When my family moved to Albany, Georgia, in the summer of 1969, I was between second and third grade. Although my dad had never been in Boy Scouts, he thought it would be a good fit for me, so my parents signed me up for the local Cub Scout pack at Sherwood Baptist Church. I loved it. After two years with den mothers going through the Wolf and Bear Cub Scout badges, my dad took on a group of us for Webelos, the year between Cubs and Boy Scouts proper. We had a blast. I remember playing pick up softball games in my back yard and, if I remember correctly, a campout that was nothing but steady rain and muddy South Georgia red clay that stained our tents and everything else.
Between fifth and sixth grade I transitioned to Boy Scouts. I turned eleven in May so I was able to join for the summer upcoming and go to summer camp within weeks of joining. Summer camp was a wake-up. For the first time in my life, I experienced the hassling of some older boys who saw an opportunity to mess with a naïve and impressionable fledgling Scout by having fun with my absolute ignorance of the opposite sex. Fortunately a hurricane blew through and disrupted the week. Unfortunately the torrential rain absolutely soaked all of my bedding. We ended up staying in the local national guard armory for a night or two. Though the start to my Boy Scout years was inauspicious, scouting became one of the most positive experiences and influencers in my life. A new troop started up at Sherwood Baptist that fall, so I transferred there and stayed until I was eighteen, (barely) earning Eagle Scout. Over the years following, the outdoor lessons I learned in Scouting became ingrained, from camping to hiking to identifying poisonous plants to canoeing and so much more. “Be prepared” grew into a life-long obsession. The camping trips to Providence Canyon, Kolomoki Indian Mounds, Okefenokee Swamp, Bryson City, NC, and many others, developed in me a deep appreciation for the beauty of God’s creation and the joy of being outdoors. Forty years later no one who knows me would dispute this appreciation and joy. Perhaps more importantly the values of citizenship and the ideals in the Scout Oath and Scout Law were constantly reinforced week to week in our Scout meetings and by observing our adult leaders. So many small and large decisions I have had to make over the years have been informed by those words branded into my soul.
Though I was away from Scouting for many years, when my son was of age, we signed him up and watched as Scouting worked the same influence on him. Fortunately, I was able to observe and experience his joy as an adult leader. Of course, I learned that the leaders have as much fun as the boys, and even eat much better. I also learned about a parent’s desire for their child to excel and the balance of “encouraging” him to get on the ball with merit badges and advancement while letting him make his own choices. I have much more sympathy for my dad as a result. In the end, one of my proudest days was witnessing my son’s Eagle Scout court of honor.
In the few years since that event, Boy Scouts has changed in significant ways, ways I will express no opinion on here. My memories of Scouting though will never be diminished and I will take its lessons and experiences through to the end of my life.
Scout Oath: On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Scout Law: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.