I’m the direct supervisor of a newly-made Cub Scout and sorting out his uniform reminded me of my own beginnings in the Scouting world many eons ago, not that there are many similarities between the two.
My Cub Scout has already earned an assortment of patches, beads and insignia of rank and, after only a dozen Google searches and a call to the Scout office in Tupelo, I have a good idea of where everything goes.
His first major inspection is set for this Sunday and I wanted to be sure everything was mounted correctly. I even found a formal uniform inspection sheet online complete with a comprehensive 100-point grading system, something that would have been a total disaster if applied to my fellow members of Troop 80 and me.
The first item on the list is “General Appearance,” which makes me laugh out loud just thinking about it. As a group we weren’t much to look at on the hoof, but it’s been an interesting journey since. Hopefully we’ve shown there’s more to us than met the eye back then, though I don’t know if our general appearance has improved.
We didn’t have Cub Scouts when I would have been one, but I was allowed to tag along with the community’s Boy Scout troop until I was old enough to enlist. By that time we were all well along the road to truancy. We didn’t have uniforms because buying one would have been a hardship for many of the families, and several probably wouldn’t have equipped their youngsters with such even if they could. The only time I saw our members in uniform was during the occasional Eagle ceremony with the candidate in togs purchased, I assume, just for the occasion. Otherwise we dressed as casually as common decency would allow, and sometimes more casually than that.
Under “General Appearance” on my Cub Scout’s sheet, four points are assigned to each of the following: good posture, clean face and hands, combed hair, neatly dressed, clean fingernails. Someone in my group might have drawn points somewhere in that list, but I’m not sure who or where. Guys with buzz cuts too short to comb might have scored by way of technicality. The next several points are uniform-specific, goose eggs all the way unless someone had just made Eagle. Under “Shoes,” the list assigns five points to “neat and clean.” Right.
What we lacked in dress, though, we made up for in the example we received from adult leadership. My dad and the others who gave of their time to conduct our meetings and oversee our camping trips taught us lessons about sharing and self-sacrifice that continue to reveal themselves today. Even if we don’t remember how to tie a bowline or a clove hitch, we remember fathers who worked all day then hustled us up to the church in spite of our sullen disregard to a mid-week exercise of controlled pandemonium.
I never made Eagle Scout so I never needed a uniform, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. My Cub Scout is already a better kid than I was and I’m hoping to pass along the same example I received. Between the two he has a good chance of succeeding, though I doubt he’ll ever earn points for clean fingernails.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.