Sunday, September 6, 2009

Knot for Naught

When I think back on my Boy Scout days, it’s a miracle that I can even light a fire.

During the first initiations, we were sent on a wild goose chase by the older boys to go find a “blue & white smoke-shifter” which was apparently stored down the road. Our absence from the camp was then used to mess with all our stuff including the usual sophomoric pranks like “short-sheeting” our beds. If you are not familiar with this, it involves folding the lower sheet of your bed in half then re-making the bed. The supposed point of this is that when you go to get in bed, you feet are supposed to tear through the sheet and ruin your bed. I never really saw it work, but the tradition carries on never the less.

The next ritual we had to endure was the venerable “pink-belly”. The first night of camp us newbies sat quivering in our sleeping bags, knowing full well the older boys were going to pull this inevitable torture on us, and waiting for the raid to begin. Sure enough just as we finally began to drift off to sleep from pure exhaustion, our tent flap was flung open and in sprang a couple of the oldest and meanest Scouts in the Troop. They threw us on our backs and began slapping the tight young skin of our bellies with considerable force. It was excruciating, and the eventual outcome of this openly sadistic and probably clandestinely homosexual ritual is a very pink and very sore belly. Luckily for me, my tent mate started crying and was of course subjected to far greater torture than I.

The list goes on. Little tricks like dipping a sleeping boys hand in warm water, causing him to wet the bed, and substituting various nasty substances for things like salt and sugar. Of course the Scout leader who I now realize probably had questionable sexual intent as well was indeed the leader of the pack.

But just like getting a “wedgie” from the older boys in Jr. High School, over time, these tortures subsided as the next round of newbies came in, and you were expected to join in the fun of terrorizing the next generation of Scouts. I quit the Scouts for this and many other reasons, foremost of which was the fact that I discovered that these were BOY scouts, and I was becoming a lot more interested in what the GIRL scouts looked like under those crisp green uniforms.

However, in the meantime, I dove into earning merit badges, and learned all kinds of things that I have come to appreciate over time. Tonight as I watched my neighbor struggle to light a campfire, I had one blazing in a matter of minutes. On the other side of our camp a young couple tied their rain tarp up with enough rope to hog tie a horse, only to have it crash down around their heads, while I can tie knots that would baffle Houdini.

I learned to start a fire with just a stick and some moss, and how to filet a freshly caught trout with a pocket knife. And once I caught that fish with nothing more than a piece of string and a paperclip. By the time I was in my early-twenties I used to go on week long “survival” trips with just a sleeping bag and a drop line. All the hazing I went though to get there is perhaps an integral part of the learning process, and that which does not kill you makes you stronger.

The Boy Scouts made me stronger. Hopefully time has made me wiser. Either way, I sure got a nice fire.

1 comment:

  1. Let's see if I can comment finally. I wish you would use Twitter. It would combine all these functions.