My husband, Leland Faber, likes to tell one of his favorite memories of childhood. Leland lived in Satsop, Washington when he was a boy. In 1953, Leland was about eleven years old. His uncle, Frank Jennings, was Scoutmaster for the local Boy Scout troop, consisting of seven or eight boys. That summer, the Boy Scouts made a two-day trip into a nearby region to reforest a field with tree seedlings.
The assistant Scout leader’s truck had tall wood rails on the back. The boys were allowed to all ride in the back of the truck to the planting site. They packed their gear into the truck along with their camping equipment and 3-4 flats of pine seedlings in little cups given to them by a local Forestry Agency.
The scouts set up camp near a river and prepared for the project at hand.
First the restoration site had to be cleared of natural brush or branches, which was gathered and stacked on the far side of the planting site. Leland also remembers picking up refuse left by previous campers such as bottles, paper and litter.
The Forestry Agency provided the Scoutmaster written directions of exactly how the tree planting process should take place, including how close together the seedlings should be planted; in rows, each seedling approximately 15-20 feet from the next.
The Scoutmaster used pre-measured strings to mark the correct distance between each seedling. He drove a stake into the ground to indicate the spot where the seedling should be planted.
The scouts followed behind across the grassy field. Natural grass and weeds was cleared about 15” around each stake. This allowed the sunshine to warm the seedling and prevented the weeds from encroaching. The scouts dug a hole using a hand spade and tapped in the seedling, then progressed to the next stake. Over the next two days, the scouts planted several hundred trees.
Now prior to the trip, Leland’s Aunt Emma had made a batch of home made root beer for the scout’s camping trip. Not having enough coke bottles to bottle the root beer, Leland and his cousins approached a local tavern owner, who loaned them a case of brown stubby beer bottles to use, requesting the return of the bottles after the camping trip.
During the bright summer evening following a hard day of planting trees, Leland and his troop sat on the side of the hill above the road, laughing and joking and drinking root beer bottled in brown stubby beer bottles.
Drivers on the road below saw the Boy Scouts, still in their uniforms laughing and rolling around on the hill, apparently drinking beer. One driver called the local authorities when she got home, scandalized by the local Boy Scout troop behaving in such an unseemly manner.
As the case of root beer dwindled and the boy’s behavior became more rowdy, the sheriff drove up, responding to the call of drunk and disorderly Boy Scouts up on the hill drinking beer.
The Scoutmaster explained that the root beer was bottled in borrowed stubby brown beer bottles. The explanation was sufficient to send the sheriff on his way. However, it is unlikely that the jubilation that followed was the satisfaction from the scout’s hard day’s work planting trees, or their amusement at the sheriff thinking there was real beer in the brown bottles. Their hilarity was more likely the result of Leland’s cousin adding raisins to his mom’s crock of homemade root beer, making it a light alcoholic drink. The following year, only soda bottles were used and Aunt Emma kept a closer eye on her crock of root beer.
The story of the tree planting and the homemade root beer was a closely guarded secret, told only around subsequent Boy Scout campfires where bottles of store bought root beer was the only type of soda allowed.