Friendly – A Scout is friendly.  A Scout is a friend to all.  He is a brother to other Scouts.  He seeks to understand others.  He respects those with ideas and customs that are different from his own. 

“Whoa, guys, check out the dude in the hat!” called Jeremy.  He was pointing at the door, and everyone turned and stared.

“Hey, ya’all,” the new guy said, with a funny accent.  Everything about this new guy screamed, “I’m not from around here.”

Mr. Bolton said, “Boys, come on over and say hello to the newest member of our den, Rusty Small.  Rusty’s family just moved here from Austin, Texas.”  Mr. Bolton was making that goofy motion with his head adults use to get them to move closer.

Tad stuck out his hand.  “Hi, I’m Tad, and this is Conner.  You play baseball?”

“He probably only knows how to kick cow patties,” Jeremy said with a grin.  A couple of the guys chuckled, and Rusty blushed red.

Mr. Bolton stepped in and said, “Welcome to the Den 5 Wolves, Rusty.  Fellas, let’s circle up and play the name game to help Rusty learn everyone’s name.  Each one of us will choose an adjective that goes with our first name that helps describe something about us.  Then each person in the circle introduces everyone in the circle who has revealed their name.  I’ll go first.  I’m Big Ben.  Okay Rusty, introduce yourself with the adjective you’ve chosen.”

“Okay, I guess I’ll be Rowdy Rusty, and you’re Big Ben,” said Rusty.  Some of the guys made rude noises, earning a “Knock it off” look from Mr. Bolton.

Conner chose “Clumsy Conner” and faked falling down, making everyone laugh.  Tad used “Titan Tad” and pointed to his baseball cap.  The rest of the meeting felt a little weird having a new guy in the mix.  After their usual dismissal, Tad saw his dad talking to a stranger who was also wearing a cowboy hat.

“Welcome to the area, Joe.  Tad, say hello to Rusty’s father, Mr. Small.”

“Hey, Mr. Small.  Dad, can I go play Spud?”

“Just a minute, son.  Since you and Conner are already having a sleepover tomorrow night, why don’t you include Rusty?“  Dad said, just like it was the most normal thing in the world to include a brand new kid in a ‘best buds’ sleepover.

“I don’t even know what Rusty likes to eat.  Maybe he likes to eat something Mom doesn’t know how to fix.”  When Tad was cornered, his mouth starting spitting out stuff before his brain was working.

“Son, you know your Mom always fixes enough food for a small city.  What do you say?” Dad asked, with that way he had of letting Tad know he might as well not fight it.

“Sure, okay.  Nice to meet you, Mr. Small,” Tad added, when his dad whispered “Mind your manners” in his ear.

Conner and Tad had been best buds since preschool.  They knew everything important about each other.  Conner was the ONLY one that Tad had ever told about how he really got the scar on his left arm.  They had a special handshake, and knew each other’s jokes without hearing the punch line.

On the ride home, Tad tried to explain how inviting Rusty to the sleepover was possibly his worst idea EVER.

“Think how Rusty must feel – new town, new school, no friends.  Do you remember last summer when we sent you to church camp with your cousin? You didn’t know anyone.  By the time I picked you up, you had a whole group of new friends.  You didn’t tell Conner that you had made new friends and wouldn’t be needing him any more.”

“I get it, Dad.  But Conner and I are tight, and having a new guy hanging around will be weird.”

“Okay, then it’s weird – until he has time to fit in.  You and Conner have had lots of time to get to know each other.  Rusty needs that same chance.”  Tad knew no amount of arguing was going to change his mind.

The next afternoon, Tad was sure his Dad picked up Rusty first on purpose.  Dad also made sure they picked a couple of games that allowed more than 2 players at Game Alley.  Tad could smell a set-up, but the games were cool, so he decided to play along

It turned out that Rusty liked all the same food as Conner and Tad – chili dogs, nachos, and root beer.  Mom made some of her double fudge brownies, and even added ice cream; no way was Tad going to say no to that.

When the boys decided to take a break from gaming, Conner showed Rusty their special handshake.  Rusty said, “Ya’all can keep that one between the two of you, since you’ve been friends for so long.  Let’s make a new one just for tonight.   We can be The Three Amigos or The Three Vaqueros.  It’s really been great hanging out with ya’all.  It hasn’t been much fun at my house lately.  Mom says she can’t find anything and yells at my dad.  Half of my stuff got sold at a yard sale, and the rest isn’t unpacked yet.”

Tad feel pretty low, remembering he had protested including Rusty in their plans.  “Glad you could come, dude.  Show me the handshake again; I didn’t get that last part.  Three Vaqueros sounds cool.   Okay, Conn?”

“Okay by me.  Hey, Russ, you ever dipped tortilla chips in ice cream?” Conner asked.

“Sure have.  Have you dipped ‘em in ice cream AFTER you covered ‘em with cheese sauce?  Seriously awesome.”

Rusty told some jokes, and Conner laughed hard enough to blow soda out his nose.  They showed off their new hand shake to Mom and Dad.  The next day, Dad got all mushy in the car on the way home about how nice it was that he and Conn included Rusty.

At the den meeting the next week, Tad and Conner waited by the door for Rusty so they could go in together to show everyone Rusty had friends.

Mr. Bolton had all the den members sit in a circle, and put a bowl of apples in the middle.  “Now,” he explained, “Choose your favorite.  Once you get it, really look it over.”

Each boy grabbed an apple.  Mr. Bolton said, “Now each one of you will tell us why your apple is special.  I’ll go first.  My apple is a lovely shade of maroon with yellow streaks and just a touch of green near the stem.”

Each one of the boys tried to point out something different about his apple.  Ethan said his resembled the stripes on a zebra; Matt’s had seven bumps on the bottom, one for each year Matt had been alive.  Always the jokester, Aiden introduced his apple as one of the Bazinga Brothers, a famous juggling act.  As they went around the circle, the stories got wilder and funnier.

Once everyone had a chance to introduce their apple, Mr. Bolton gathered them all back up.  “Now I’m going to circulate the bowl again.  Please pick out your apple.”

The bowl went around, and each one tried to pick out the same apple.  “I can’t tell which is which.  They all look alike.  How are we supposed to tell them apart after you mixed them up?”  It was nearly impossible to tell anything different about any of the apples.

Mr. Bolton explained, “I did this to show that, other than a few physical differences, we are more alike than we are different.   Remember that when we all put on this uniform, we are all alike in another way, too.  We all belong to the same organization, which teaches us that a Scout is friendly.  In the spirit of friendship, Rusty has something special to share.  Rusty?”

Rusty said, “My grandpa works at a ranch, and he said I could bring ya’all out for a trail ride.  That is, if you want to.”

“Are you kidding?  Wow, that’s the greatest!  Cool, I’ve never ridden a horse before.  When do we get to go?  Man, I can’t wait!”  The excitement buzzed through the room.

Mr. Bolton said, “Rusty, sounds like the guys would like to take you up on your offer.  Thank you for showing us that a Scout is friendly.  Given a chance, each one of us has something special to offer.”

Rusty’s dad stepped forward with a handful of cowboy hats.  Each hat had an invitation to the trail ride attached and a map.  Wearing their new hats, all the guys swarmed Rusty to talk about the upcoming trail ride.

When Tad got in the car, he could see his dad wearing that sappy mush-face grin again.   “See, son, all he needed was a chance.”


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