I dropped Miles and Owen off for scout camp early yesterday morning. Even though it was 7:30 they seemed spry and ready to head to Zion's for a week, armed with a bag of beef jerky and some awesome new knock-knock jokes. I can't believe they are both old enough for scout camp; or that I ever looked that young or felt that grown-up.
When I was thirteen I was very involved in the Boy Scout Program. Not because I had any real desire to do scouts, but because all my friends at church did it, and we had some pretty pushy leaders. The best way to get your kid to do scouts, hands down, is peer pressure. If there's nothing else going on and all the other kids are doing it, you might as well work on your Citizenship in the Nation merit badge. It was a social thing for me; a chance to hang out and camp with my friends. I have great memories: that court of honor where the old blind man played the saw, that meeting where Ben Blair and Weston Spencer kept infuriating Brother Harris with their farting, the night I spent on Y Mountain nursing Brother Green back to life, that Order of the Area deal where we couldn't talk or eat for a full day and we had to wear loincloths and jump over a fire...the list goes on and on. I became an Eagle Scout without any real determination beyond the fact that I was turning eighteen and I was too close the deadline not to. But the scout program kept me engaged in a worthy activity; not because I was inclined to make trouble, but because it gave me something to do in the afternoon besides parking in front of the TV and watching Different Strokes with a giant bowl of popcorn.
One of our scoutmasters was Roger Henry. We had a love hate relationship with him. We loved him because he was a former surf dude and drove a classic red MG, and we hated him because he made us do scouting things we disliked and he called us on all of our bull. He never let us get away with anything. Whenever we were too lazy to, say, put up a tent or roll-up a sleeping bag he would tell us that the tooth fairy wasn't going to do it for us, and would wait until we did it. I think if I met Roger today he and I would be great friends, but at age thirteen boys are naturally distrustful of any adult who is more awesome than they are. I remember feeling that it was our job to be awesome, and that the adult's responsibility was to be gullible, fat, allowing, and to roll up our sleeping bags.
I remember one camp out in the West Desert, just west of Tooele. It was kind of a miserable camp out; one of those district ones where there are a million boys from all over the state and they all look like huge nerds. We never had any awareness that we also looked like huge nerds. We had some fun in the evening: they made us watch a really boring slide show about physical fitness and Ben figured out a way to keep unplugging the cords to the projector without being seen. That was super funny, and par for the course for the Ghost Patrol (our troop name.) But the next day it was hot and dusty and there was probably a ropes course and some skeet shooting happening somewhere, but we only wanted to sit back at the camp and complain about how boring everything was and how we wish we could watch Back to the Future all day.
Somewhere in the dust around the campfire I found a little plastic Smurf figure. One of the Smurfs holding his finger up, like he had a great idea. So did I! Brother Henry's yellow van had been splattered and smeared with mud and dirt on our way to the campground, and it had since dried in the desert sun. I took the little Smurf and scratched "BRO HENRY SUCKS" into the dirt on the side of the van. We all laughed at that a little. Then Ben took the smurf and drew a crude picture of a hand holding a middle finger up. This was even funnier; right there on the side of Roger Henry's van!
The thing was, Brother Henry didn't suck. We mostly liked him. We were just bored and it was a funny/dumb thing to do. But then, when we tried to wipe off the message, the mud wouldn't come off. Neither would the message, or Ben's special picture. So we panicked. We found some water and began scrubbing the side of the van with all the vigor and enthusiasm we had. Eventually it came off. OR SO WE THOUGHT!
The next day was Sunday and I wasn't feeling well, so my mom let me stay home from church. Just before the third hour, Roger Henry called me on the phone to find out where I was. I told him I was sick, and he strongly encouraged me to be in deacon's quorum that day. He was pretty emphatic. So I put on my finest bolo tie (80's) and headed up to the church on foot.
For some reason, we were holding our quorum meeting outside in the chapel parking lot. The reason for this became apparent when Roger Henry pulled up in his yellow van. Carefully he showed us that our special message and doodle had actually been scratched permanently into the side of the car. The jig was up! Brother Henry knew that he sucked, and that we wished to flip him off. He gave us this big speech about how he wasn't angry when he saw the message, just really disappointed. Truth is, he was probably really, really angry. I would have been! Freaking scouts. But disappointment always has better results in the guilt game.
I tried to blame it on Paul Gardner, who was my friend. He wasn't at church that day either, so it seemed fine to throw him under the bus. But Brother Henry didn't seem to buy it. And in hindsight I think he knew it was me all along. Why would he have made a big deal about me being at Deacon's quorum that day if he didn't at least strongly suspect me? Also, I'm sure he had enough of my handwriting samples from merit badge assignments and essays to do some in-depth comparison and analysis. Whether he blamed me for the middle finger was never resolved. Anyway, he made us do some fundraisers to pay for the paint job, and we had to apologize. And now I have spent almost ten years in the young men's program myself, and Karma sucks! (middle finger)