The Junior Campers is a Scouting-style organization in Springfield. Its aims include teaching Springfield's children outdoor survival skills and encouraging them to be involved in community service. Its headquarters is a single room in an unknown building — possibly Springfield Elementary School, but not verified to be so.
Bart Joins the Campers
The early history of the Junior Campers is unknown; the organization was not seen or mentioned before Bart Simpson became a member.
Bart's involvement with the Junior Campers began when he and Milhouse Van Houten found a $20 bill on the ground. The two of them then went on a spending spree, among other things purchasing an all-syrup Squishee from the Kwik-E-Mart. After consuming the Squishee, they went hyper from all of the sugar in it. When Bart woke up the next morning in his bedroom, suffering from a sugar hangover, he discovered to his mortification that he was wearing a Junior Camper uniform. Apparently, he had joined the organization while in the throes of his Squishee-fueled binge.
Bart took his uniform to school, intending to turn it to the Junior Campers and back out of joining, explaining that it had been a mistake. However, Mrs. Krabappel announced a surprise quiz, prompting Warren to ask to be excused as he had to attend a Junior Campers patrol meeting. Mrs. Krabappel consented, and Bart, seeing the opportunity to get out of the quiz, hastily donned his uniform and told her that he also needed to attend the meeting, as "this uniform carries certain responsibilities".
Having dodged the quiz, Bart cheerily went to his first meeting, only to be greeted (to his shock) by patrol leader Ned Flanders, his annoying next-door neighbor, and the rest of the group bathing Jasper Beardsley. When Ned said that Bart had arrived just in time for "Sponge Bath the Old Folks" day, Bart screamed and ran out of the room. However, he caught his bandanna in the door and fell to the floor, knocking himself out cold.
Minutes later, Bart came to and found a boy performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him while Ned gave him instructions. Now fully awake, Bart threw the boy off and the meeting resumed. Bart quickly grew bored, however, and when Ned explained how to make a pinecone into a makeshift bird feeder by applying a smidge of peanut butter, Bart decided he'd had enough and headed for the door. But when Ned asked everyone to take out their pocketknives, Bart regained interest and turned back. Ned handed Bart the group's knife safety manual and told him he had to read it before he would be allowed to handle a knife. Now disgusted, Bart left, but as he walked through Springfield, he noticed that in addition to being cool, knives were very important and useful. Bart then read the manual, returned to the group and passed the knife safety test, eager to be allowed to have a knife. For his trouble, however, rather than a real knife, Bart received a rubber training knife and a promotion to the rank of "Pussy Willow". Offended as well as disgusted, Bart nearly left (yet again), but when Ned told the group that they would be taught how to trap wild animals, Bart was enticed back in.
In spite of Ned's admonishment that "This should only be used in life-or-death situations", Bart quickly saw the prank potential of the animal-trapping skills. He set a noose trap in the kitchen for Homer, baiting it with a piece of pie. The trap was a total success as Homer went for the pie, got caught in the trap, and ended up dangling upside down by his ankle, able only to watch helplessly as Santa's Little Helper ate the pie.
After this, Bart enthusiastically embraced his newly acquired Junior Camper skills: He earned five merit badges, caught Homer in another pie-baited trap (this time, a pit trap in the driveway), commented knowledgeably about a knot that Itchy used to tie Scratchy's tongue to a tent spike in an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, and ended up on much friendlier terms with Ned than before. All was well until Ned announced that the group's annual father-son rafting trip would be the next weekend.
The Rafting Trip
Both Bart and fellow Camper Warren were upset at the announcement: Bart because he felt that Homer was certain to embarrass him on the trip, and Warren because his father was in prison. Ned told Warren that "celebrity dad" Ernest Borgnine had already been hired to accompany him on the trip (despite Warren's wishes to take his older brother), which left Bart to figure out how to deal with Homer.
Bart decided to go ahead and ask Homer to go on the trip, figuring he would say "No". Homer, however, was figuring that Bart would say "No" if Homer said he wanted to go. Bart grudgingly asked Homer to go on the trip, and Homer equally grudgingly said "Yes", so they ended up going together in spite of neither of them wanting that outcome. Adding insult to injury, they ended up sharing a raft with Ned and Rod Flanders.
Bart's fear that Homer would embarrass him proved to be more than warranted as Homer lost the map due to making it into a sailor's hat only for the wind to blow it off his head. The loss of the map resulted in Ned taking the wrong fork in the river. (Homer did have a map, but it was a Krusty Burger map that only showed the chain's locations.) The raft then went over several waterfalls and ended up at the river's mouth at the ocean. While Ned and the boys tried to fight the current to get to shore, Homer told them they should just wait and let the current take them back to land. To everyone's chagrin, however, the current swiftly took them out to sea and far out of sight of land.
