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ROUGHING IT TOO TOUGH FOR OLD SCOUT

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I AM AN Eagle Scout.

I don't say this to brag or to beef up my resume. I simply want you to know how far I have fallen in life.I am not a good Scout. I no longer swim or hike. And I no longer camp. Years ago, as patrol leader of the Wolverines, I'd spend every weekend with my Scoutmaster - Lew Fish - sleeping in 10-degree temperatures on some devil-ish side hill, then rise at 5 a.m. to beat the bitter brush so the deer would have some berries on the ground for breakfast.

Lew, who was that kid?

Today I've changed.

My mother says her idea of roughing it is a motel with a black and white television. I refuse to tough it out the way she does.

In fact, the closest I've come to camping since 1983 was this afternoon when photographer Gary Mc-Kel-lar and I went out looking for some camping artists. The people in the Forest Service camp sent us to the LDS stake camp who sent us to the camp of some goof in a baseball cap with a chicken feather in the brim. He tried to send us home. (Turns out the people we were looking for were camped 50 feet away from the Forest Service crew and they didn't know it.)

I had flashbacks all day long. As far as I'm concerned, canteens are where Mexicans drink liquor and "latrine" is a very sweet name for a daughter.

And not much my family has done this summer has changed my mind.

A couple of weeks ago my brother took his family out in the wilds for a few days. They took along the collie dog for "protection," though the dog has never barked a word in its life. It has never heard its master's voice, and the master has never heard its voice either.

About the third night out, the dog got nosing around in the thicket and was sprayed by a skunk. Instead of sounding a warning, it simply slinked back to the tent - embarrassed - and crawled into the sleeping bag between my brother and his wife.

Today - 14 days later - my brother's toothbrush still smells like skunk spray and the collie has had more tomato juice baths than Bloody Mary herself.

My wife took some of the local girls up to Bear Lake for a few nights of camping last week. One of the leaders began throwing up every 10 minutes. My wife had to bring her down Logan Canyon at 1 a.m., while my stepdaughter hid her head under a pillow in the back seat to keep from going into "sympathy pukes."

Grand fun, this camping business.

If you have other horror stories, send them along and I'll add them to my file.

In the end, friends who know I feel this way say I'm getting soft.

I am getting soft. End of conversation.

They also say there are a lot of historical reasons for camping - as if it's a Western rite. (Brigham Young bringing all those happy campers across the plains, for instance.)

I'm sorry, but that notion doesn't wash. All four sets of my great-grandparents crossed the plains. They were noble, wise and wily in the wilderness. But if you think any of them would give up a good night at Motel 8 for a night under the skies of Wamsutter, Wyo., you don't know your ancestors.

When campgrounds start offering mints on the pillow, I'll go back to the sleeping bag. Until then, I have a motto. I figure if God had really meant people to camp, he would never have given the world Gideon Bibles.