Boy Scouts

Proverbs 26:11

The Boy Scout Oath

On my honor, I will do my best 
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

There was a brief period of time when the community of Hartley, America had an active Boy Scout troop. Even if it was irregular, it was active. The weekly Scout meetings took place once a month. The problem was that the Scout Master, Mr. Privett, was also the school principal, junior high basketball coach, and high school tennis coach. There were about 12 boys in all, and I actually found a niche. Before we moved there, I had learned to play the cornet in sixth grade band, so I was coronated the troop bugler. I could play Taps, Reveille, Charge, Amazing Grace, and the co-opted Coca-Cola  song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

I was serious about advancement in the organization. I studied the Boy Scout Manual, earned merit badges, bought shirt patches, and attained the rank of Scout, 2nd Class.  My enthusiasm was somewhat tempered by the irregularity of the regular meetings and the rampant apathy of my fellow scouts.  To them, there was one reason for scouting – the camping trips. We took two camping trips per year. But I had a higher duty, and I was doing it well.

The Boy Scout Law

A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

The first trip took place at a local Scout Ranch, Camp Don Harrington, about an hour away.  This was a nice little canyon among cedar breaks, and it had a wet weather creek. The trip was a weekender to practice our fire-starting, rope-knotting, and tent-setting up skills. The second trip was a week long and took place at Philmont Scout Camp, near Cimmaron, New Mexico.  The majestic mountain scenery was a welcome change from the flat barren high plains of Hartley.

Philmont made the most significant impact on my life. There were dozens of Scout troops represented there. We discovered that our tiny group was the only one with a true bugler (even though it was a coronet). Every morning and every evening, my horn echoed from the mountaintops, signalling the time to wake up or the time to go to bed. Our boys walked with heads held high, me included. For days, other Scouts and their leaders approached me wanting to stump-the-band. “Hey, can you play…” In most cases, I could muster out something similar to the real tune. I was fine with “Smoke on the Water” and “Born to Be Wild,” but I had to decline “Purple Haze.” I was loyal to my troop and cheerful to entertain others and even reverent in spirit (Amazing Grace).

The Boy Scout Motto

Be prepared

The last day was the most memorable. We packed our gear and policed the area (picked up trash). As a reward for not making his life miserable, Mr. Privett bought everyone a Coke from the snack bar. Soon after we loaded onto the bus for the trip home, I noticed several of the guys engaged in a subtle passing around of something or other. On closer inspection, I realized it was Skoal – smokeless tobacco – just a pinch between the cheek and gum. After the little round can made its way through the group, it came to me last because I was sitting on the back row. All eyes were on me. “Ever dipped?” someone asked.  “Of course.” I said. (I lied). With my forefinger and thumb, I took a lump and stuffed it into my lower lip. We all had our empty coke bottles still with us, and that’s what we used to spit in.

It was a most pleasant journey from Cimarron to Texline. We were all whispering dirty jokes, and we were all dipping Skoal, and I was finally one of the gang. That was short-lived, and I was not prepared for what happened next. About halfway between Texline and Dalhart, my head began to swim. Everything in the bus was moving in ways it wasn’t supposed to move.  Someone said, “You don’t look so good.”  About that time, we pulled up to a stop light, and I hurled over three rows of Boy Scouts. In unison, a dozen adolescent voices groaned. Seasoned soul that he was, Mr. Privett spotted a car wash on the next block and whipped in, and everyone dove out. Somewhere in my mother’s storage room is a color photograph of me, covered in vomit, standing beside a school bus dripping vomit out the back door.

Some lessons only take once to learn. After that, no one ever sat by me on the bus, I never tried Skoal again, and I gave up the cornet. The Boy Scout troop folded when Mr. Privett moved to another school, and to this day I feel personally responsible for the degeneration of scouting as an organization, but I imagine that’s giving myself too much credit.


Published in: on July 30, 2018 at 8:28 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. One of my favorite stories.

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