There are Boy Scouts, and then there are SUPER BOY SCOUTS. My dear father was one of the latter, having risen to the rank of Eagle with two silver palms at a time when those badges weren’t being handed out like party favors. For instance, Dad earned his swimming merit badge by swimming across Emerald Lake, an icy glacial pool 10,380 feet above sea level on the lee side of Mount Timpanogos. Navy Seals, eat your hearts out!
Naturally, Dad hoped that his three sons would follow in his footsteps—but, alas, it was not to be. My eldest brother Jim came closest, rising to the rank of Life before losing interest in the program. Middle brother Chuck never got beyond Second Class, and some of us were astonished that he got even that far. Traditionally, at a BSA Court of Honor the recipient of a badge is “pinned” by his proud mother. She pins it on upside down, and it stays that way until her Boy Scout has performed a good deed.
Chuck’s Second Class badge never got turned rightside up.
So it came to pass that I was my father’s third and last best hope. The uniform I inherited at the age of twelve was HUGE. How big was it? Well, whenever my troop went camping, I didn’t need to pack a pup tent. Just poles and pegs.
Five years passed, during which time I rose to the rank of Star, which is just one short of Life and two short of Eagle. Unfortunately, I was by then seventeen years of age and more interested in girls than tying knots. Indeed, I was fast approaching adulthood, and while it’s true that some women are attracted to a man in uniform, not many are attracted to a man in a Boy Scout uniform.
At the time, I was infatuated with a girl whose younger brother happened to be a Tenderfoot. Thinking to impress her with my leadership skills, I volunteered to serve as senior patrol leader for her kid brother’s troop, and that’s how I ended up at Camp Maple Dell–a leader of young men, respected and looked up to by all EXCEPT the group of young men under my command. Each and every order I issued was ignored; chaos reigned and I was growing hoarse from yelling. Finally, the boys hatched a plan to shut me up. They conspired to nominate me for induction into a top level, highly secretive division of the Boy Scouts of America known as the Order of the Arrow.
Here’s how it went down. Night fell over Camp Maple Dell and all troops reported to the pavilion, where for the umpteenth time we pledged allegiance to the flag, recited the Boy Scout oath, etc. Then the lights went down and a small band of skinny white boys wearing loin cloths and war paint entered from the wings and began to whoop and holler and chant. One of them approached and touched my forehead with a feather. I had been “called out.”
What followed is top secret, so I would appreciate it if you don’t blab it around. The first part of the initiation involved spending a night alone in the woods, without fire or food. I was allowed to return to our campsite just long enough to retrieve my sleeping bag—and also some beef jerky, candy, soda pop, potato chips, cookies and trail mix, which I secreted inside the bag. Then I was sworn to silence, and banished into the night. I found what looked to be a level spot, rolled out my bag and tucked myself in. Presently I heard what sounded like a grizzly bear chuffing through the underbrush. If not for the code of silence, I would have screamed out in girlish terror!
By and by a shadowy figure emerged from the brush, which I recognized as a fellow inductee. Evidently he couldn’t see me, nor could I alert him to my presence—thanks again to the code of silence. Crunch! The idiot stepped on my sleeping bag, crushing my potato chips.
“Dwack!” I muttered.
“Urgh!” he replied. And off he went in search of his own level spot.
Morning came. We initiates reported to a clearing by the lake, where each of us was issued a rock with a sacred inscription painted on it. For the remainder of the day I spoke nary a word, no matter that my underlings tormented me relentlessly. I also carried that rock with me wherever I went, and I’ll be damned if I don’t still have it. Will someone please tell me what comes next? I just Googled “Order of the Arrow” and evidently it’s a really big deal. You can attend outward bound training camps in New Mexico and Florida; you can enlist in the Army at the starting rank of captain. You can earn campaign patches that will surely impress that special someone in your life—especially if you also have a well-stocked sleeping bag and a uniform that accommodates two.