Saturday, February 6, 2010

Boy Scout Dave

My son came across this photo the other day. It’s the only picture of me as a Boy Scout. It was taken by my best friend Jeff Knoll. To be honest I was only a Boy Scout for one day. Jeff and a couple of other friends got me in just in time for this camping trip.

I remember learning to tie several kinds of knots before they’d let me go.

It was some kind of giant Scout jamboree. The kind they had on the Flintstones. It seemed like hundreds of different troupes camped in clusters and they were very competitive with each other. There were buglers, flag poles, and everthing.

The first thing we did when we arrived at Camp Beaumont was throw our pack on our backs for a ten mile hike. I was in 6th grade and full of energy but the hike almost killed me. I think it was the hills. Come to think of it didn’t help that I was chubby. My buddies called me skinny. We thought it was funny.

Jeff and I were a bad influence. As soon as we pitched our tents after the hike we gathered our friends and took them into the woods to smoke grape vines.

That night as camp fire shadows distorted the features of our Scout leaders we were taught the old Indian chant “Owah tahgoo siam” to fend off evil spirits.

Jeff and I crawled into our tent just as it began to rain. I’ve always loved listening to it rain while I was snug and dry inside a tent. This was one of those old, stinky canvas tents too. I don’t know what compelled me but I had to touch the ceiling of our tent which caused a leak of course. Our sleeping bags were those old cloth ones too. We were drenched and shivered through the whole night. The smell never did come out of our gear.

As daylight broke I decided I had to build a fire. The Scouts were only allowed matches. We couldn’t even use paper. We were supposed to start a fire with kindling. I think they would have preferred we rubbed sticks together. I remember seeing some kind of bow looking thing, the string of which wrapped around a stick. That spun, causing friction at the point where the stick touched kindling. (Forget that!) It never occurred to the elders that we might cheat. I had a cigarette lighter and found a can of lighter fluid. We called it Girl Scout juice. Soon I had a roaring fire. I didn’t care about rules, I needed warmth.

Later that day, at some kind of military-like ceremony, I was given a special commendation for starting the best fire.

Sadly, when my son was old enough to become a scout I wouldn’t let him. He wanted to join several times when his friends had. I was furious about their intolerance of gays. I guess it’s ironic that I’ve become so intolerant of intolerance.

Fortunately my son has the depth to agree with me now and doesn’t feel he’s missed anything.

Although I was only a Boy Scout a short time, I have a long history with the Cub Scouts. That fascinating story still to come! Not to mention my adventures with my buddy Jeff Knoll.

I have to add this post script--- After I posted I was driving to the studio when they announced that it was the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America on the radio. Totally coincidental!!!

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