We were cold, angry, and wanted revenge. Then Doug had a better idea.

I was pretty excited. The big day was getting closer. All of our Wednesday practices, all of our work, and it finally came down to one day of winter camping competition known as the Klondike.

“Load up the sled,” said Brother Tolson, our Scoutmaster, who also happened to be my dad. “It’s getting late.” We piled our shovels, wood, and other gear on the sled we had built the previous Saturdays. I helped lash our things down with a rope and tied one of the knots we had learned.

The air was frosty, and our breath hung in the air as we struggled up the hill. “This looks like a good spot,” Dad said.

“See,” he said, piling up snow, “you want to pack it down a little as you go. We don’t want our snow caves falling apart.”

“What do you think, Doug? Will it be safe?” I asked, as I dug snow out of our cave and piled it on top of the pile. Doug was our senior patrol leader and I respected his ability.

“I think it’ll hold,” he said. “And it can’t be any colder than a tent.”

After two hours of work, we got inside of the cave. To our surprise, it was really warm. We helped build a few more caves, covered the floor with plastic, and then put the firewood inside.

“The wood will stay dry on that plastic, and it will be really easy to take our food and packs up here when we come back on Friday,” Dad said.

We then walked back to the car in the moonlight, racing with the sleds when we came to downhill parts of the trail. We could hardly wait for Friday night when we could return to our camp.

When we arrived near our campsite on Friday, Doug’s brother John, another member of our troop, said, “I’m so glad we don’t have to set up tents.” But when we came over the last hill, we knew something was wrong. Our igloos had been destroyed. We could tell somebody else had found our caves, ruined them, and stolen part of our wood. We angrily looked around and noticed footprints leading toward another camp.

“Let’s get them,” John said. We all murmured in agreement. “I’ll bet it was those guys down there,” he continued. “We’ve got more people than they do, and they need to learn a lesson!” We started down the hill.

“Wait!” Doug yelled.

Just then, my dad came over the hill. “What happened?” he asked.

After hearing the story Dad told us he would leave it up to us how we dealt with it, but that he thought it was more important for us to rebuild our shelters. “It’s not going to get any warmer,” he said. We debated and argued for a while, and Dad walked away.

Finally, Doug spoke up. “Look,” he said, “we’ve been working on this trip for a long time. If our camp doesn’t look good, we lose points. I think we can win the Klondike, and that’s more important. I don’t want to get kicked out of this.”

John wasn’t so sure. “Doug, you’re always too good. Come on, let’s get those guys first. Then we’ll fix the camp.”

“I’m with Doug,” said Chad.

“Me, too,” I said.

John and the rest grumbled as we decided to rebuild the caves. After dinner over a small fire, we went to bed.

The next morning, we went to the competition. We were very well prepared, and our camp got full points. Somehow we did everything perfectly as we were the fastest in fire building and first aid. Later, we discovered our point total had been the highest ever recorded at the Klondike.

I’ve always been grateful to Doug for doing the unpopular thing, which led us to something far better than revenge.

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann