Friday, June 6, 2014

Aiming high

One of my favorite movies is Follow Me, Boys! with Fred MacMurray as Lem Siddons.  He's a travelling musician (but studying to be a lawyer) who makes a fateful decision to get off the bus in Hickory, a charming small-town middle-America kind of place.  (Heck, I'd have gotten off the bus, too!)  He volunteers to be the Scoutmaster, impresses the sweet and beautiful Vida in the process, and makes a wonderful life for himself and is a positive influence for the town's boys through the years.  I don't know if towns like Hickory ever really existed, but I like to think that that's how life used to be (and ought to be).  

Even though I had some good Scoutmasters like Lem Siddons, and even though I loved reading Boy's Life cover to cover each month, I was never a very good scout.  Maybe the problem for me was that Scouting was an ideal, but the reality was allergies on campouts and having to hang out with a few obnoxious kids I'd rather avoid.  Or maybe passing off requirements and earning advancements wasn't a priority in my troop - either that or I just didn't "get it."  Still, even if it didn't work for me like it was supposed to, it doesn't mean we shouldn't aim for the high ideal, even if we fall short, and the movie showed the ideal of how Scouting could work.

Somehow I stumbled upon The Wolf Patrol: A Tale of Baden-Powell's Boy Scouts by John Finnemore, a fun story that showed how Scouting works.  Dick Elliott, a kid from the well-to-do part of town, and Chippy, a "wharf-rat" from the poor part, become great friends in spite of their differences because of Scouting.  The two even take a long hike through the English countryside, living by their wits and always remembering to "do a good turn daily."  There's plenty of danger and the boys run into a few bad guys, but they use the skills they've learned to triumph - and even catch a foreign spy.  Granted, the book is quite dated (it was written in 1908) and is in the adventure style of books like R.M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island, but it illustrates how the Scout Law can be a guide and how it can improve boys lives.  Plus, it was actually kind of fun to read - being one of those boy's adventure tales - even if it's a bit overly idealistic.

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