Over the next few weeks, this blog will highlight the adventures of our hero, Tad, and his fellow Cub Scouts as they navigate the world and try to make sense of living the Scout law. Here we go:
Trustworthy – A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is a part of his code of conduct. People can always depend on him.
Tad tells everyone his uncle is an expert wilderness guide and knows everything about the outdoors. But then the den leader asks Tad to get his uncle to lead the pack campout. What’s a guy to do?
“Now may the Great Master of All Scouts be with us until we meet again, and may our footsteps lead us on the trail to Him.” To this the Wolves shouted, “BE PREPARED!”
They always finished up den meetings in the same way. Mr. Bolton, the Den Leader, would say, “Okay guys, form the living circle. The trick was to have the guy to your left grab your thumb, while you grabbed the thumb of the guy to your right, and do this without getting your arm ripped out of the socket. Sometimes the guys got so pushy, everyone fell like a bunch of dominoes. The cool thing about Mr. Bolton was that he didn’t get mad.
Tonight, the meeting ended the usual way, and a noisy game of Keep Away was just getting started. Just as Tad was rushing over to join in, Mr. Bolton said, “Tad, can I talk to you a minute?” What had he done this time? A couple of weeks ago, he and his best friend, Conner, snuck into the kitchen and ate all the frosting off the cupcakes. No one else seemed to think it was nearly as funny as Tad and Conner did, and it cost Tad a month of taking out the trash which he was still paying back. Mr. Bolton couldn’t have a bad report to give his dad this week because no one had brought any cupcakes.
It took Tad a minute to squeak out a response. “What is it, Mr. Bolton?”
“I was wondering if you’ve had any luck convincing your Uncle Royce to join us on the Pack Campout next month.”
Tad’s Uncle Royce was just about the coolest guy ever. Uncle Royce had the most awesome job ever – working at the sporting goods store where he got to handle guns and fishing poles and baseball equipment every single day. In his excitement of telling the guys about his terrific uncle, Tad may have added a few details to make him sound even more amazing. Like the time he said his uncle had killed and skinned the snake that he made into the hatband for his cowboy hat – just like in the movies about that crocodile hunter dude.
“I guess I can ask him, Mr. Bolton. He has to work a lot, you know. He might not be able to make it.” Tad tried not to look guilty. How would Uncle Royce feel about his nephew if he found out Tad made up those stories? Of all the times Tad said random stuff and nobody listened, why did this have to be the one time someone paid attention?
“We have a month to plan, so there’s still time. I know all the guys would like to meet him.”
Tad’s dad chose that moment to walk into the meeting room. Tad hurried over, trying to make his escape before Dad could make eye contact with Mr. Bolton.
Tad grabbed his dad’s hand and hurried toward the car, dragging Dad behind him.
“Hey, son, where’s the fire?” Tad’s dad could always be counted on for the same corny jokes over and over again.
“Nowhere, Dad, I, uh, just have homework. You know how wonky Ms. Willows gets when we don’t finish those math facts sheets.”
“We don’t want Ms. Willows getting wonky, do we?” Tad’s dad laughed at his own joke and started the car. Tad breathed a sigh of relief as they pulled away from the curb.
“I can call Ben later about Royce.”
Tad felt the air rush out of his lungs in one big whoosh. “What about him?” Tad asked, pretending he didn’t already know.
“Ben asked me a few days ago if Royce might be available to go on the Pack campout next month and help teach some outdoor skills. I called him last night, and he’s checking his calendar.”
When the guys found out, they’d give Tad no end of grief. But when Uncle Royce found out, he would be embarrassed, and it would be Tad’s fault. Then his dad would use the worst word in the whole entire universe – the D word. Dad would look over the top of his glasses, and say, “Son, I’m very DISAPPOINTED in you.” He would be grounded until he was at least 30. Tad couldn’t let this happen.
When day of the campout finally arrived, Tad thought of a dozen reasons why he couldn’t go. But as he knew he would, his dad insisted. “Your uncle went to a lot of trouble to arrange this.”
