In the summer of 1985, my wife and I drove to Glacier National Park in Montana for our honeymoon. The drive across Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana took a few days. We stopped at the Badlands to stay a night and had to set up our tent in a fierce western wind. I burned a hole in the picnic table making dinner. Some camper was I.
But when we pulled into the park all those miles melted away. We were alone together as man and wife.
We pitched the Eddie Bauer tent we’d been given for our wedding at the Rising Sun campground. There were rumors of grizzlies wandering the park, of course. Grizzlies and Glacier go together. But it wasn’t until we hiked high into the Otokomi section of the park that I really worried about bears. The further we hiked into the wilderness, the wilder the scenery got. On the way up the trail my wife turned to me and said, “I’m not sure I brought enough supplies.”
“Wait, what? Supplies…” I asked her.
“I’m getting my period,” she told me. “I’m not sure I brought enough tampons.”
“This is not good,” I told her. “I’ve read that bears can smell that kind of thing. And we’re definitely in bear country.”
“Well, I think I’m okay,” she told me. So we kept hiking. And hiking.
It was several miles up to the campsites set in a big glacial rock bowl with half-dead trees sticking up against the twilight sky. We set up our tent and quickly cooked a meal, careful to put our dishes and extra food in a backpack that we hung sixteen feet up on a metal pole. So the bears wouldn’t smell it.
But there I lay in a nylon death trap with a menstruating wife. It wasn’t the most restful night of my life. I thought about what to do if a bear did approach. Mostly I thought it would be best to lie perfectly still and hope that a set of giant teeth did not penetrate our skulls, or that a paw the size of a dinner plate with claws the size of dinner forks did not rip the flesh from my skinny bones. But I vowed to lie on top of her to protect her if a bear did come along.
Here’s a famous pic of a truly frightening grizzly bear paw.
Because yes, I was still skinny as heck from all the running I’d done thus far in life. The next morning we happily hiked out of Otokomi and later that day, while perusing the book rack at Rising Sun, I spotted a book titled The Maulings of Otokomi. I held it up to show Linda, and she just laughed. “Well, at least it wasn’t us,” she responded.
Glacier was gorgeous. It was a wonderful honeymoon that wrapped up with a trip to Waterton-Glacier Park where we stayed in a beautiful hotel overlooking a pristine alpine lake. We posed for pictures on our last day of our honeymoon and I still desperately wished she had not had her period that week, because I like sex, and we didn’t have any. On our way back home, we stopped in Minnesota to visit some of my college buddies. We went for a run together.
Back home I set back at the Boy Scout job and dreaded November when I was scheduled to attend the National Executives Institute training in Irving, Texas. The training last three weeks, which I found absurd. But it spoke to the mindset of the Boy Scouts that they thought they owned you.
Fortunately I found a friend in Irving named Tom. He was a runner from Greenville, South Carolina and a good Southerner in every possible way. His stories were long and interesting, including one tale about grabbing a ride across town on a northbound train that only sped up as it crossed the city center. They were stuck in a boxcar as it rolled north through the Carolinas into Virginia and all the way up to New York City. Between them, they had about fifty cents in their pockets, money used to call his father back home in Greenville to come pick them up. The way Tom told the story in his casual fashion had me laughing so hard that I nearly lost my senses.
Every morning Tom and I would go run six to ten miles before breakfast. We both despised the long classroom hours and the dull subject matter. To break the monotony, we also bashed around after dinner. One night we snuck into the Texas Rangers stadium and ran around the bases. On one of our last nights in training, he got me so damn drunk that I let him push me down the hall in a stolen laundry cart. We crashed into the far wall and woke half the floor, then scurried back to our rooms. I was so hungover and sick the next morning that my main goal was not puking on the floor during class. They kept strict attendance so we couldn’t skip class, but I stole a half-hour nap during break and made it through the day.
I think I talked to Linda two or three times the whole three weeks. The entire enterprise of forcing people to spend all that time away from home was ludicrous to me. The flight home was bittersweet because it also meant going back to that job I hated.
But I did the best job I could nevertheless. I made my numbers in both membership and finances. Not by much, but I made them. Come fall the next year, we welcomed my son Evan into the world on October 30, 1986. I was up all night helping Linda through contractions every three minutes, for she was in difficulty and pain in delivering her first child. She stayed in the hospital that day and I made a swing by the Boy Scout offices to hand out some bubble gum cigars and tell everyone I had a baby boy. The Field Director said, “That’s nice. You’re coming in later then?”
I stared at him. “I was up all night,” I told him.
