I get my songs from what I’ve seen and things I think about
True stories sung of when I was young yes, I was a Boy Scout
Yes, I was… a Boy Scout. But not a very good one. Oh I wasn’t a bad boy, no, no no. I used to be a good boy (even wrote a song with that title). It’s just that I had no desire to move up the ranks, in rank. I guess the common cultural drive to get to that imaginary top of whatever it is people are striving to get to the top of… never got to me. Actually back then, the only thing I was best at was NOT moving up. So by the time I was a teenager, an actual adolescent, I was the oldest second-class scout in the history of our troupe.
Of course this (yet another example of my pernicious youthful rebelliousness) had nothing to do with any conscious, higher consciousness-raising radical rationalism on my part. I was far from any awareness of how my antithetical approach to authority might play out in any broader reality. I wasn’t starting, or part of any movement for change. No visions of a better, more egalitarian and/or non-hierarchal system.
But I wasn’t exactly lazy either. I think I just wanted to do things my way. The way that made sense to me. For me. Many years later I saw that my astrological designation (both eastern and western) suggests a personality consistent with the above so… I guess I’ll just go with that.
Back to scouting. As the son of a well-respected, down-to-earth public school teacher in the town where I “grew up” (Rochester, Minnesota) I’d been part of all the usual social clubs available, and that my Dad thought of value. There was Webelos, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, The Order of the Arrow… (and on a side note, I was also in 4H but that’s another thing entirely) Of all these different manifestations of what was basically the same organizational activity, I really only remember what went on in our regular Boy Scout troupe.
I’ve no doubt that over the years that I was part of this Boy Scout troupe, there had been at least several “Scout Masters”. But the only one I remember was Mr. Spawn. Yes, that was his name. And I remember him mostly because Mr. Spawn was the leader at the time of the two strongest memories from my scouting experience. He was also a big part of those memories.
First there was the time when Mr. Spawn cut off his thumb right in from of me, and several other boys. I shit you not! And he did it while trying to demonstrate how to properly use a hatchet to split the smaller pieces of wood we had for our fire, into kindling. Really! I have this amazing image in my mind that will never leave me, of Mr. Spawn saying something very much like, “Ok boys, so here’s how it’s done” just as he brought down the hatchet (he’d just recently shown us how to sharpen BTW) onto his left thumb right above the knuckle and chopped it clean off!
Now, Mr. Spawn was a very tough older guy. (perhaps in his sixties but in his fifties at least) I never really knew, but I’m quite sure he was a retired military guy, probably the Marines. So when he did something as stupid and embarrassing as this, there was NO WAY, he was going to show anything but that Marine toughness. He never flinched. And promptly stuffed his thumb into his shirt while grabbing it with his other hand, all the while saying quickly, something like… “Well, actually boys that it NOT the way to do it.”
If Mr. Spawn had said anything else, I have no idea. The image of that hatchet coming down and the severed thumb was all I could see and/or think about for quite a while. Mr. Spawn had obviously not made any attempt to get the piece of thumb he’d cut off, and have it reattached since my next (and enduring from then on) memory of him, was of the same though-as-nails old guy with a stump of a left thumb that was treated by him (and everyone else) as if it had always been that way.
That was Mr. Spawn.
And, as I said, Mr. Spawn was also a major figure in my other most memorable experience (or shall I say, series of experiences) of my Boy Scout days.
These had to do with Reggie. I’m not going to use his full name here (much as I’d like to due to the fact that his full name does add a certain atmospheric consistency to this part of the story) but yes, Reggie was at the center of all my other memorable scouting stories.
But I think I’m going to save it for tomorrow.