As far back as I can remember, the men and boys in my family have been involved in Boy Scouts. That’s five of my uncles, three male cousins, and my dad and brothers. Those three first cousins are Eagle Scouts (the highest achievement in Scouting), as well as my baby brother and an uncle. My cousin Ennis got to go the World Jamboree in Australia when he was just 14 years old. I still remember my sense of awe that he would get to fly all the way to the other side of the world and it would take him a whole day to get there.
Sometime in the 1980s, (so the stories go) my dad and uncles decided to revive the local scout troop that had fallen on hard times. There were some tough moments in the beginning, and they didn’t always do things perfectly, but the cub scout pack and boy scout troop grew so much in the years that they were in charge. My dad was both Cubmaster and Scoutmaster, as well as a leader for more than 20 years. The year my youngest brother made Eagle and the first of my three sons entered Tiger Cubs, my dad gave up the post of Scoutmaster (for the second time) and it truly was the end of an era.
I remember Blue and Gold banquets when my brother Wilder was a Cub Scout. The “wolf’s blood” that the boys would have to drink (V-8 juice, I think, mixed with Tobasco Sauce), the “bear meat” that they would have to chew (beef jerky most likely), the blue and gold balloons and flower arrangements. The food and the pagentry of it all. Such a sense of purpose and meaning. Such a sense of pride for the boys and the moms and dads.
In the spring, there would be a big family fun day with food and games and at the end the Webelos who were moving up to Boy Scouts would be escorted away from their families and into the slowly darkening woods, quaking just a little. Mothers sending boys into the woods to face their fears.
As the boys moved in to Boy Scouts (as opposed to cub scouts), there was summer camp and hiking the Appalachian Trail. There was a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. There was the Scout Bar-B-que every February with the men and boys roasting chickens over an open fire pit, starting at five o’clock in the morning.
Scouting should teach boys to be better men. It should be purposeful. It should have a sense of reverence, of honor, of tradition. That is something that the men in my family felt strongly about and still do feel strongly about. It’s the reason why my boys are in scouts and why we will not only support them, but encourage them to make scouting a part of their lives.
Man, how I wanted to be a Boy Scout.