Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Be prepared

I joined Cub Scouts at a tender age, and it went well. I got the uniform and worked my way through the ranks. But women were "den mothers" It wasn't the experience we cubs wanted. We wanted to chop wood and make camp fires, and go camping and that sort of thing. I was doing that with my parents anyway. My father was in the Forest Service as my mom had been and my Grandfater was a ranger. But these "den mothers" had us doing girly things,.. artistic things.

Things went well for me in the Cub Scouts, but I couldn't wait to graduate to Boy Scouts, and boy was I in for it.

First of all, the scout master was a cigerette smoking, beer drinking meat butcher. My parents didn't smoke or drink. His sons were in the scouts. Our troop was nothing less than a gang, and hazing for the young scouts was way out of control, and it went on beyond the whole first year. I went in from Cub Scouts with two of my friends, Larry and Mark. Both of them lasted only a few meetings. They quit and joined a Christian group. But I couldn't bring myself to fail as I really wanted to belong and wear the uniform and all of that.

There was a total lack of leadership. The scout master would open the Troop Meeting and then go to a break room and smoke cigarettes and drink coffee with the other "leaders". Meanwhile the ranking scouts would haze the Tenderfoots. I won't go into all of the things they did.

And then there were the Patrol Meetings. Each young scout would get assigned to a Patrol. That was headed by a ranking scout. The Patrol Leader. And there was also an assistant Patrol Leader. You would go and meet at their house, and there was no supervision of that meeting at all. I was told to wear my uniform to my first Patrol Meeting. When I got there I was handed a coffee can that had a slit cut in the top and a piece of tape on it that read Boy Scout Camp. They told me to go from house to house and collect money for Boy Scout Camp. And then return at the end of the meeting. So I did. Then when I got back the leadership just pocketed the money. But I gained trust. And we prided ourselves in being tougher than the other troops, and we were as we played outside of the rules.

There was this one guy you really had to watch out for. He was an older scout but hadn't grown very big. So he had a "small boy complex" And he was ruthless. He was a "life" Scout. He ended up making "Eagle" The parents loved him and he really played it up. But he was a little nazi.

Rank ruled in our troop. At the camp outs you really had to watch your back. One time at a jamboree, he found a walking cain. We were all standing around a big Bonn fire at night and he was cruising around the perimeter with this cain and would put it between your legs and then pull up on it. I saw him coming and knew what he was up to. He put the cain between my legs and I grabbed it and fell backwards onto him. I pinned him and forced the cain onto his neck as all of the other scouts grouped around yelling. He choked "let me up! let me up!" So after I thought I had made my point I did let him up as I knew he would get even if I didn't. He never bothered me after that. Still I had to watch my back and I never trusted him.

At the camp-outs the main thing the scouts did on their free time was to play penny-anti poker. I once got accused of taking an older scouts money at a summer camp. I didn't do it. I looked up to this guy. He was popular and I thought he was cool. He knew I didn't do it but he kept on me about it. He kept saying 'you can come clean don". But I wouldn't admit to something I didn't do. So I vowed to never gamble after that and except for buying a lottery ticket now and then I don't.

Years later I took a date to a place where he was a bartender. He recognized me. So I brought it up. He didn't remember it.

I guess I learned a few things from scouting. I learned how to defend myself. I learned not to gamble. I learned that things are not always as they appear. I learned to question leadership. I learned the importance of being kind to others, and I learned how to tie a few knots. So I guess scouting was a good experience for me. It prepared me for life.

I never made it past the rank of"first class." When it came time for me to continue the tradition I just wouldn't do it and quit. I think the troop kind of fell apart after that and the cycle of corruption ended. I'm not really sure what happened after my class of cubs quit. I think the whole thing sort of imploded on it's self.

Here is a photo of my Cub Scout Ring. It's silver, very small, and it's kind of cool. The photo doesn't do it justice. Did you know that you can clean silver with toothpaste? I didn't learn that in scouts.


Anonymous said...

i came across your blog from another blog and wanted to tell you i thought it was really interesting.

don said...

Thanks Megan!

Anonymous said...

Geez! I signed my son up for Boy Scouts in November because I felt it would offer structure and some positive male influence. Meeting nights are never going to be the same for me.

I'll try to focus on the positive aspects you mentioned and push the hazing and poker out of my mind. (I don't remember reading that in the brochure!)

don said...

I'm sure my troop was an exception due to the leadership. I doubt very seriously there are troops out there now like mine was. We could tell we were different even then. But you never know.

And it wasn't all bad. I had quite a bit of fun actually.

It does come down to the leadership however.

GrewUpRural said...

I was in Girl Scouts and all I can say is that girls are mean to each other. I was always the odd one out. I considered myself quite normal, while most of the other girls were very girly and clique like.

I thought Girl Scouts was about learning different skills, camping, etc. Boy, was I in for a shock. It was more like Fashion Scouts. I lasted only for a few years.

The concept of scouts is a great idea, but you must have a strong leader for the group.

don said...

I only lasted a couple of years also. One of the best things out of it was going to winter camp and getting free time to snowshoe.

don said...

some of the comments lost the link to that persons blog. I think it happened when I switched to beta but I'm not sure.