The Journey: Be A Man - My Family Travels
River Strong

After stuffing suitcases, duffels, chairs, and an assortment of other odds and ends onto the short bus, the 17 of us climbed in. The trip we had been looking forward to for weeks was finally underway.

It was a camping trip to Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Missouri and was promised to be a journey like no other; 5 days and 4 nights of one adventure after another.

So of course, we decided to watch Mulan on the way. All of us, 12 girls and 5 boys, sang at the top of our lungs to every musical number.

Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

The cacophony created by so many voices all out of tune led to side-aching laughs and loud shouts of joy.

We arrived at our campsite much later than we expected and we still had to put up our tents. Our youth pastor split us up in four groups, each assigned to build a tent.

Lightning in the distance hurried our efforts.

The tent I worked on went up without a hitch. It was the boys’ tent.

The tent I was to sleep in was another story. Eight of the girls were supposed to share this tent. And it was the sorriest looking “dome” I had ever seen. Either end was falling in on the middle and none of the zippers worked well.

Everyone came over in hopes of finding where the extra poles were supposed to fit. But it was no use.

Then, to top it off, it started to sprinkle. We dragged everything into the tent right before it started pouring.

All eight of us girls sat in the tent talking and shoving our things out of where we planned to sleep.

Then Erin called over the general hubbub of our gossip.

“I think I just felt a rain drop.…”

The talking stopped immediately and we all sat eyes wide, listening to the rain and wind hammer our tent and the thunder crash as it chased after the lightning that continuously flared across the sky.

I told her to pull out her beach towel and sleep with that over her so at least her head would be dry. I had done it before. It wasn’t very comfortable but it was better than constant dripping on your face.

Then Madi felt a raindrop too. Soon, there was water pouring in from everywhere: the doors, the walls, the roof, even the floor.

There was one particularly bad leak right above Jennifer. Not just an annoying drip but a continual stream of water from one hole.

We all jumped into action. I grabbed duct tape out of my bag and someone handed me a plastic Wal-Mart bag. We attempted to patch a couple of the holes before everything got soaked.

They should tell people when they buy duct tape that it won’t work on anything wet. We admitted defeat. There was nothing we could do to stop the water.

This very time a particularly loud roar of thunder or exceptionally bright flash of lightning occurred, Kyra let loose a piercing scream that only girls are able to achieve.

The eight of us yelled to our youth pastor to let us sleep on the bus.

All the boys replied at once with a wonderful rendition of “Be a Man” from Mulan.

In anger, but compliance, we joined the chorus.

Be a man! You must be swift as a coursing river! Be a man! With all the force of a great typhoon! Be a man! With all the strength of a raging fire! Mysterious as the dark side of the moon!”

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