At the time of our marriage, the Depression
hung heavy, and in a futile effort to do something to help, I led a girl scout
troop composed of under-privileged children. The city where we lived, poised on the banks of the murky Ohio, presented no opportunity for outdoor life for these youngsters, so the girls and I planned an overnight camping trip across the Ohio River
in beautiful Audubon Park
An organization known as Ki-Wives sponsored this troop, and several ladies from this group graciously agreed to furnish transportation. We borrowed forester tents from the Central Scout Office, purchased food for the trip from money in our treasury provided by the Ki-Wives, made bed rolls from blankets and safety pins, and gaily set off for our great adventure.
One girl was not allowed to come because her parents were afraid she would jump off the bridge when we crossed the river (a local superstition). The other twenty-three came, and they looked like a bunch of ants crawling around the stones and trees when we arrived. One noble Ki-wife stayed to help me chaperone, and the others went back to the city, relieved of camping gear, chattering girls, and groceries. Just like ants, we were somewhat organized beneath the running around, and we gradually created a camp from the confusion. The tents were the greatest problem. Even I had never pitched one like them before. They had an open flap across the width, making shelter on three sides only. We did get them up, but they looked sloppy
Hungry, we left the tents to prepare dinner, hoping to tighten them later. We were so absorbed in our task of preparing food we didn't notice the gathering storm until it was upon us.
It was a cyclone, which can come fast, and we were eating when I began to realize the danger. "Loosen your tent ropes!" I shouted. The girls thought I had lost my mind. They didn't know that ropes shrink so much when they are wet that they can pull tent stakes right out of the ground.
I needn't have worried. The first big gust of wind flattened every tent. The rain came almost with the wind, and there we were, twenty five frightened people facing serious danger.
"Come on," I shouted. "There's a shelter up this trail!" I was familiar with the area from previous trips and vaguely remembered a picnic shelter somewhere near. Fighting the roaring wind and rain and crashing branches, we found it right away, but it was not much help.
The shelter was large enough, with something like twenty picnic tables, but it was just a roof with open sides all around, not even containing a fireplace. The temperature had dropped at least twenty degrees. It was dark, first from the storm and now from the hour. We were as drenched as though we had been swimming. Our jackets, such as we had, were buried under the collapsed tents. We were, however, safe. Cyclones are violent, but the wind moves away as fast as it comes, and no one had gotten carried away by it. The torrential rains continuing were blustery but not dangerous. The poor Ki-wife (who had never been camping before) agreed to hike up to the gate with the only flashlight we had to call for help. She was back in less than an hour defeated. The lines were down, and she had returned to be what help she could to me with the children.
The children were in bad shape, some of them starting to cry, and all of them shivering with cold and hunger. It was the first time away from home for most of them.
"Let's sing!" I said brightly. We moved the tables around the edge so the center was clear, and there we stood in a circle, clasping hands with crossed arms in the good scout custom. And then we sang all the songs we knew, swaying to and fro to keep us a little warmer.
The night was dark; the rains continued unabashed; and the wind blowing through our inadequate shelter was sharp and cold. The third time over our repertoire, I was getting desperate. The first child who refused to continue would lead the rest, and then what would we do?
"There's a light!," one girl shouted in the midst of our song.
"She's crazy!" I thought as I turned to see. She was right! The light was there, and then we heard voices and footsteps.
"Anybody want a ride home?" a familiar voice asked. It was my husband. As soon as the storm threatened, he had moved into action. He called around to our personal friends, explaining my situation and asking them to come and help bring us home. When the telephone lines broke down, he gathered those who had arrived and went from place to place until he had formed a caravan of cars large enough to get us all home.
Driving was hazardous, with fallen trees and limbs blocking the roads, but they had managed to find a route to the bridge. Fortunately, the bridge was clear, and here they were, alive and useful. Quickly we packed the girls in the cars and took them back to their humble homes, leaving the confusion of our camp to be cleared up after the storm. Heroes are born and not made, I guess. My man is not exactly the heroic type. When other men are rushing to command, he is apt to be back in the corner tying a knot to make something work. He has captured, however, the essence of his masculine role more fully, perhaps, than the blustery type. Throughout our lives he has challenged me to dare, and then been around to pick up the pieces when I needed bailing out.