The Boy Scouts of America were probably in their heyday just as I reached the age to join. There were three troops in our little town and practically every kid joined one or the other when they reached 12 years of age. One troop was in the rich end of town and we had little to do with them. But the others overlapped in terms of area. Our troop (Troop 12) was “unaffiliated” while our competition was sponsored by the Presbyterian Church. My father, a sound Episcopalian, was on the troop committee of Troop 12, so, of course, that was my troop. We had a good and active troop. I don’t think at the time I ever gave a thought as to why so many of our members were Catholics. And I think now that the “competition” was at the troop committee level. We boys didn’t much give a darn what church anyone went to or what troop anyone joined..
Now that a skillion years have gone by, and I have grown aware, suspicious, and cynical, one thing bothers me. The Scoutmaster was a middle aged man that lived in a very large house with his feeble mother. Up on the third floor he had a “scout room” which he devoted to the scouts. He would have young boys up there to give tests, etc. At the time, the “etc.” didn’t occur to me as anything to worry about. I did wonder why the scoutmaster was dismissed by the committee soon after I left for the Army. But I was such a dork at the time!!
One of the highlights of my scouting career was a father and son twenty five mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. For Westerners who aren’t familiar with the AT – It is a wilderness trail that goes from Maine to Georgia along the mountain chains and only for purposes of getting across highways and country roads does it ever touch civilization. We were dropped off somewhere in New Jersey and picked up four days later somewhere in New York State. We camped out and cooked for ourselves three nights. I suspect that I was terrified and sleepless the whole time. I know I jumped out of my skin the day my father, who was walking in front of me, stepped on a snake and it curled itself up and around his hiking boot. I was doubly scared when he chased it and caught it by its neck to show it to me and prove it wasn’t poisonous. Yeah! But he didn’t know that when he stepped on it!. I bet I almost tippi-toed the rest of the hike.
But if it hadn’t been for the Boy Scouts would I have ever learn the up close and personal beauty of the natural out of doors? And would I have had to learn self-confidence in a less basic way? We took many hikes into the deep woods and I would take my dog on day long adventures into the parks and reservations that existed then. Today the adventurous types buy $45,000 SUVs and drive “off-road”.
I find it a shame that political correctness has deprived so many youth of the virtues of organized scouting..