It always seemed like I joined socially unacceptable groups during my childhood. I spent a year in the chess club in 7th grade. I played in the marching band in high school. In the 3rd grade, I joined the Cub Scouts, later ascending to Boy Scouts. And as with other unpopular groups, I excelled greatly.
Cub Scouts did not seem so wrong, because kids at that age donít know whatís socially incorrect and whatís not. Plus, parents find it cute. Cub Scouts rarely involved anything other than weekly den meetings, where we accomplished very little other than playing baseball in the back yard. The monthly pack meetings allowed all the dens to gather in the schoolís sunken music room to discuss their accomplishments. Cub Scouts advanced through four ranks and earned pins, in place of merit badges. I managed to earn all 20 pins. I was the only current member of my pack to do so. Although socially unacceptable to achieve such a proud honor, I didnít mind earning those pins, that is, until the pack leader announced my achievement in front of everybody. The parents clapped. The kids snickered. I turned red and looked away.
One of the more interesting events of Cub Scouts is the annual Pinewood Derby. Basically, itís a downhill race of miniature cars crafted from blocks of wood in the range of 8Ē x 2Ē x 2Ē. The kit consisted of the wood block and a set of wheels. The rest was up to the scout and his ever-competitive and overzealous father. My dad holds three engineering degrees. This was perfect for him. My dad constructed a simple design where the car had a wedge-shape, with a curved front. It took very little effort to saw and sand. Next, we taped pennies to the underside of the car to enhance the gravitational effect on the downhill slope. Then we decorated by spraying it with gold paint, and adding a racing stripe. Very simple. I ended up finishing second overall, to another scout with a grand prix design filled with lead weights. The next year I did not fare as well because I carved the car myself.
Cub Scouts arranged one or two camping trips each year. The first one was at a large, structured campsite (canvas tents, cots, mess hall) in the woods of Johnson or Wyandotte County in Kansas. On the first day, my dad (usually along for the trip) found a nasty-looking black widow spider on the underside of his cot. It wasnít until Boy Scouts that we went on real camping trips.
My overachievements in Cub Scouts extended to Boy Scouts, where I would eventually earn my Eagle Scout Award. I started Boy Scouts in the 5th or 6th grade, perhaps. I donít recall the exact year. My first camping trip took place near De Soto, Kansas, on the grounds of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. As you might imagine, that didnít seem like a safe idea. We found spent shells all over the place. Wild turkeys also held rule over the land, particularly in the early morning hours.
You can read more about my trips to Colorado, The National Jamboree and the Florida Keys on separate pages.
In 1991, I earned my Eagle Scout award, and two eagle palms unbeknownst to me, the highest honors in the scouts. The major requirement for earning the Eagle award is a public service project of some kind. Some people built things, like birdhouses, or in one case, a bridge spanning a creek. Somehow, I found the easy way out of physical labor. I chose to make a series of visual aids, and a video, for the local drug prevention center. It required the help of one other scout. And amazingly, the troop leaders approved the project. I couldnít believe my good fortune. Sure enough, in January 1992, I officially received my Eagle award, and promptly dropped out of scouts.