When his uncle arrived, he joked,“Hey, Tadmeister, ready to ‘rock and roll’?” Tad threw his backpack into the back of the truck and climbed in. This was probably the last time he and his cool uncle would be riding together.
Uncle Royce started the truck, and that’s when it happened. Like a water hose turned on full blast, tears came pouring down Tad’s face. That awful sound he made when he was trying to get his breath and cry and hiccup at the same time echoed in the cab of the truck.
“Whoa, what’s going on, Bubba?” Tad figured he might as well get the whole story out now. He started with the snake story and told Uncle Royce everything from the first half-truth to the last lie.
Once he got the whole mess out, he whispered, “Gosh, Uncle Royce, I never meant to lie. That story about the snake sounded like something you WOULD do if you had the chance, and then once I got started making stuff up, it just got easier and easier.”
Then the one thing Tad couldn’t imagine ever happening again, happened. Uncle Royce started to LAUGH. He was laughing so hard he had to pull off the road. Once he finally stopped laughing, he gathered Tad up in a huge bear hug and said, “At least you made me out to be the hero. Now dry those tears, Bubba, and let’s figure out how to fix this.”
For the rest of the trip, Uncle Royce didn’t say a word. No corny jokes, no making up nonsense words to songs on the radio, no counting how many cool cars were on the road versus the duds. Just silence.
After camp was set up, Royce called his Dad over. They stayed huddled up for a long time. When they finally came back to the campsite, Tad was ready to crawl out of his skin. Much to his surprise, neither one of them even looked his direction. They were hustling around, gathering up a box full of random stuff. At one point, they even pulled Mr. Bolton into their conversation. What was up with that?
After campsite inspection and dinner, it was time for the opening campfire. To Tad’s surprise, Mr. Bolton announced a special event. Royce took the stage, and he was wearing his cowboy hat with the snakeskin band. He started out by telling a goofy joke that got everyone laughing. Then he said, “You’ve all seen my special hatband on my lucky hat here. You may have even heard a story or two about how I came to own such a special piece.” And Royce proceeded to tell everyone the story just like Tad had told him.
“That’s what storytellers do – we start with a story that is pretty much true, and add details to make it more fun. This is called ‘spinning a yarn’. You’re going to get the chance to do the same thing. Each of your dens is going to work on an alternate ending to my snake story. We’ll vote on the results. To get you started, each den will pick a prop out of the prop box. You have to use the prop in your story. Think you can spin a good yarn?” By the time he finished, they were all cheering.
Several guys “high-fived” him and told him his uncle was the greatest. This was turning out WAY better than Tad imagined. The campfire wound down and everyone headed off to their campsites to sleep. Royce grabbed Tad around the shoulders and said, “Don’t worry, buckaroo, it’s going to be okay.”
The next day, his den worked on their story. They had drawn a flashlight from the prop box. Their story was that they shined the light in the eyes of a charging elk, who stepped on the snake, which is where the hero got the snakeskin for the hatband. They grabbed a cardboard box and made some elk antlers.
The second campfire was a huge hit. All the dens performed their “Snake” stories. The best one was the Fluorescent Guppies who used aluminum foil to ward off alien beings and scared the skin off a snake while landing their spaceship. Everyone laughed at Tad’s den and their elk antlers. That ginormous knot in Tad’s stomach finally relaxed enough for him to eat a few S’Mores.
On the ride home, Tad braced himself for punishment for putting Uncle Royce in such a bad spot. Instead, they went back to their usual routine of making up nonsense words to songs and separating the cool cars from the duds. Tad hadn’t even been forced to listen to the “I’m so disappointed in you” lecture from his dad. Once they got back home, Uncle Royce pulled him into another big bear hug and said, “Thanks for a great weekend, buddy. Let’s do it again sometime. But let’s leave storytelling for campfires. Okay?”
Tad agreed that from now on, he would only tell stories when everyone understood that he was “spinning a yarn”. And just to be sure he didn’t forget, his dad tacked on two weeks of pulling weeds in Mom’s garden. Maybe he would find another snake . . .