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Cub Scouts and a Bad Tenderfoot
by Charles W. Dowdy

As we drove into the campground we passed little red signs emblazoned with the words that guide a young boy into a successful Boy Scout. As an ex-Tenderfoot and parent of a new Cub Scout I found myself measuring up.

Honest, the sign read. Easy enough. I only lie when the truth might hurt other people, or get me in trouble.

Prepared, the next sign read. We had a whole carload full of prepared. I had a dent in my checkbook from the prepared. For one night's stay we were loaded down with more gear than a frontier family setting off in a wagon across the Great Plains.

Thrifty. My wife refers to me as a cheapskate, which is on the extreme side of thrifty, so I have room to spare there.

Clean. With a bunch of little kids at a campsite with no showers? After fifteen minutes we were going to look like Charlie, Lucy and the bunch at a Pig Pen family reunion.

Brave -- under what circumstances? During the camping experience am I expected to eat slightly undercooked bacon or wrestle a bear?

Reverent, well . . . Helpful, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

By the time we parked I was beginning to remember my beef with the Boy Scouts. These were some pretty lofty ideals for a motley crew of seven, eight and nine year old kids. (Not to mention their parents.) Talk about expecting a little too much. As long as we got through the weekend without contracting poison ivy in our nether regions, I was writing the whole thing up as a resounding success.

In fact, I came up with my own list and thought it a little more realistic and worthy of consideration by the Scouts. Fair enough: "trustworthy, honest, courteous, helpful" -- who is going to argue with these traits? But I say dump "thrifty, brave, clean and reverent," and go with "credit card debt free, reasonable, lacking permanent body art and sweet to mom."

In truth, the whole Scouting thing was a little too anal for my tastes. Police this area, clean this up, be principled, hang out with guys and mosquitoes all weekend and enjoy it. It's like they are trying to control Mother Nature, which in my opinion is not too smart. In fact, she's laughing her head off and thinking, "That orderly campsite ought to really help when a swarm of locusts comes sweeping through."

Another problem with the Scouting experience is the parents who have no background whatsoever at camping and yet they go join their children in this endeavor, which is another way to subliminally inform the child you have no business producing offspring.

But a strange thing happened on last weekend's campout. I found myself enjoying it, immeasurably. In my mind I had built this up as the beginning of the end with my son. He's one of the youngest Scouts and he was going to get out there with the cool older kids and Dad was going to be in the way. Not the case.

My son took my hand and dragged me everywhere he went, including me in everything he did.

Seemed as if we walked fifty miles over those two days, and every step of the way he held my hand in his. Not in a dependent way. But in a way that he was pulling me into what he wanted to see and do. As we approached other groups of Scouts I'd ease my hand away, gesturing to make a point, scratching my head, anything to get my hand out of his lest the older, cooler kids say something to my Cub Scout holding his dad's hand.

And each time he quickly took my hand back, oblivious to the pressures I suspect are right around the corner. So I held his hand tightly because I knew my opportunities for such behavior were limited. And as we walked hand in hand, I marveled at the child my wife and I had created.

(For those skeptics out there: Yes, I was involved. I have indisputable evidence that I have at least fifty-one seconds invested in who this kid has become; beyond that his mother probably deserves most of the credit, but either way, he's a keeper.)

Most importantly, after this past weekend in his company, I have resolved that if my oldest son wants to be a Boy Scout or an astronaut, a farmer or a scientist, a teacher or a public servant, this is one father who will always be there holding his hand, whether he knows it or not.


Charles Dowdy is the father of four and the husband of one. He's a freelance columnist for several Mississippi newspapers. Editors may contact him at cwdowdyjr@yahoo.com.

Charles Dowdy's web site is not to be missed! He has to be one of the funniest, most irreverent writers in the South . . . or anywhere. Go see!

For more stories by Charles Dowdy, visit these USADS pages:

Goodby, Debt; Hello, Ricecakes
The Waiting Room War Zone
Small Towns and The 3 Second Intersection Rule
President Bush, Sponge Bob, and a Banana
The Twins Journal
Teeball Dad
Whatcha Doin'?
Amending the Neighborhood Constitution
Pregnant Dad
Double Trouble: Cross-eyed Twins
An open letter to my wolf
The Chattanooga North Pole
This column really stinks


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