It is just after sundown at Bearkill Campground. The campground is half empty- or half full, if you’re one of those optimists. Walking along the dirt road from the entrance of the camp, you first pass the ranger station and vending machines. Next, you pass the outhouse; you’d think the heavy wooden door scarred with deep claw marks would be the scariest thing about the facilities at Bearkill, but once you open the door and look down into the dark abyss of the no-flush toilets you realize there are bigger things to fear than bear attacks.
It’s all downhill from there- literally. The road slopes down as you continue on the path from the outhouse into the center of the campground, where the campsites are arranged along the curve where the road turns around and heads uphill towards the ranger station.
At one of the sites, a group of scouts and their troop leader sit around the campfire, roasting vegan marshmallows and listening to the EZ-lite logs crackle. The troop sits in silence. Eventually, one of them reaches into their pocket for their phone, before remembering that the leader confiscated all devices. The other troop members giggle- this is not the first time that’s happened around the fire tonight.
“Camping out like this reminds us of all we have to be grateful for in this modern world of ours,” says the scout leader, searching for something to talk about with the troop. “For instance, did you know, the fruit we call orange existed before the color? That’s right, there was a time when that color had no name! Imagine that! What would it have been like, in say, the year 1404, to before the color orange had been named? Perhaps I could weave a tale around this campfire, of a street scene that might have been...”
And with that, the leader looked off into the darkness, and transported the troop to another time, another place. A street scene in the year 1404…
…where a 15th century gentleman has just journeyed into an unfamiliar town.
"Good day, my lady. Doth thou know the date to-day?" asked the 15th century gentleman to a young woman passing by with a basket of berries freshly plucked from the bushes o'er yonder hills.
"Why yes, my good sire, todoth's date beith the fifth Monday of the lord's year 1404, the 4th of February," the lady replied quite verbosely to the strange man she had never met before.
"And may I ask you another question?" asked the 15th century gentleman.
"Yes," said the lady, quite quickly. She shouldn't be talking to a man who is not her relative without a chaperone present, per the societal rules of the day.
"What ungodly color hath your garb been dyed?" asked the 15th century gentleman.
"Well," the lady paused quite pregnantly, "there is no name for the color of the dye of my dress."
"What do you mean?" asked the 15th century gentleman.
"I mean to say, it is somewhere between yellow and red but it is neither yellow nor red."
"Nor is it blue! But I hath not asked what it is not, I hath asked ye what doth isith!" said the 15th century gentleman, in a less than gentlemanly manner.
"It is nothing, it is a shade that has not yet been named!" cried the lady.
"I ask ye again: what color hath thou dyed thy garment? Answerith me, woman!" hissed the 15th century gentleman, as a bit of sour spittle gathered in the corners of his lips.
"There is no name for it, strange gentleman! Tis a new color! One that exists only in the moment where yellow fades to red as the sun sets over the River Th-" and with that he slapped her cheek. It was the first time a man other than her papa had every touched her skin.
"Witch!" the 15th century gentleman exclaimed, "Witch! Witch! She hath created a new color! Burn her body to see if it floats! Hang her to see if she can swim! She hath doth aught that we shant!"
The lady remained in silent shock, considering for a moment if now she would be forced to marry this strange man since they had made bodily contact... but before the moment passed, the 15th century gentleman produced a small dagger from within his coat and sliced her virgin throat.
"My virgin throat!" the lady gurgled through the blood. The 15th century gentleman screamed as he watched the devil fabric absorb the definitely red blood that ‘twas spurting from her jugular. Just then, another man approached the 15th century gentleman.
"What hath thou done?" Cried the second 15th century gentleman.
"She wore a garment dyed a color neither yellow nor red but instead somewhere in-betweenith. I used my dagger to cut her throat as she was obviously a witch! Now we must drown her to see if she'll catch afire," replied 15th century gentleman.
"Why, my good man! I've traveled across all the Europe and Asia's mountains by foot and by beast as part of my work as a cartographer, and that hue has only existed in one place! The oriental fruit they call 'orange' is that strange color as well, and the only other natural thing I've e’er seen in that hue. I've definitely never seen another fruit, flower, butterfly, sunset or anything else that particular color! For certain! Just the fruit," said the second 15th century gentleman.
"Perhaps she was a witch after all, for how else could a woman create a color that only our Creator hath produced, and only then in the distant gardens of the Orient?" asked the first 15th century gentleman.
"Indeed! Good work, my good fellow. Now, let's gather the towne's wagoner to pluck her wretched body from the street and give her a ye olde witch's trial in the cemetery!" cried the second 15th century gentleman, as they linked arms and skipped off toward the wagoner’s station in the center of town.
“And so it might have gone, scouts,” said the troop leader, breaking the spell he assumed he had cast over the troop, “in the time before the color orange had been named, this scene may very well have happed. Dun-dun-DUN!”
As their leader continued, “and how about that, I gave you a spooky campfire story and a history lesson! If that doesn’t motivate you all to nominate me for Troop Leader of the year, I don’t know what will!”
With that, the scouts rolled their eyes, and hoped that maybe a bear would come and put them out of their misery- despite the reassurances earlier from the park ranger that it was unlikely to happen.