The troop sat in a circle, ears pricked as they paid attention to the scoutmaster.
"There is a story long ago that involved another scout troop when they were out in the wilderness, foraging supplies for their camp. It was getting dark, and they were in foreign territory that looked unfriendly and rather scarce on readily available food. But the troop perservered and managed to find water, and survived on their remaining rations, and managed to gather a few fruits. For three days they camped out in the wilderness, waiting to earn their badge after a week's camping out."
The scouts ooohed their admiration.
"Then on the fourth day, a scout brought back meat. Part of a cooked chicken. This worried the scoutmaster, although the rest of the troop cheered because four days of dry rations and fruits left a lot to be desired in their diet. A few things worried the scoutmaster, where did the cooked chicken come from, who else was staying in the wilderness for the scoutmaster saw no sign of any other life around, and if there were others out here did the trooper steal from them."
"So the scoutmaster questioned the little one, and the scout reported that he found it in a metal cave."
"A metal cave?" asked Frank.
"Yes. Specifically, an iron cave."
"Did he mean a mining cave where there's iron, scoutmaster?" asked Nancy.
"Very sharp of you, Nancy, but no. What the scout meant was a cave made of iron. As it was late already, the scoutmaster told the little one to bring him to the cave the following day."
"On the fifth day, while the rest of the scouting party went on with their duties at camp, the scoutmaster and the scout headed to the place where the cave was to be found. Instead of having to go through the woods, the scout led the scoutmaster through the grasslands further away from the camping site, until they reached the stone grounds that lie past the edge of the grasslands."
"And lo and behold, there stood the iron cave."
The scouts aaahed their amazement.
"Now, here's what happened...the reason why this story is told around campfires."
All the little scouts leaned forward, as the scoutmaster's voice dropped to a whisper.
"The scout had already told the scoutmaster that he found the chicken hooked up on a wall near the back of the cave. There was nobody else in the cave, and the cave did not have an inhabited feel, so the scout assumed that someone else must have brought the chicken to the cave to eat, and not being able to finish it, left the rest in the cave."
"Left it hooked up on a wall?" blurted Joe incredulously, eyes wide.
"The very same question the scoutmaster asked! However, standing outside of the cave, the two of them could smell roast pork coming from inside the cave. Very mysterious. The scoutmaster looked in and, would you know it, he saw a slab of pork hanging on a hook at the far wall of the cave! He told the little one to wait outside while he went in to investigate."
"He inspected each wall near the mouth of the cave, then moved deeper into the cave tunnel. There was no sign of anyone staying in the cave, no tracks at all, no scent...the scoutmaster arrived at the slab of pork. He touched the pork..."
The scoutmaster's voice here was barely a whisper.
Some scouts squeaked in surprise.
"The cave mouth started falling in! The little one got a shock of his life as the scoutmaster was trapped! "Go get the others! Don't try to do this yourself, in case you get hurt!" ordered the trapped scoutmaster. The frightened scout rushed off to gather the rest of the troop, and assembled outside the iron cave. Tried as they might, they did not have equipment that could pry an opening big enough for the scoutmaster to escape."
"The troop stayed by the iron cave all night, sharing the pork and thinking of ways to rescue their trapped leader. But the scouts were not strong enough and soon they were all tired out, and slept."
"They did not sleep for long, however, because all of them were woken up by the sound of something approaching. Something large. The earth shook and there was a loud whistling heard in the air. The scoutmaster, concerned for his troop's safety, ordered them to hide. The troop did so quickly, but it was too dark to see what it was. All they could see was the iron cave suddenly rising up and floating in midair, the blocked entrance angled upwards."
"And then, as the whistling sound stopped, a waterfall of boiling hot water rained down into the cave, billowing steam rising from the entrance."
The eyes of the scouts listening grew wide and some gasped in shock.
"The little scouts ran in fear, the sound of their scoutmaster's dying shrieks following them as they fled the grasslands, back to their camp to gather their belongings, then running for their lives."
"Scoutmaster, is it true?"
"This was a long time ago. The story has been told from generation to generation, as a lesson to be learned: when foraging for food, use the knowledge you've learn and do not simply pick food where it does not naturally belong. As for the troop members, all of them emerged from that incident with hair as white as snow. Their families believed their story, for apparently even from their homes they could hear the final screams of the poor scoutmaster. None dare return to that place, and all were warned against going there."
Too late, a forager remembered this story told in his younger scouting days...