Prostate cancer, Boy Scouts, Wood Badge and Matchtop Twenty

Years ago I was an assistant scout master in my son’s troop here in Gainesville, Ga.  Sam ultimately did achieve his Eagle Scout and as the Grateful Dead said, ” what a long strange trip it had been.”

So to better my ability to help the troop and my son, I agreed to take a “masters of scouting” program known as Wood Badge. This involved four weekends of relatively intense training regarding everything scouting. We were to be at Scoutland (A large parcel of land that abuts Lake Lanier and is home to scouting in our area. It is very nice, large and has lots of land, trees, water and provides all the stuff that scouts need to have and  love to do) at 6 pm on Friday and we stayed there until Sunday at 6pm. What you do is dress as if you are a scout and are treated as if you are a scout for the whole time you are there. As this was done in August (Have you ever been in Georgia in August-hot as hell trust me) and you sleep in tents, make all the meals and attend courses and are observed and graded throughout the whole time. Other men who are the leaders treat you as if you are a scout which is at time demeaning. It reminded me of being a freshman at North Georgia College and how the upper classmen treated us.

I have the Spotify of a Matchtop Twenty song because I loved that particular CD then and played it incessantly during the time I was doing Wood Badge. The song sort of fits, ” I wish that I could be the head hauncho, I wish everybody did what I told them to do, I’d shout an order to go and get some of these son and don’t make me change my tone.”  Or something to that effect.

About 50 grown men of various professions were divided up into patrols and I was in the “Bears.” The leaders would come around all the time but I distinctly remember what would happen at breakfast. You were told that a “leader” would be there to eat promptly at 8 am and then the leader would grade the meal, the fire, the tents, the set up of the camp etc. Now imagine this- you are a surgeon and first thing in the morning another man in a scout uniform shows up to tell you that the meal is served 2 minutes late, your tent isn’t tight enough, your uniform is not acceptable and that points will be taken off because one of the members of the patrol did not have his patrol hat on. It was at once comical and infuriating all at the same time. It was fun to watch some of these as mother would say “little people” putting so much credence in the fact that they may have menial jobs during the week but they were the boss and king at the Wood Badge  training weekend.

After breakfast the whole group had to be completely dressed and report to the flag pole for the morning report and each patrol was inspected. On one particular morning the head guy called up a “scout” to question him about why he did not have his hat.

“Scout Smith, tell those assembled why it is you don’t have your hat. Please speak up so that all can hear you,” the head guy in a tone to humiliate and make fun of the “adult scout.”

Now keep in mind all assembled are grown men, many professionals, have voluntarily donated their time and efforts to improve and better themselves and their respective troops, are being treated as children and many times made fun of as was the case of the poor fellow without his hat.

Scout Smith replies so that all could hear,” My hat fell into the hole of the out house.”

“Why did you not try to retrieve it?” he was asked to the delight and laughter of everyone. He was then dismissed to re join his patrol. I however saw it for what it was and it did not sit well with me.  At this point in time all the “scouts” were being pretty much good sports and playing along with all the inappropriate antics of the “leaders.” But then two things happened that changed everything.

There was a scout who we all liked. He lived in Atlanta and I think he was an electrician or something, but he had to finish work and then drive the two hours to Scoutland at the end of a busy day to then show up for the Wood Badge stuff. Well somehow I remember that we all knew about him and how much he had to do to get there and how important to him he get his Wood Badge certification. Well…the guy shows up about 15 minutes late on the second Friday of Wood Badge and in front of everyone the head guy scout, all decked out in his scout uniform laden with badges, and shiny things hanging everywhere, goes up to him and tells him that because he is late he can no longer participate in Wood Badge is told to return home. It was amazing to see. You felt horrible for the scout and disgust for the leader. Who in the hell did he think he was? Did he not realize what all of us were doing to get there, being away from our families and doing all the silly scout stuff just to be better for our troops? It was truly ridiculous and to me made he head guy look like an idiot overstating a position which was after all a “head scout” an adult in a child’s outfit. “You’re taking this a bit to serious buddy,” I remember saying to myself.  At this moment is where the entire group of men turned against the leadership of Wood Badge. But it was not until after something I did that caused a cascade of events that actively turned the entire class of Wood Badgers  against the leadership and silently revolt in a passive aggressive manner.

To be continued…

2 Replies to “Prostate cancer, Boy Scouts, Wood Badge and Matchtop Twenty”

  1. Great stuff. I too was a Scout and my Son did just as yours finally achieving the ultimate goal, Eagle. And yes it was an interesting trip. Life lesson for all ages.


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