I was involved in Scouting from age 6 to age 15.
First, I was a Cub Scout in Biloxi, Misissippi and the Den Mother was mine. We had weekly Den meetings and a variety of outings, but it’s an evolving organization and my experience was very different than contemporary Cub Scouting. There were simpler things to do and fewer ranks to achieve. Back then, the most exciting activity was the emerging competition of the Pinewood Derby.
It’s all age-related and I moved on to Boy Scouting in Japan, where I started earning Merit Badges, including Riflery, which didn’t involve the progressive steps or protocols of today’s “Rifle Shooting” Merit Badge and even the badges are different. My Riflery badge depicted a rifle, not the powder flask and modern cartridges we see these days. And we didn’t start with semi-lethal things such as BB or pellet guns – We went straight to the long guns and prowess in prone, kneeling, and standing firing positions, with, of course, basic gun safety training thrown in.
Mind you, as an Air Force dependent my Cub Scout Den, Boy Scout Troop, and eventually Explorer Post activities were coordinated and supported by serving enlisted men and officers. Our parents didn’t have go out-of-pocket for anything but uniforms, rain gear, and dues. Things like tents, cots, mess kits, canteens, kitchens, and transportation were all provided. In Japan, for example, my Boy Scout Troop got to the inaugural Japanese National Camporee in green deuce and a half trucks and pitched green pup tents.
But it was while at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio that I earned most of my 33 merit badges and a couple of (hiking) trail medals, was inducted into the Order Of The Arrow, reached the rank of Life Scout, and got to go to Philmont Scout Ranch on an eleven day adventure which included a side-trip to the 50th Annual Jamboree in Colorado Springs where I was born.
And it’s in Ohio that the experience exceeded not only the expected and desirable, but the lawful.
To start with, fellowship with the elder members, who were seniors at Fairborn High School, entailed initiation by theft, and the more outrageous the better.
When I became a member, the Explorer Post had two meeting houses on sort of an as available basis, one of which was near to the Military Police training range, which included a locked equipment shed. So, at one of our many unscheduled and unofficial night-time meetings where I learned among other things to play roulette, poker, and blackjack, I was challenged to move unnoticed from the Post house to the shed and return with evidence that I had gotten into the shed.
Getting there was easy and the latch gave way with a slight tug. Finding evidence I could easily carry back was a problem, however. There just wasn’t much there that I could get without risking exposure by standing, so I grabbed a wooden box with rope handles that was sitting on the floor and made my way back not knowing what I had in tow.
When I got back with and one of the guys pried the lid off, it turned out to be a case of a dozen or so (dummy?) hand grenades packed in straw.
You could almost hear pants being soiled when the lid came off and everybody panicked about what to do with it. I might have been the one who brought it, but I wasn’t about to take a chance on returning it and neither was anyone else. So, we stashed it in the rafters.
My little escapade was the last initiation by theft since it was the creature of the seniors who moved on after graduation – Three with full rides at M. I. T. and one with a full ride to Columbia University.
We may all have been bored teen idiots, but none were stupid…