Bennett: Sixteen below zero in the Rutland Cedar Swamp

by Bob Bennett

After a relatively mild January, the forecast for the first weekend in February reminds an old Boy Scout of a planned overnight hike with below zero temperatures. It was 75 years ago in Rutland’s Cedar Swamp. The scoutmaster said a night there in pup tents would make the boys “rugged.”

This boy’s mother flatly opposes the idea. Certainly not. What kind of mother would let her kid do such a thing? He cannot go.

That’s final, she says.

It isn’t.

Her son whines. He claims every single Scout, all 39 of them in the troop, will say he’s a sissy if he doesn’t join them in the snowy swamp. So, against her better judgment, she relents. 

That night the boys huddle close to their campfire, with occasional short stints of shivering in their sleeping bags. At dawn they fail to fry breakfast eggs. They are frozen solid. All six of them. No, not just the eggs, but, nearly so, the half dozen boys who spent the night. 

When our Scout gets home that morning he affirms to his mother (Oh, sure!) the entire troop attended, just as he said they would. But the whole community will learn what kind of a mother she is — one who would do such a thing – let her son sleep in the snow when it is 16 below. That’ because the scoutmaster tells the Rutland Herald about the event. The paper publishes a story the next day, naming the boys in the swamp, with the headline “Six Brave Scouts.”

The author is a retired Vermont newspaper editor and author of an upcoming book.

Categories: History

3 replies »

  1. I attended a number of Boy Scout winter survival camp outs at Mt. Norris and worked on setting up a few ove the past years

  2. It all depends on the snow depth. I was an Assist. Scoutmaster for quite a few years and Mount Norris Scout Camp was the site of many of our winter camp outs. One year it was -20 degrees. The ice boomed on the lake as we skated. Ten minute frost bite checks by buddy partners. Bad part was very little snow. I recall waking up about 2 a.m. to the silence – the wind had stopped blowing the tent around. The full moon made it bright enough to read in the tent. The next year we had 4-5 feet of snow, Ten degree weather and snow caves to live in. Honestly, I’m glad I’m old enough to remember and too old to go.

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