squelching in mud, squashing a bug, Scouts find downtown camping is fun

September 27, 1992|By Robert J. Hilson Jr. | Robert J. Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Two steps into the mud at the makeshift campsite at the Baltimore City Community College yesterday, and Rodney Moore knew he had made the right decision.

One of his white sneakers -- purchased three days ago -- became lodged in the mud, and water slowly oozed up the bottom of his pants leg. In trying to free himself, he fell and squashed something he had never seen before: a slug.

"It was real outdoors experience. I'd never even heard of a slug. Now I've got smushed slug on my hands," said Rodney, 13, who lives near the Lexington Terrace housing development in West Baltimore.

"That's why I didn't camp out here last night in the rain and cold and the slugs. Camping out seems nice, but who knows what else I'd be discovering?"

Rodney aside, the more than 200 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Scout leaders -- a group predominantly black and from the inner city -- who did camp out this weekend at the Scout Corroboree found few pitfalls other than the weather, and they took to the wilderness of the West Baltimore college campus with ease.

Friday night, as strong winds and heavy rain that accompanied tropical storm Danielle swirled, about 50 youths pitched tents, unfurled sleeping bags and spent an almost-comfortable night under what few stars there were.

About 100 less hardy Scouts chose to sleep in the college's auditorium. Others, like Rodney, chose to come yesterday for daytime activities.

But those who slept outside said the weather was only a minor concern.

"I didn't mind sleeping outside at all," said Frederick Blandin, 13, a student at Herring Run Middle School. "You get to get away from your family for a while instead of having your brother and sisters bothering you."

Leo Borroughs Jr., one of the adult organizers of the camp-out, said the event was intended to bring attention to inner-city Scouting -- especially Scouting for blacks.

"There have always been black Scouts in Baltimore, but a lot of people just don't know about it," Mr.Borroughs said. "They need more kids involved in it, or else they'll get into more trouble on the streets."

At the Corroboree, an African term that means loud tribal gathering, Scouts participated in the customary events of cooking out and outdoors skills. But they also were able to use the college's classrooms and computer labs for workshops for work on their merit badges.

Melvin Dawson, 16, a student at Walbrook High School and a Scout for three years, said Friday night's weather wasn't so bad for camping -- at least when compared to the snow he once camped out in near a lake in Baltimore County.

"This ain't nothing to that," Melvin said. "This is what Scouting is about."

Perhaps the person who knows more of what Scouting is about than anyone else at the camp-out was Eugene Prettyman, who has been involved for more than 65 years.

One of the differences in Scouting today, noted Mr. Prettyman, a soft-spoken black man of 84, is that troops and units are racially integrated.

"Back then, we'd camp at one time, and they camped at another time," Mr. Prettyman said. "We couldn't go in the same area when they were camping."

However, he remembers one time when a black Scout group and white Scout group camped near each other and accidentally made contact.

"We all found that there was no problem and everyone enjoyed each other, and it wasn't so bad after all," he said.

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