As boys Tom and Bill were in the scouts. One summer day they were chosen to lead a hike to Lake Michigan. They were responsible young men. They knew the trails like their own backyard. They were the perfect choice.
The hike started out well. A group of boys exploring on their own through a (previously) quiet forest; what could be better? The boys broke branches off trees and used them as swords. They cut down swaths of ferns as they made their excited way along the narrow path. Some of the boys pulled out their jack-knives and mindlessly flicked trees as they passed.
Perhaps if only one of the brothers had been chosen as the leader, things would have turned out differently. As it happened, the two boys, not so far apart in age, were each determined to impress the other scouts with their knowledge.
Tom and Bill began to discuss the quickest route to Lake Michigan. Their discussion soon became heated as they continued to walk, continued to lead. At some point one of them looked around. The other one followed. Then they looked at each other. Neither Tom nor Bill knew where they were.
Not wanting to alarm, or insight rebellion among, the members of the troop, they said nothing. They casually began to circle back. They wandered through the woods hoping to find something that looked familiar, hoping they were going in the right direction so that they would eventually intersect the original trail. By this time the other boys must have realized they were being led in circles, or at the very least that they had not yet arrived at Lake Michigan. Tom and Bill were likely on the brink of having to admit their mistake when Kenny, the boys father, came strolling through the trees.
“You boys have been gone a long time.” Kenny said calmly. “You should probably start to head back.”
I can picture several pairs of wide eyes, two very anxious faces.
“Your Mom’s worried. She thought you might be lost.” He said, and then he smiled. “I knew right away you weren’t lost though. You were marking trees and leaving signs the whole way. That was smart.”
Kenny turned and started back the way he’d come. The boys scurried to fall in behind him.
Neither Tom nor Bill ever said a word, they just led their Dad go on thinking they were clever.