“You look good. You can come in tomorrow then.”
Here was an organization that claimed to value and support youth, especially boys, telling a new father that there would be no time to spend at home with his wife after the birth of a child. Before that incident, I questioned the real values of the people that ran that council. After that incident, I knew that it was high time to leave.
Little did I know that there were conspiratorial plans to force me out of the job. A few weeks before my child was born, I’d presided over a weekend Camporall that ran from Friday night through Sunday evening. I worried all weekend about Linda but wasn’t allowed to leave the event at all. When Sunday night came along, I raced home to be with her, figuring I could deposit the receipts for the event the next morning when I came to the office.
I turned in the money and receipts right off the bat that morning. But a few days later I was called into the field director’s office to answer questions about why I didn’t drop off the money on Sunday night. “My wife is pregnant. I was away all weekend,” I told him.
“Well, some people wonder if all the money was turned in,” he said, implying that I’d stolen some.
“I turned in all the money,” I said flatly. “You know I did.”
“One of the volunteers wrote us a note about it,” he said, handing it over to me. I looked at the name on the paper and recognized him as a stalwart Scout leader. But I’d done him some solids over time and believed we’d built a relationship. Apparently not. He’d composed some formal-sounding note about the fact that he was not sure I could be trusted because he’d seen that there were ghost units in the district.
The Council had put the guy up to lying about me. They wanted me gone for one reason or another. A series of events ran through my mind. The corruption I’d seen. The perverse behavior of the Chief Scout Executive on one of our staff retreats in Wisconsin when he sat around leafing through porn magazines showing us his favorite pictures. These were corrupt and disturbing people, I realized, who would stop at nothing to get their way.
My native appeals to honesty were a threat to them. I’d write the volunteer’s name right here if I felt it would do any good. I can still recall it quite clearly. But that’s not the point. The real point is that I learned not to trust people that hid behind organizational values to do horrible stuff. These supposed pillars of conservative values, who recited the Scout Oath with regularity in their profession, were cheating the books, cheating other non-profit organizations, lying to volunteers and asking volunteers to lie, all while pushing people to abide by their corruption no matter the cost.
I think about that pack of amoral slobs and realized at how poorly they represented the principles recited in the Scout Oath.
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
The minute they showed me that note from the volunteers was the motivation to get the hell out of there and get on with life. I’d fulfilled whatever angst or guilt about self-indulgence that half drove me to take the job in the first place. I was sick of the bloated attitudes and secretive graft, and most of all sick of the fat asses and fat heads of those running the council.
Fat chance at success
Before I left the job, I did one of my fellow executives a big favor. He was living in the same house that my family had rented back in 1977 when my parents decided to try life in the country again. We moved out of that house after a year because the commute into town for my brother’s sports career was nuts. But we also left because the landlords were daffy.
My compatriot had even worse problems with them. He was so angry that he’d decided to try to scare them to death by throwing a bowling ball through the plate glass window at the front of the house while they were sitting in the living room. I said, “You’re not serious,” but he lifted the trunk of his car and showed me the sixteen-pound bowling ball he planned to use. “I want to scare them to death,” he told me. “I want them to have a heart attack.”
He surely would have gone through with the plot if I had not pointed out the possible ramifications. “It’s hard not to get caught at stuff like that,” I warned him.
And despite all the calculated crap that Council staff pulled on me, I left the place without a fuss and on civil if not good terms. I took the advice of every career counselor I knew and let bygones be bygones. I’d found a new job working for our hometown newspaper the Chronicle, and I was excited to be leaving the Boy Scouts of America behind forever.
Lie about one thing…
But it sure didn’t surprise me that the entire Boy Scouts of America organization was found to be corrupt and hiding the long-term effects of the pedophiles using the Scouts to gain access to boyhood prey. If you lie about one type of thing, it’s common that you’ll lie about another. Based on my experiences, the lying runs from the local councils all the way up to the top of the organization. That’s just like the Republican Party and many other conservative organizations from megachurches to supposedly Christian to business networking organizations and the entire Trump debacle of Make America Great Again, conservatives flat out suck at behind honest about anything. Scout’s Honor? Bullshit.
And it now really disgusts me that to make up for the abusive follies, the BSA has raided the realm of the Girl Scouts by welcoming school-age girls into the Boy Scouts of America. I don’t trust the BSAT or anything it has ever said, or ever will. It is my belief that the world would be better off if the entire enterprise were forced to close its doors forever. It is flawed with the same sort high claims of principle and lowbrow behavior that is vexing America today. We’d all be better off without them.