This is the first in a series on scouting thoughts and memories. Unless of course, this post reeks to high heaven – in which case, I promise to make this a singular post and allow those in high heaven enjoy the rancid odor.
I became an Eagle Scout at age 14 or 13, but I can’t say that I am particularly proud of this fact. Sure, I’ll admit I loved the fringe aspects of scouting; the goofing around with my pals, the late night Capture the Flag tournaments, the trips to Lake Powell - but mostly I liked the goofing around with my pals. But I sincerely do not believe that the actual scouting: the bird watching, the basket weaving and the boondoggle, were anything more than hoops I had to jump through to hang out with my friends. (As a matter of fact, there may have been a “hoop jumping” merit badge, but I undoubtedly went for the easier option: loop skipping)
It may seem as though I have a love/hate relationship with scouting – which is entirely true. I love everything about it; except for the fact that it is dorky. It may be the dorkiest thing on the face of the planet.
Undoubtedly, there are many men out there that are unabashedly offended at my assertion that scouting is dorky. To you men I say: pull the handkerchief from over your eyes! (The handkerchief with the pristine scout symbol on it that you keep securely folded away on the top shelf of your closet when it is not over your eyes) Look, scouting is luxuriously dorky, it’s movingly dorky, it’s over the top, colossal dorky. Don’t believe me? I have proof! Allow me to run down a few facts:
Scouts are required to wear a uniform that includes knee high socks, a slide belt, a goofy hat and of course the geek robes of all geek robes: the neckerchief (with accompanying hand painted slide… 75 cents at the trading post). All of the clothing is green.
Scouts do campfire cheers that would make Screetch squirm on his log benches they put around campfires.
A true scout’s favorite pastime is holding a stick on the fire and watching it burn until he swings it in the air and his leader yells at him. He then puts a new stick in the fire and the entire charade begins again.
Scouts spend an inordinate amount of time learning to tie knots for no good reason at all. I am often asked by the teenaged students I tutor at Sylvan, “When in real life am I ever going to use this?” Clearly, there is no good answer to this type of slimy, teenaged weaseling to get out of work. However, this past week I replied, “Oh yeah, well when I was 14, I had to learn how to do a Fisherman’s Hanging Noose Slip thread and do you think have ever used that stupid knot once since! Well, you’re right – no I haven’t; but I learned it just the same! And I liked it!”
One of my life mottos is: Sometimes the best way to answer an unintelligent question is with an even more unintelligent answer.
ANYWAY, if this was not proof enough that scouting is a dorky venture, let us look at the way they are portrayed in the popular media.
Television has never been kind to scouts. From Adam Sandler’s Canteen Boy to…well Adam Sandler’s Canteen Boy, we scouts have never been placed in a positive light. They are shown as fruity, loopy and a little backward. Assuredly, somebody smooth and sexy like David Hasselhoff or Maury Povich would never be caught dead wearing a sashed uniform on TV.
And let us not (or knot) forget the goofiest portrayal of all of a scouter: the kid on “Up”. Chubby, awkward and sloppy, of course the best and only thing that this kid had going for him is his undying love for his troop. He has all the uncanny, dorky scout characteristics: He is helpful, friendly, obedient, thrifty, hungry, borderline idiotic etc. Clearly, when it comes to popular media, the scouting image has a long way to go. (A step above “slobbering imbecile” would a step in the right direction.)
I know exactly what most of you are thinking: Well… Abe, since when are you above being dorky? You are the king of dorky! To which I would reply: Yes, I know – and I thank you for seeing the true dorkiness that resides inside of me. However, the dorkiness that encompasses scouting is a different kind of dorky, - a special kind of dorky. A dorky that blinds the 45-year-old overweight woman into wearing the way too tight green pants… again. A dorky that makes grown adults gather once a month at church buildings to discuss things like fire starting and pottery.
That being said, I will readily admit (but am not exactly proud) that I am a scouter through and through. I still have the sash, I will still sit in an “Eagle’s Nest” and I was even a Scoutmaster for five years. I will get to that later.
I would love to start my own, rival-scouting program. I’d call it something like “The Lost Boys” or “Goonies” or “The Wild Bunch”. No dorky aspects of scouting would be allowed, just a bunch of fellows causing mischief and telling stupid jokes. As for uniforms – I don’t care what you wear, as long as it does not involve a neckerchief. Of course, holding sticks in the fire is still highly encouraged.