I believe our youth group would enjoy your company. Would you ever consider chaperoning with our youth leaders? This year we’re taking our kids to day-hike parts of the Appalachian Trail. Any interest?
Years ago, my minister friend, Bill, and I chaperoned the First Baptist youth group to Dollywood.
Chaperoning, I discovered, is brutal work. We spent nearly nine hours in a church van, driving Interstate 65. There were eighteen boys, ten girls, and three adults.
The ride basically went like this:
Boys took turns making aromas that were strong enough to stop a grown man’s heart—then rated their accomplishments on scales of one-to-ten.
The girls all huddled and sang songs which all contained pretty much the same lyrics:
“Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby…”
Bill was our driver, Miss Sandra was our acting warden. My job was to make idle threats and prevent unnecessary sinning.
I was good at my job I would threaten with things like:
“Quit touching him!”
Or: “Switch seats with Allen!”
Or: “Roll down the windows before we all gag!”
Miss Sandra engaged kids in “constructive activities.” Drawing upon her training as an English major, she explained the finer points of poetry, meter, and literary symbolism to the kids. Then, we passed around notepads.
When the kids finished writing their own poems they recited them.
Miller Watkins recited:
“Roses are red,
Violets for the masses,
These youth chaperones,
Don’t know their heads from their…”
Thomas “Taterlog” Matthews also read his poem:
“The Lord is my shepherd,
I am his sheep,
Now pull this van over,
I have to take a major pee.”
When we arrived in Pigeon Forge, we stayed at a rundown motel that appeared to have been built during the late 1970’s.
I went into town to buy pizzas for the group. When I got back to the motel, I saw the silhouettes of five heathen boys, smoking cigars behind the motel dumpster. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
As soon as they saw me coming they tossed the evidence behind the bushes.
It was a dumb move on their part, I could see billows of smoke rising behind the wax myrtles. But the boys pretended not to notice me. Instead, they had formed a circle and were bowing their heads.
“What in the Sam Hill are you doing out here?” I asked.
Taterlog greeted me with a brotherly hug. Then one boy explained that earlier that evening, the boys had all been moved by spiritual fervor to step outside and pray for the developing crisis facing the Middle East at large.
I called for disciplinary reinforcements.
Bill came running downstairs. He appeared in the doorway wearing his Auburn University boxers, carrying a Bible the size of a cinder block.
Brother Bill preached like a man with his hair on fire. He quoted several selections from the book of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, Burt Bacharach, Whitney Houston, and the Constitution of the United States.
And when it was over, he led us in a few choruses of “Lean on Me.”
The next day, we hiked in the Smokies. The mist was hanging over the blue peaks. It was the most glorious morning I’d ever seen. The girls reached the summit of the mountain before we boys did.
When we reached the top, Miss Sandra looked worried. She told us that something was wrong.
“I’m missing several girls,” she said.
Bill and I also realized we were missing a few boys.
Panic set it. We looked everywhere and couldn’t find them. We descended the mountain so fast Bill pulled a groin muscle and a hip flexor. But as it happened, we found our defectors in the parking lot.
Spencer and Kyla Ann were behind the van, their dental braces locked in the throes of passion.
Jon Jon Reynolds was selling outdated issues of Victoria’s Secret catalogs for ten bucks a pop to passerbyers.
Greg Little was letting the air out of the van’s tires with a Bic pen.
We caught Chase Smith trying to solicit lunch from a family of Japanese tourists.
Anyway, Dollywood was fun—I think. Actually, it was a blur. The only thing I remember was when Taterlog tried to cram his head through the park railing while waiting in line to ride the Firechaser Express.
Park security finally got his head unstuck after thirty minutes of trying. Park tourists applauded. I applauded. Sandra applauded. Dollywood medics believe Brother Bill suffered a cerebral aneurysm.
That night, Bill made the marathon drive back home while the kids all slept. And when we reached the church parking lot, it was like arriving in the Promised Land. Mothers and daughters embraced. Boys thanked us for a wonderful trip. Parents blessed us.
But when they had all gone home, Miss Sandra lit a Virginia Slim and laid down on the church lawn. And Brother Bill resolved to quit the ministry and take up heavy drinking as a hobby.
When my wife picked me up, I was exhausted. She asked how things went. Before I could answer, Brother Bill answered for me:
“Roses are red,” he said.
“Violets are poop, I will never chaperone, another youth group.”
Good luck on your trip, Brother Danny.