So clear. I can still see their tattered covers—one torn almost completely off the book, age-stained masking tape all that held it together, and the other badly water damaged, its pages swollen and discolored. But inside?
Old Boy Scout Manuals my big brothers had used back in the day. They contained cool stuff: How to start a fire from scratch; How to tie cool knots; How to splint a broken bone; and my personal favorite—How to treat a poisonous snake bite.
I’d pretty much memorized them.
Mom suggested that maybe I’d like to join the Boy Scouts like my brothers before me. Hell yeah! But at 7, I wasn’t old enough yet. I’d have to start out as a Cub Scout, and then when I was older I could become a full-fledged Boy Scout. “It’s similar,” she promised. “It’s all about honor, integrity and courage.” Whatever. But then she said Cub Scouts get to wear uniforms and can earn colorful badges for skills you learn for everyone to see—Sign me up, Mom!
I brought my brothers’ books with me to our first Cub Scout meeting. Wanted all the kids to know where I was headed: If any of you guys ever get bit by a viper … I’ll save your ass!
Met our den mother, Mrs. Lane. I was confused. A den mother? A mom? I expected a dad. Scout stuff, like hiking, camping … something. Nobody is going to get bit by any snakes while a mom is looking after us!
Mrs. Lane had “an exciting project” for us. A chance to earn a badge. “We’re baking sugar cookies,” she announced. The skills we’d learn? Measuring flour, sugar, mixing in eggs and oil, greasing a cookie sheet. “Okay boys, everyone put on our aprons!” I was so grateful Greg Griffin wasn’t here to see this—he’d have called Cub Scouts sissy shit for sure. Girl scouts make cookies. They even call young girl scouts Brownies.
When our cookies were just about to go in the oven, Mrs. Lane announced our next activity: “We will be making holiday cards.” She pointed to a table in the corner, a stack of old magazines, a pile of construction paper … and a box of safety scissors. Sissy scissors? We used those when we were in pre-school! Are you kidding me?
Youngest in a large family, I’d gotten to do a lot of dangerous things already in my 7 years of life. At home I used the sharp scissors. Knives. Garden sheers. Saws. Hell, my old man was teaching me to cut the grass and edge the sidewalks—using machines with spinning blades! You could lose a finger … or a limb, even. But I’d have your back—page 134, How to tourniquet a bleeding wound.
Cleaning up the cookie mess, I licked a spatula. Mrs. Lane freaked. No baking badge for me! And then it happened; my brain thought it and my mouth declared it … out loud: “Cub Scouts is SISSY SHIT!” Mrs. Lane called my mom to come pick me up.
My career in the Cub Scouts ended the same day it began. Sure, I wanted to be a boy of honor and integrity and courage. But I also wanted to be a boy of adventure, tying knots, helping accident victims and … sucking poison out of snakebite wounds!