I had looked forward to going to the outdoor dinosaur exhibit in downtown Oklahoma City for a long, long time. Just like the other Cub Scouts in my pack. It was summer but our den mother, Barb, who was the leader of our pack, said we still had to wear our full length uniform. The uniform consisted of a blue cap, long sleeve shirt, and blue khaki pants. The yellow scarf with the gold-colored clasp was also a part of the deal. I was ten years old at the time as were most of the other boys in the pack. A few had turned eleven like our den mother’s son, Dennis. I loved being a part of the Cub Scouts which was really just a junior Boy Scout program set up for the younger boys. Our dream was to one day enter the big leagues and become Boy Scouts. But for now, we were all content just being Cubs. We had a blast as Cubs since we were always doing something new and different at our den meetings and when we got together as a bigger pack of Cubs. The best part for me though was getting to be around our den mother. She was always so sweet and kind to me. She smiled every time she said my name. Dad and Mom had divorced when I was only five. Mom lived five hundred miles away in Texas so I didn’t really get to see Mom as often as I would have liked. It was during those Cub Scout meetings I would try to sit as close as I could to our den mother, Barb since she reminded me so much of my own mother that I missed. I guess GOD kind of has a way of placing certain people in our lives when we need them the most doesn’t he?
I walked to our den mother’s house which was only about seven blocks from our house on 48th Street on the south side of the city. Dad was at work and I really didn’t have anyone who could drop me off at her house that day. When I got there the other Cubs were already in the backyard kicking a soccer ball back and forth to each other to pass the time before we headed off downtown to see those huge monsters. We played for a few minutes and then our den mother opened the latch on the gate to the backyard, smiled her great big smile at us all and said, “It’s time to go the dinosaur exhibit guys.” All nine of us “routy touties” piled in her big red van parked in the front driveway. Dennis slammed the last of the doors shut with a final thud. We were off for the time of our lives! Barb had told us all about the dinosaur exhibit. I wasn’t quite sure if they were real dinosaurs that they had caught somewhere or maybe just pretend dinosaurs. We were soon going to find out. The exhibit was set up at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds and had been traveling across the country from what the leader of our den told us.
As we pulled up slow to the gravel parking lot, I blew hot breath on the glass and rubbed a few smudges where I had been placing my nose to look out the window. Thousands of people were in the distance meandering about, hooting and hollering and having what sounded like a good ol time. There was not only an exhibit, but there were rides that we could go on too, like Ferris Wheels, Whirly-Birds that went around in a circle real fast, and roller coasters. Barb strained her head around from the driver’s seat to get a good look at all of us and said in the most official voice she could muster, “Stay together and don’t get lost.” Getting lost in a crowd this big was the last thing any of us cubs had on our minds that day.
We walked together as a group across the lot, giggling, back-slapping, side bumping, and back knee bumping each other the entire route. When we reached the gated entrance, our special mom plopped down ten dollars, admission for the entire group. I smelled the fresh, hot roasted peanuts being sold in a nearby food tent, along with hot dogs, pretzels, and cotton candy. It amazed me as to how they swirled all that pink stuff into a baby cloud. The pink cloud never stood much of a chance in my hand and would disappear with a few swipes of a wet tongue.
It wasn’t long until we found the exhibit we had come for that happened to be strategically placed and buried deep in the middle of the majority of all of the food and rides. It was so noisy I had to put my hands on my ears a few times when some of the kids started screaming on the Whirly-Birds. There was loud ear-jarring music being piped in all directions and there were people. People, People, People . People started to bump into me and I didn’t like it! Finally we reached an opening in the annoying crowd where we found these really neat machines that made miniature plastic dinosaurs. All you had to do was place 50 cents in the machine for a replica of your favorite dinosaur. Dennis pulled out two quarters from his front right pocket and placed them in the dual metal slot that immediately gobbled them up. His favorite was the Brontosaurus which had a really long neck. We all eye-balled the robot like machine as it jerked back and forth inside the glass cover on a mold making his big boy toy for him. When the robot had completed its task, Barb said “Let’s go boys.” All of the cubs turned and left. Except for me. I was mesmerized by the robot and wanted to see more dinosaur making. I stayed there and watched one more dinosaur being born. It turned out to be one too many births!
As I turned my attention away from the machine and gazed out across the crowd I couldn’t see my den mother in her yellow blouse and blue skirt anywhere. Nor could I see any of my Cub Scout buddies like Dennis, or Stan, or Mark. I could see no one that I came with that day! I felt my heart start to pound and my face got even warmer than it was from the heat of the blazing sun. Sweat started to bead up on my forehead and run down the sides of my flush cheeks. I started to walk fast and tuned my head in any direction it would move, sweeping the area for those that I knew. I was lost! I was alone! I knew it cost 10 cents to make a local phone call from a pay phone, but I didn’t even have a single dime in my pocket. I had no money to call Dad at work. I didn’t know his work number anyway. The only two phone numbers I had memorized were my own home number and Mom’s number. Mom was in Texas 500 miles away and Dad wasn’t home, so neither number did me any good. I wanted to cry but something inside told me that Cub Scouts don’t cry. Especially when they are in uniform. Besides that, I had never seen Dad cry ever so I didn’t think guys were supposed to cry.
I was desperate and started to look for anyone who could help me. It was then that I stumbled upon a place that I thought might be able to help me. There was a small one foot long white sign with black letters propped up on a long cardboard table that read “INFORMATION”. That is exactly what I needed. I needed some information on finding my friends. The table wasn’t far from the dinosaur exhibit where this guy just sat and answered questions all day long. He was an elderly gentleman that was kind of heavy-set with black plastic glasses and grey hair. I used to always think I could trust older people, especially if they had grey hair. I approached the table and told him that I was lost and could not find the people I came with. He leaned over the table looking into my eyes over the top of his glasses, patted the top of my Cub Scout hat and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll find who you are with.” He asked me my name and who I was with and then started yelling across this real loud-speaker, “Will the party that is with Tony Smith please come to the information booth in the exhibit area, will the party that is with Tony Smith please come to the information booth in the exhibit area?”
I waited and I waited and I waited some more. And no one came. I must have waited for thirty minutes. Then a lady in yellow blouse and blue skirt just like my own den mother walked by the information desk where I was sitting with the nice man who was trying to help me. She looked at me like she recognized me and said, “Aren’t you in Pack 87 – you are in Barb’s pack aren’t you?” “Yes I am”, I blurted out. She then told the gentleman helping me she knew my den mother and would make sure that I got home. I finally made it home that day thanks to my surrogate den mother. Momma Barb said she didn’t realize I was not in the van until she got all the way home that day. She was absolutely horrified and couldn’t stop apologizing to me and Dad both.
That feeling of being lost is not a good feeling at all. I felt I was all alone with no one to turn to. I was frightened and terribly afraid. It is amazing to me though how GOD puts people at the right place at the right time to help us in our lives. He is never too late but right on time, just when we think there is no way out!