Friday, October 16, 2009

Scouting For Delinquents

I was developing quite the reputation in grade school as a boy who needed direction, a Trouble Maker, a Hellion, a Delinquent, and other adjectives the teachers could think of calling me. My parents were becoming pretty exasperated with me, as well. My energy and stubborn nature usually exceeded their will and it was time for action to straighten out this Wild Child from The Sixties!

My Dad told me he was going to sign me up for The Boy Scouts. He said they had a fine program for developing boys into young men. He assured me it would provide structure and expose me to a huge array of Character-Building activities. Naw, he said NONE of that! He said," You'll go and it will straighten your ass out!" Like it or not, I was now a card-carrying member of Troop 86.

It took me about three months of weekly meetings to actually begin to like scouting. What my hardened Steel Town Mentality believed was it was for Dorks and Nerds. Ok, There were some of those, but you ignore them and they go away. I kind of looked at scouting like a version of The Little Rascal's "He-Man Woman Haters Club". I could play as rough as I wanted to and didn't have to worry about getting a lecture for upsetting Suzie.

Beside a few knots that I learned that I used on my headboard in my adult life, I did learn the basics in a lot of life skills. The highlight of the scouting year was going away to camp. There you really learned things,like SURVIVAL! You must know, outside of sleeping in a Tent Trailer on family vacations, this City Kid really had no exposure to true wilderness and animals that COULD EAT YOU!

On a Friday night, in the Dead of Winter, our troop headed out for Kane, Pennsylvania, in the western part of the state. We packed several pick-ups and trailers with enough gear and supplies to outfit a small army for a year. From The Youngstown Area, I guess it was about a three hour drive. To this twelve year old, I thought I was traveling back to the time of Daniel Boone. No electricity or running water, a Pot-Bellied Stove for heat, and the highest mountains I had ever seen. The Hunting Cabins we stayed in had snow blowing through the clapboard. Dehydrated Plastic Bags of Whatever, was our only food that we boiled in pots on the stove.

Several scouts were actually sleeping outside in Pup Tents to earn their "Polar Bear" Merit Badge, nude in their Sleeping Bags! No thanks! My testicles were all ready clanging together like Brass Bells and I was suffering from a severe case of "The Turtle Syndrome", That's where your Winky retreats backwards. think of it as a reverse erection. I have NEVER been that cold, before or since!

As we were packing up to leave late Sunday afternoon. I actually saw a White-Tailed Deer for the first time. It bounded up a hill in a clearing about 100 yards away. I thought it was so majestic! I can still recall that mental image of that Big Buck with a huge rack of antlers. Just like the silhouette on the Deer Crossing Sign! I told you I was a City Kid. Until that weekend, my extent of seeing wildlife was Squirrels, Rabbits, Raccoons, and an occasional possum.

Scouting in my area became a victim of Modern Times. Due to lack of interest, our troop had to disband. No adult leader could be found and our group of about 30 boys was down to six. I obtained the rank of Star Scout and was working towards the ultimate Eagle Scout Award when the troop folded. My Mom said she'd rather see me as an Eagle Scout than President of The United States. I was sorry to disappoint her. Any Boy Scout Troop out there want to adopt me and help me get my Eagle Award?


  1. lol great story!! i'll have to give larry a ring - - i know we can "spice it up" a bit....i remember many, many trips up to kane with good ole troop 86.....ya know i never finished my eagle either....larry did....but then i did get my scoutmaster's knot..into the OA....and served as a District Commissioner for a couple years over in spain.....good memories!

  2. Oh, man, I taught knot tying to the Cub Scouts when I was a den leader and now you've made me wonder what those boys grew up to use the knots for!

    Great post, Tom. As always, it made me remember lots of old memories - not all good ones (freezing in Chicago all-day scout outdoor days)but at least I didn't have to worry about Turtle Syndrome.