Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tarzan Boy Scouts 2

I'm sure the title will give away the fact that the following stories return to the theme of our wild boyscout troop. In truth it might not be fair to call most of them stories. They are merely snippets of the kind of wild things we did during our years as scouts. Still, they make me laugh when I think about them, so I believe they belong here.

Out of our entire troop Sam was probably the biggest slob. He was as un-tucked, un-brushed and often as un-washed as a boyscout could be. However, no one could argue with the fact that he was the rugged outdoors type. One morning we were running late and hadn't had breakfast before Dad said it was time for us to roll out. Sam had just cracked a couple of eggs into his frying pan and said that he had to finish them before he could go.

“Eat them now then, but move!” Dad said as he walked past.

With less than a second's delay Sam lifted the frying pan to his lips and drank the eggs raw. He said that he wasn't marching on an empty stomach. One of our scout mothers almost threw up, but the rest us thought it was great.

Jim wasn't near so rugged, but he was still good for a laugh. Once when he was reciting the boyscout law, which goes “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”, he got confused and looked to me for help. I tried to mouth the next one to him, but he misread my lips.

“And a scout should be naval!” Jim said confidently.

Dad stared at him for a moment before asking “What does it mean to be naval, Jim?”

Jim opened and closed his mouth like a fish a few times before confessing that he didn't know. We all burst out laughing and “Be naval!” became a saying amongst us for a while.

Of course, Jim didn't always make the rest of us want to laugh. There was at least one occasion in particular when he called down the wrath of the troop. You see, there were times when the entire troop decided that one of us had done something that had to be punished. It almost always came in the form of mockery and we certainly never hurt one another, but we all made sure to show our disapproval to the offending member.

Jim's offense had simply been being a wimp. Jim was the biggest of us and arguably the strongest, but he didn't have the “Never give up!” drive that most of us had. On the particular day in question we had gone out on a hiking trip. Dad was showing us all how to use a map in the woods, which is a lot trickier than it sounds. You have to know how to use your compass to line the map up and get your bearings. Poor Dad probably spent close to an hour trying to show us how to do it before we started marching through briar and bramble.

The idea was to lead us all a fair distance out in the woods and then have us navigate our way back out. For the first couple of hours we were enjoying it, however, as time wore on our packs got heavier and heavier. We were carrying all of our equipment as if it had been a normal march. Part of the exercise was to get us used to hauling our packs through the woods for hours at the time. Jason, in particular, was loaded down like a pack mule. He probably had more in his pack than any two of the rest of us.

As we pushed on our weariness increased and the troop began to complain. We had been on the march for a good long time before we came out of the woods. As soon as we hit the road our spirits rose. All we had to do was march down it back to the cars and we were done. Most of us picked up our spirits and pushed ourselves on step after grueling step. Not Jim, however, he collapsed on the side of the road and said we could pick him up on the way home. Needless to say we all began to make fun of him and do our best to get him to march on. He refused to move an inch. So, we marched on without him.

When we got back to the car all the boys agreed that we shouldn't stop for Jim, but should wave as we drove by. Our plan was to drive ahead where he couldn't see us and park for a minute or two and then go back to get him, just to mess with him. However, Dad backed out at the last minute and stopped to let Jim in. The rest of us were furious, but there wasn't much we could do other than make fun of Jim about it for months.

On another occasion we decided to pretend to punish Jermaine in order to mess with my Dad. Our scout headquarters was in a small building on the edge of Folk's pond. We came up with the idea that Jermaine would say something and that the rest of us would react to by dragging him outside and throwing him in the pond. Of course, we weren't really going to throw him in, we just wanted Dad to think we had.

We got a cinder block and a couple of bricks and put them right down by the edge of the pond for easy reach. Then we went inside the building and started our fake conversation. When Jermaine said his line we all grabbed him and dragged him out of the door yelling “Into the pond!” As soon as we got out of the door we put Jermaine down and all grabbed our bricks and block. We threw them on the count of three and Jermaine began screaming about how cold the water was.

Dad flew out of the building, nearly tearing the door off it's hinges and was met by his entire troop laughing. Dad looked the scene over and saw Jermaine standing there bone dry. He quickly put two and two together and joined in the laughter with us.

However, there was a day not to long after that when Kevin Dial actually did fall into the water and nobody laughed. The troop had gone to Edisto Memorial Gardens for some reason, although now I can't remember what it was. For the most part we boys had been left to do whatever we liked and we spent a majority of the time running around the woods and playing near the Edisto river.

Kevin had gotten right up to the edge of the river and was looking intently into the water. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to give him a good scare. So, I crept up behind him, slapped him on the back and yelled “RAA!” right in his ear. I never expected him to do what he did. I mean, most people would have jerked a bit or screamed or something like that. Not Kevin, no, he jumped out into the middle of the river like a frog.

He also went to the extra trouble of sinking like a stone. Under most circumstances Kevin could swim, at least a little bit. However, I suppose the current of the river and the pounding of his terrified heart were working against him that day. Whatever the cause he didn't swim a stroke. In the movies when someone falls in the water and is drowning they splash around screaming for help and taking gulps of air before they sink below the waves. Kevin didn't do anything like that. As soon as he hit the water he sank up to his hat and stayed that way.

In fact, it may have been that hat that saved his life. You see, as soon as Kevin was in the water the entire troop was at the river's edge screaming for help and trying to save Kevin. Within moments the adults were right at the spot where Kevin had jumped in an were trying their best to find him. I noticed that Kevin's hat was slowly floating down the river and an idea hit me. I felt certain that the hat was still on his head. However, in all the panic and amongst all the screaming I didn't take the time to explain, I just ran along the edge of the river following the hat.

After what seemed like forever Kevin's hand shot up out of the water and grabbed a stone on the river's edge. In a flash I grabbed his hand and a moment later I had pulled his gasping form up out of the river. As soon as he was on dry land I yelled to everyone that he was safe and the panic was over. As they were drying him off he was asked how he came to fall in the river. I had to confess that I had scared him into it. The entire event was used as an example lesson for us boys. You have to be careful when you are playing near the water. After that I was a lot more careful about where and when I scared anyone.

As you can see, my time in the boy scouts was filled with adventure, excitement and the occasional dose of danger. We all had a great deal of fun and learned a great deal about taking care of ourselves and each other. That is something all boys need to learn in order to become men. They don't have to do it in the boy scouts, but they have to do it somewhere. You can protect a little boy so much that he will never really become a man. You have to let him take risks and deal with consequences. If everyone understood that fact the world would be a better place. At least, that's my humble opinion.

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