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Order of the Arrow

05/02/2012 @ 10:00am

I was never Order of the Arrow material.  But it was a long time ago; I should probably just let it go.

I had kind of a checkered career as a Boy Scout.  For one thing, because of my belly, my sash never really hung as straight as it showed in the manual.  For another, the only merit badge I received was for cooking.  And, if it had been named accurately it would have been called the “my-mom-went-back-to-school-and-I’m-trying-not-to-starve” badge.

I just didn’t really fit in.  We once went on an overnight camping trip where we were all supposed to bring a can of baked beans for supper.  We didn’t have any baked beans at home, so I brought Spaghetti-Os.  That was trauma enough, but then I forgot to punch holes in the lid before I put the can in the fire, which resulted in a near fatal Spaghetti-Os projectile hurtling past my shoulder and hitting a fellow Scout in the chest.  Plus, and more importantly, then I didn’t have anything for supper.

Things only got worse when I went to the weeklong Scout encampments that were held at a local lake.  That was before anyone worried about skin cancer – I don’t even know if there was such a thing as sun block  - and I was surrounded by scrawny and/or muscular brown bodies. I wasn’t particularly muscular and I’ve never actually gotten a sun tan in my life, so I wore a t-shirt everywhere in order to keep from turning an unpleasant shade of crimson.

But it was one memorable night at the Order of the Arrow bonfire that I reached new heights of humiliation.  The Order of the Arrow, if I remember correctly, is like an honor society within the Boy Scouts – something like being a Navy Seal or a member of Skull and Bones.  

So, there I was, sitting uncomfortably on the ground with a fresh sunburn smarting and scratches all over my seldom-exposed legs.  I couldn’t sit cross-legged because I’m not very “bendy,” so I was just sort of sprawled.  The head scout walked around the circle, between the Scouts and the bonfire.  He was dressed as an Indian, or the way a 17-year-old Scout in the 60’s would think an Indian dressed, right down to breechclout and war paint. As the leader walked around the circle, the scoutmasters who had eligible scouts (the best of the best) stood quietly behind them.  When the marchers reached the marked scouts, they’d be grabbed and flung into the middle of the circle where they would be thumped hard on the shoulders a half-dozen times and then pushed to join the parade.

Here’s the problem. We didn’t have a scoutmaster with us.  He had a real job and didn’t want to waste a week’s vacation sleeping in a tent with a bunch of twelve year olds.  What we did have was a college student without a summer job who had succumbed to blackmail.  He didn’t know anything about the Order of the Arrow – he thought it was a game that would end up with everyone getting grabbed, thumped, and added to the march.  So, he got up and stood behind me.  

Let me tell you, there was no one more surprised than I when I was grabbed and thumped and ending up marching with the rest of the elites.  I admit to a brief moment of elation when I thought that someone had detected some noble qualities in me previously unknown to...tell, everyone.

Reality set in pretty fast when we were taken for our Order of the Arrow briefing and it was discovered that I was completely and totally unqualified.  My cooking merit badge just wasn’t enough, particularly since I couldn’t sit cross-legged.

Oh well.  That was a long time ago.  Bill, I’ve forgiven you and I hold no grudges against the Order of the Arrow for rejecting me.

And I still can’t sit cross-legged.

Copyright 2011 Brent Olson

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