AS winter gallops on apace again, I shiver in meditation about the scoutmaster who, in extolling the virtues of scouting, spoke of ``...camping out winterwise.'' Wisdom dictates that camping out in the winter is to be avoided at any cost, although I did it in my stupid youth before wisdom set in. I found winter camping fully as invigorating as freezing to death, and as a sport it can be honestly rated with the hilarity of the Spanish Inquisition. But winterwise? Did the scoutmaster mean camping out in the winter? Then why didn't he say so? Where do we get all these words like winterwise? When you were introduced to a charming young lady and expressed your pleasure at meeting her, she may have said, not graciously but grammatically, ``Likewise, I'm sure!'' The adverbial suffix derives from ways, and comes up honorably in edgewise, lengthwise, endwise, sidewise, otherwise, likewise, and a few others that have been shoved from their rightful roost by the plethora of gobbledygook that goes with many another thing than winterwise and syntax sins of that ilk.
The banker offers advice securitywise. The baker says we should eat his bread healthwise. The town manager says things are tight taxwise, and futurewise we can expect an increase. The schoolteachers, even, complain salarywise. And when my neighbor Jim asked the handyman if he would begin to pick up his trash every week, the handyman said he thought he could work Jim in Mondaywise.
I believe any scoutmaster who advocates winter camping should be returned to his asylum for rest and study. Youthwise, I did some, and memories linger so during any August heat wave that I may break out in goose bumps and shiver like a popple leaf in the breeze of dawn. I was never a Boy Scout, because at that time the movement had not intruded into my rustic precinct, where we did by instinct all the good things the Boy Scouts do by intent. I went camping in the winter, not to develop my character as the Scouts do, but because I was young and foolish and didn't know any better. I was not aware that I was enhancing my strength, mentality, and morals.
The place I liked, and used a few times, was about a mile from the house, and I would take my snowshoes and go there with my gear and grub tobogganwise. One thing I did not take was a shovel. Snow can be cleared away with a snowshoe, and space can be made for a fire and a tent in short order without bringing a shovel, so-to-speakwise. Next, build a fire. This will thaw the tent so you can unfold it and lay it out. I found I could drive four 20-penny spikes into the frozen ground with the back of my ax, making tent stakes, but sometimes I'd cut two logs and tie the tent to them. It takes about the same length of time to cut two trees as it does to drive four spikes. When the tent is up, you want to snowshoe loose snow, shovelwise, against the canvas. Snow is good insulation. Now you can button the flap, after you've put things inside, and you can give your attention to the fire and making supper. First, thaw the food.
CONTRARIWISE to my general spoofing, camping out in winter is rather fun. With the fire placed just so, it will radiate heat into the tent, so in your bedroll you won't shiver and shake more than an hour or so before dropping off. And there is no reason whatever to eat poorly from an open fire. Place the toboggan up on four stakes pushed into the snow, and you have a dandy table, and practice lets you pick up a bowl of hot soup and enjoy it with your mittens on. We boys of those days could have passed any merit badge test, scoutwise, and probably knew more than the average Eagle Scout about roasting a chicken and baking a salmon over embers. Certainly we had none of the refinements available today, such as tent warmers and insulated boots and parkas, L.L. Beanwise. But we made out in our ignorance and deprivation, and hardly any of us ever froze to death in a tent. The night in a tent, timewise, is divided into three watches.
Do not remove any clothing. Stomp the snow from your boots and get into the bedroll, adjusting blankets so out of the corner of one eye you can see the fire flickering on the tent. The first watch of the night is spent in deep sleep, snug as a bug rugwise, and you will awake to take on the second watch.
In the second watch you rouse, jump up to replenish the decadent fire, and return to your bedroll to shiver. Just before the third watch you will fix the fire again.
In the third watch, you wait for daylight so you can get up, make breakfast, break camp, and go home and reembrace comfort. Wisely.