Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Boy Scouts and Me

I was a boy scout once. I left in disgrace failing to make the requisite knots. We had to demonstrate our dexterity with square knots and clove hitch, bowline and nooses. I could say it was the noose that got to me but actually it was all of them. I think a part of my brain is missing or tied up in knots. Let’s just say I never learned the ropes.

I’m not sure if I left as a Tenderfoot or never even attained that low rank. I remember wearing the uniform and marching. Left, right, left right. Another abhorrent activity. It reeked of soldiering. When we weren’t marching, mindlessly, we played boy/men games such as alley-oop. And other masculine nonsense.

The one prank which revealed the reckless nature of our troop was the Hidden Rope Trick. Three or four scouts would gather on each side of Lefferts Blvd as if pulling on a rope that wasn’t there. The purpose was to fool the cars. In fact, cars did screech to a halt endangering the drivers and those behind. Great fun for the brainless.

These memories returned to me recently when reading about the removal of a statue of the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell. It seems Baden-Powell was not only an imperialist and racist but also an admirer of Adolph Hitler and Mussolini. Why am I not surprised?

The one thing I came away with is the scout’s motto, Be Prepared. In fact, Baden-Powell came up with these two words in honor of his own initials, B.P. Here’s another initial which could be applied, B.S. as in Boy Scouts.

I suspect I didn’t learn preparedness from them. I tend to think I was born preparing for every eventuality. But even that has its downside. Living with anticipation or readiness robs one of spontaneity, of living in the moment. Should I smell the flowers or run in for an umbrella? There must be a balance between considering consequences and ordering key lime pie. Peggy is one who mostly lives in the moment. She has tried to teach me but I need another thirty or forty years of remedial lessons.

When B-P founded the organization 110 years ago fitness was all the rage. Teddy Roosevelt was a model of the slight, bespectacled kid becoming the intrepid wild-game hunter and exercise freak. When shot by a would-be assassin he merely paused and continued his speech. How else could he charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba? Let the fool charge. Let him lead the cavalry against machine guns in World War I.  I’ll stay home reading the manual about helping old people cross the street. And now I’m one of them.

I don’t suspect even Baden-Powell prepared for the ignominious removal of his statue in Poole Quay, U.K. before he would be dumped into the ocean. I wonder if they used one of his damnable knots to hoist it down.



  1. Norm,
    What a lovely piece!
    Thank you

  2. Very entertaining about the knots and very interesting about BP and BS
    Thanks for a fun read!