When friends left, I acted more like a sheep than a cub.
About a dozen local cub scouts held their meeting at the Crookston Daily Times office one evening last week. Their scoutmaster, Aaron Pry, set it all up so the young scouts could see how a newspaper works.
As they conducted their "group activity" – a quick game of Guesstures – and their flag ceremony, and as I waited for my turn to explain to them the wonders of being a journalist, my mind raced down memory lane, way back to my own cub scout days.
Most of the scouts at the Times that evening didn't wear the typical cub scout uniform I recall from my youth. Most of them wore cub scout t-shirts, with only two of the scouts wearing the blue shirt with the various patches and beads on it, along with the trademark gold scarf.
I found myself closely checking out one the kids because, if the number of patches and beads on his uniform were any indication, he was sort of a high-achiever. I never earned a patch beyond the "webelo" patch, so, naturally, I was overwhelmed with a sense of jealousy and envy. Clearly, they must have eased up on the accomplishments necessary to earn a cub scout patch or two, or three, I figured. I recall having to, in order to earn my webelo batch, crawl through 500 yards of the most vile foulness...oh, wait a minute, that was Andy Duphrane when he escaped from Shawshank Prison.
A whole bunch of kids in Sampson's Addition were cub scouts when my family first moved to Crookston, so I guess that's why I joined the fray. I remember thinking the uniform was sort of the bomb. I also remember wondering what in the heck a kid from the Carman Addition was doing in our Sampson's Addition den. He didn't last long, anyway; the trails in the Castle Park woods kind of freaked him out, and when he got all muddy from splashing through puddles in the woods while riding his bike, he got more upset than a rugged cub scout should.
The cub scouts amounted to kind of a melting pot for kids in our neighborhood. Our den was home to a couple of do-gooders, as well as a kid who'd just moved to the hood, a boy with a learning disability, and a couple of troublemakers. Me? I was a do-gooder when that type of behavior was warranted, but when it wasn't, I was a bit of a troublemaker, although I could never teach myself to inhale properly when we (the two troublemakers and yours truly) smoked cigarettes behind the garage.
I was best buds with one of the troublemakers, who, when it came to making trouble, paled in comparison to the true troublemaker in the group, a kid I didn't know as well. As time passed, it became clear that some scouts thought of the latter kid as sort of an outcast, and when he lost his trademark yellow cub scout scarf, he might as well have been branded with a scarlet letter. The dark blue cub scout shirt looks like some kind of bizarro world fashion tragedy without that brightly colored scarf.
Eventually, many of us resembled a flock of sheep more than a pack of cubs. When the scarf-less rabble-rouser quit the den, the milder troublemaker soon followed suit, and my days were numbered once he ended his scouting career.
Obviously, I have memories of my scouting days that have stuck with me. Thanks to a major assist from my dad, who used to build airplanes for Boeing, I entered what could be the fastest little wooden car in the history of the Pinewood Derby. I never did help any elderly women cross the street, but I did walk down the street holding an American flag during the Pioneer Days Parade. In a photo taken of me along the route, my mouth is agape with excitement over being in the parade, while, in the photo, the top of another flag and pole being held by a fellow scout behind me looks like it's gouging my eye out.
I recall the "Scout's Honor" symbol, too, which was really just a peace sign. I don't recall any oath that may have accompanied the two raised fingers, but the scouts at the Times office definitely recited some passages, with mixed success, that they were to have memorized beforehand.
All oaths and honor aside, they're simply supposed to try their best to be good people. Being people of their word is part of that, and scout Luke Noah definitely walks the talk. He told me he liked to draw cartoons and he'd send me some in case I wanted to publish them. Sure enough, earlier this week, I received in the mail three of his "Fish and Visitors" originals.
I don't think that, after scanning them, they'll translate well to newsprint, but, Luke, they're good.