A Different Kind of Scout

Back in earlier times, boys looked for things to do. Lots of us joined Cub Scouts in dens located in the leaders’ living rooms. There, we’d read our scout books and think about ways to complete projects in order to receive arrows, badges, and new titles. We liked being together, wearing uniforms, and trying new things. At some age, the guys moved on the Webelos. I suppose it was designed for boys too old for Cub Scouts and too young for the next step. At some point, a boy could complete the requirements and become a Boy Scout. That’s the way it was supposed to be.

In our community, Jack Chambers was the Boy Scout leader. I don’t recall his being married; he spent a great deal of time with the boys in the troop. Many of us had never completed any requirements for joining, but Jack never let technicalities get in the way. The same held true for Explorers.

My older brother Dal was a real Boy Scout. He went on several adventures with Jack and other scouts. They hiked and camped. Jack brought Dal home from one trip and informed Mother that he’d received a gash on his stomach. It seems that someone didn’t hold a strand of barbed wired while he was crossing a fence, and one of the barbs stuck and ripped Dal’s flesh. The cut was deep, but not too big. For the rest of his life, that scar showed, a true merit badge of scouts.

On one occasion, Jack took Jim and me with the bigger boys to swim. When we arrived, others informed us that we had to jump from a train trestle to the water below. My fear of heights kicked in, and I balked at taking the plunge. To this day, I don’t remember whether or not I ever jumped. Doing so would have pleased Jack, and that was what all the guys tried to do.
Jim and I skipped Boy Scouts. Instead, we moved on to Explorers the same year we started high school, even though we had no idea what the group was. I did know it was an organization for older guys and that Jack Chambers was the leader. That made it all right.

Many of the same boys who’d been Cub Scouts were members of the unofficial Explorer group. We attended weekly meetings. They usually were held at Jack’s house on Friday or Saturday evenings. Oh, we worked hard on projects. They included smoking cigarettes and drinking beer or liquor. Some guys might have even learned the fine art of smoking dope, but neither Jim nor I took part in the last one.

We boys would bum rides with older guys, hitch hike, or walk to Jack’s house. It was sparsely furnished with items that appeared to have seen their better days. For entire evenings we sat in the house as we drank and smoked. Those of us who didn’t like the taste of alcohol held our breaths as we guzzled the stuff.

On more than one occasion, I attended a meeting and discovered that Jack wasn’t there. Evidently, he’d left a key some place, and the other guys knew its location. We let ourselves in and began the session. Jack’s only instructions were that we clean the place up when we left and didn’t create a disturbance. All of us stayed inside while we enjoyed our vices.

My son Dallas made it in Cub Scouts about six months before he was tired of it. He didn’t enjoy the projects and wished to spend his time with other pursuits. If he’d had a leader like Jack Chambers, Dallas might have joined Boy Scouts and Explorers. I’m thankful that didn’t happen. I also realize that the boys who hung out at Jack’s house lived charmed lives because none of us was arrested or injured. The good lord does look out for children and fools.

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