Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Three of the 12 laws a Boy Scout pledges to are:

A Scout is Friendly.
A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.
A Scout is Courteous.
A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.
A Scout is Kind.
A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing.

So how well did I uphold these laws as a youth growing up in Waverly, Tennessee? Not very well and I think you’ll agree.

I actually loved the scouts; I loved reading the Boy’s Life magazine about other boys my age across the country who were striving to be the best scout in the whole of the United States. However, I’ve always been just a bit too lazy to actually exceed in much. I’ve always done just enough, but an Eagle Scout I was never going to be – just wasn’t the right material.

I loved tying knots, collecting leaves, and learning tracking signs. I actually could do most of the projects required to become an Eagle Scout, but I wasn’t going to sit down and learn Morse code, or anything really time consuming or hard – just too lazy and too interested in other things.

I also loved camping and remember my first campout in the scouts. I was so excited that when I woke up the next morning there was frost on the lower quarter of my sleeping bag! Wow, and I hadn’t even gotten cold. I was a real camper – could survive in the elements just like an Artic explorer!

However, my excitement for the scouts changed one evening in January. Something happened that made me realize I did not have the right stuff – just couldn’t keep the laws as I should. I discovered guilt – something that keeps most folks from understanding the true gift of Grace, and it was a long time before I ever felt worthy of manhood.

Snow had begun falling and was already collecting on the ground as we scouts gathered at the lodge that was located behind the high school, between the school and a long ridge of rolling Middle Tennessee hills.

None of us could listen to the Scout Master with full attention at all that evening because we knew what was happening outside. We could not wait to run home ripping snowballs at each other and watching the world turn white and fresh.

All things finally end, even if you think they never will. We ran, screamed, rolled, and tossed snowballs until we broke up into our neighborhood groups. I belonged to the Fairground Drive gang of young hoodlums; two of us trailer trash that came in with the New Johnsonville TVA construction families. We walked slowly across Highway 70 toward the alley that ran between Hwy 70 and Fairground Drive talking about everything 13 year old boys discuss, kicking snow as we walked. The snow had accumulated about 2 inches while we were getting our weekly scouting lesson.

Suddenly, out of the east came the sound of a tractor trailer changing gears. Almost simultaneously we all got the same idea “Let’s snowball’im!”

We ran back toward the highway and each of us chose an elm tree for cover, 2 on the far side of the street and 2 on the near side, and began forming snowballs to about 3” diameter.

The truck driver had just pushed his rig into high gear as he passed the school heading into town when we let loose the bombardment! Two snowballs hit directly into the driver’s windshield, while one missed completely and the other harmlessly thumped the trailer just back of the cab.

Everything would have been fun from that point on had the driver either not been a hot head, or had not panicked! Suddenly, we knew the brakes had locked on the truck and the trailer began to jackknife badly toward the school side of the street. With eyes wide open and mouths following suit, we stood motionless for several seconds until someone yelled “RUN”!

Just as I regained my composure enough to get my feet moving, I heard the door on the cab slam shut and began to hear the patter of big feet splashing the slush on the street. “Oh God, he’s coming”, I yelled, visualizing a tire-iron or gun in the driver’s hand.

We dashed through yards and on to the entrance of the alley that had been our first destination. The two guys that had been hiding across the highway had already made it into the darkness of the alley and were nearly 50 yards ahead of me. The guy that had been on the other side with me was about 10 yard ahead of me; having come to his senses sooner than I.

The foot steps were getting louder behind me and were about to be drown out by the heart beats pounding my ear drums – my heart was racing and I was nearly out of wind, not so much the running but from pure fear.

I knew I couldn’t see him and that he probably couldn’t see me – yet – so I decided to make a calculated move. I would dive into the ditch that ran along the alley and let him pass me in the dark, but if he could see me, I was dead meat!

I ran 3 or 4 more strides and launched myself into the dark ditch – right into a tangle of briars, but I held my screams in check. I could hear him clearly now just steps back, and I was sure he could hear my heart thumping out its telltale message – here he is, here he is!

As fate would have it, he stopped directly beside where I lay terrified. I could hear him breathing, gasping over the sound of my heart, and I just knew he would soon hear it and look my way.

Down the alley I could still hear the other criminals running and hollering instructions of some sort. The driver listened too and moved on a few steps. Then, as God chose to bless me, he silently moved off the alley and into a backyard of one of the houses that fronted the highway.

After several long minutes I heard the truck door slam again, the truck motor rev up, and a gear grinding into place – he was leaving!

I rolled over onto my back and looked up into the night sky, caught a few flakes in my mouth, filled my lungs with cold air and thanked God for sparing me – sparing me the embarrassment my parents would have felt and the ass whooping my dad would have given me!

The other guys eventually came back down the alley looking for me. By then, we had gotten over the shock and nervously laughed about the previous event, but down inside me, I knew I could never again be a true scout.

I had not been friendly to my fellow man, I had not been polite or used good manners, I had not been kind and gentle and had almost brought harm to another. I was not worthy yet to be trusted with any oath, law, motto, or slogan – I was still just a kid and I still had a lot of growing up to do.


Ron Southern said...

Rvil child! I wonder which would be worse: if his was the first face you saw in heaven or the first face you saw in hell? Maybe he won't recognize you...

Mushy said...

I certainly thought I was headed out, but to which place I wasn't so sure!

Fathairybastard said...

Man, that's great stuff. When I lived in England, Missouri, and Ft. Worth, where we got real snow, we used to throw snowballs at cars in the winter, crabapples a few times in summer in Missouri. Kids, lookin' for the excitement of combat. There's nothing like the excitement of being chased. Bunch of older kids took out after my buds and I one night, Ft. Worth, about 1977. We were walking around in the middle of the night with sling shots that we had shoplifted from the local five and dime, looking for mischief, but the older kids were driving. Their car passed is and then spun out as they turned around and came after us. We ran and ended up hiding in bushes in an apartment complex as they drove around lookin' for us, and then slinked back to our houses by a circuitous rout. Hilarious to think of it now. That was a fun time.

I tried being a cub scout in England in the 60s when I was in the second or third grade, but the feel was different when your outdoor activities are taking place in some dudes back yard. There was also the fact that at that time, any kid going to school wearing a uniform was gonna take a huge amount of shit from most of the other kids. Add to that the fact that the folks got me the wrong hat. I didn't like being laughed at back then, or now, so I didn't stick with it. Did love the boy scout manuals, and those magazines. Still have them, up in the attic. I remember some cool initiation ceremony where my dad held me upside down in front of a room full of other kids and their dads. Was I dreaming that or did it really happen? Didn't go camping for the first time till I was in college though, in about 1980. Great post.