The situation was dire, with the sun beating down, no rescue in sight, and no idea of which way land was. Things quickly grew much worse, however, as a result of Homer's bumbling and general carelessness:
- Homer ran down the batteries in Rod's tape player by listening to music, then got mad and threw the player overboard (when both the batteries and the player itself could have been used for other things).
- Homer used the last of the raft's water supply to rinse his socks, being under the mistaken impression that they were floating on plenty of drinkable water. (It is important to note, however, that drinking sea water is not conducive to long-term survival.)
- Homer devoured most of the raft's food supply when he tried to demonstrate that the secret to rationing food was to take tiny bites.
- Homer fired a flare gun to try to attract the attention of a passing plane, but ended up shooting the plane down. The pilot bailed out safely and landed in another passing plane, which quickly flew away.
- Homer used a cheese doodle (the last of the raft's food supply) as bait to catch a fish. However, because Homer failed to secure the fishing line inside the raft, the fish swam away with the hook, the line and the doodle.
By this time, a thick fog had rolled in. Thinking that they were all going to die, Homer gave Bart a present — a Swiss Army knife he had stolen from Ernest Borgnine. Homer opened the blades, eagerly showing the knife's capabilities. Then, to everyone's horror, he accidentally dropped the knife and it bounced several times on the rubber raft, but miraculously came to rest without puncturing it. A bit of sun came out just in time to catch the knife's mini-magnifying glass, which quickly burned a hole in the raft.
As air leaked out of the raft, the fog returned. The group then smelled hamburgers. Homer's quirks and predilections, which had caused so much trouble, now ironically came to the rescue. Consulting Homer's map, they found there was a Krusty Burger restaurant on a nearby offshore oil rig; and guided by Homer's nose, they were able to row directly to it. They quickly boarded the rig and ran to the restaurant, and Homer gasped out an order for seven hundred Krusty burgers, much to the delight of the employees.
Meanwhile, the rest of the rafters, led by Ernest Borgnine, fared even worse, in spite of having taken the correct river fork. First, they found themselves drifting through a dark wooded area as they heard rustling sounds and saw ominous shadowy figures moving amidst the trees adjacent to the river. Later, they had a confrontation with a bear and Borgnine said he would use his trusty knife to fend it off, but was at a loss when he found his knife was missing (Homer having stolen it earlier to give to Bart). Eventually, they took shelter at an old abandoned summer camp. They settled in and Borgnine led the group in a campfire song, but a mysterious shadowy person or creature lurking in the woods came out and attacked them.
After the Trip
It is unknown what happened to the patrol after the rafting trip. The members who were with Ernest Borgnine are generally presumed to have been killed in the attack at the abandoned summer camp. Bart most likely sharply curtailed his involvement and eventually quit altogether, as he is only rarely seen wearing the uniform or participating in Junior Camper activities:
- Bart later earned several more merit badges, but did so in a "cool rebel" fashion.
- In a photograph taken during a Simpson family camping trip, Bart and Homer, wearing Junior Camper uniforms, were seen struggling to light a campfire while Marge, Lisa and Maggie had already finished setting up a luxurious campsite.
- Bart unintentionally participated in a Junior Campers event when he hid in Ned's SUV to avoid Homer. Ned took the patrol in his SUV to the mountains for a sled race, and when he found Bart, he asked Bart to be in the race to make a complete set of teams. Bart wasn't wearing a uniform and wasn't even planning on being in the race, so it is possible that by this time he had quit.
After Bart first joined the Junior Campers, he obtained the following five merit badges for his sash:
Bart was later seen obtaining the following six merit badges, albeit in a pranking / rebellious fashion:
- Knot Tying
Ralph Wiggum earned a Survival merit badge when he and Bart got lost in the woods. Ralph's habit of hugging everything he saw in the woods left a trail of chocolate handprints which allowed searchers to find them.
Behind the Laughter
- The Junior Campers are based on the Boy Scouts.
- Comic story – Bart's Junior Camper Demerit Badge Manual
- Comic story – Ralph vs. Wild
- Book – Greetings from the Simpsons (2007)
|Bart Simpson1 • Adrian1 • Rod Flanders|
|Former members (most likely dead)|
|Warren • Junior Camper|
|Homer Simpson • Ernest Borgnine (most likely dead)|
|1As of "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood"|