In the twilight of my life, the Boy Scouts of America — its teachings, its values and the fun of it all –—still evoke a warm glow in my overflowing storehouse of special memories.
Everything about the Scouting experience left me the better for it. We wore the uniform proudly, as we did the merit badges and the patches that symbolized our achievements and advancement in the Scout hierarchy. Under it all, there was a sense or organization and self-discipline that was not unpleasant.
The fellowship of other boys, young men, and a few older men, also helped me find personal growth and self confidence. Of all my fellow Scouts and leaders who helped me in Scouting along the way, one individual left his mark with me like no other.
Remarkably, I have not forgotten his name in the fog and mist of time: Mr. Nason. He was a banker, I think, and the leader of our troop. A skilled woodsman, he took to the outdoors and he made sure that we got all the campouts we could handle. Late winter campouts, too. In my mind’s eye, I could draw you a picture of that late March campout more than 60 years ago at Ducktail Pond. Mr. Nason always had the best tent setup, the biggest stack of firewood and the neatest camp gadgets you ever saw. He was a kind, patient man who took joy from sharing his love for the out of doors and woodsmanship with his Scouts. For some inexplicable reasons, I liked those late winter campouts the most.
Next to my own father, no other man shaped me more as a youngster and I have been forever grateful for his kindness and quiet leadership. My regret is that I didn’t keep tabs on him when I became an adult. I should have followed up and said “Thank you.”
I was a Boy Scout troop leader for a time. Once during a late winter campout with my troop in the woods of back Winterport, one of the newer Scouts decided at midnight that winter campouts were not for him. He came to my tent cold and close to tears. It was too late and too dark for an “extraction,” so he asked to sleep in my tent for the remainder of the night while I “stood guard” outside stoking an all-night fire. I often wondered how Mr. Nason would have handled that situation.
Both of my sons and a grandson were Scouts; a couple made it to Eagle. So perhaps you can understand why a press release from national Boy Scout headquarters caught my attention.
The Boy Scouts of America announced this week that the word “Boy” would be stricken from the Boy Scouts of America starting in 2019 and next February girls will be allowed full Scouting privileges. We probably shouldn’t be stunned. Girls have been trying for some time to break the glass ceiling with the Boy Scouts of America. Reacting to the announcement, the Mormon Church recently bailed totally from the Scouting program. Some critics have said that this gender jump in Scouting is a political correctness thing, a social challenge to male dominance. Others have suggested that the Girl Scouts of America, who oppose the move and still support gender scouting, might not be fighting for survival if they had only had more campouts and axes. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Scout himself once, contends that this is the death knell of BSA.
I find myself conflicted about this issue. I do know enough to realize that American society and culture is changing at a pace that others besides me have trouble keeping up with. Scouting was a wonderful life-changing experience for me. To be honest, some of my granddaughters would have taken to some aspects of the Boy Scout program. Would they want to “crash” the all-boy party? I’m not sure.
The Boy Scouts of America has been part of the American fabric for 108 years. At least, for history’s sake, they could have kept the name and still have permitted girls to belong. If you are an old Scout like me you just can’t help feeling some pangs of sadness about this historic alteration. Like the sage said, “Nothing is constant but change.”