Clean – A Scout is Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean.
“Thaddeus, get in the shower NOW. I don’t mean five minutes from now; I mean NOW,” Mom added for emphasis. She had that ‘Mom’ look, which meant he had stalled as long as he could.
“I’m going to ride horses and hang out in a barn, Mom, full of hay and horse poop. What’s the point in getting all cleaned up just to go play in a barn?” Tad answered. Guys are supposed to get dirty. Everyone knew that, Tad thought, but her.
“You are at least going to start out the weekend smelling like something other than sweat and dirt. Now MOVE,” Mom said. Tad gave up and got in the shower.
On the way, Tad got another round of lectures. “Don’t forget to thank Rusty’s grandfather for having you. And keep your stuff picked up. And don’t forget to say please and thank you.” The list went on and on. If he followed his mom’s directions, he’d spend the entire weekend being so polite, there wouldn’t be time for anything else!
They picked up Conner and Elliot on the way to Rusty’s house. Rusty’s mother had okayed a few of the guys spending the night on Friday. The rest of the den would be joining them at the dude ranch on Saturday so they could all ride horses.
After supper, the boys went to check out the barn. “Everybody be quiet and follow me,” Rusty whispered. He led them around the side of the barn. They sat underneath the window of the tack room where the soundtrack of a movie could be heard. This was one of those movies that adults watch only after they think the kids are asleep. The words being used were all four-letter ones being shouted back and forth during the fight scene of an action movie. Wow!
Once the fight scene was over, Rusty said, “Let’s go out to the hay stack and play Capture the Flag.” Off the boys went, dividing up into teams, and deciding on placement of their ‘safe’ bunkers, and which areas were open combat.
The battle began, and Tad and Conner launched their attack on Elliot and Rusty. Just as he was approaching their rear flank, Rusty tackled Tad and they went flying into the haystack. Before he could stop it, Tad blurted out “Oh, shoot,” only he didn’t say ‘shoot’. If his mother heard what he really said, she would ground him for a month.
“Hey, there, little dude, let’s be watching the language, okay?” said one of the ranch hands.
“Oh, blow it out your pie hole,” Tad countered. He was pretty sure he sounded just like those special forces guys that could make a bomb out of chewing gum and pocket lint. The guys were snickering and doing fist bumps with finger explosions. “You’re just a big dumbapple.” Only Tad didn’t say dumbapple, and instead of grounding him for a month for what he repeated, his mom would ground him for a year.
Rusty’s grandpa came around the corner just as Tad let loose with the last one. Tad realized what he sounded like, it wasn’t anything nice. Just when he decided he better apologize, Mr. Small said to the ranch hand, “I’ll take it from here, Jim. I reckon you cowpokes ought to come with me for a spell.”
Tad looked around at the other boys and felt really uneasy. Just a few moments ago, his friends were grinning at his choice of words. Now they looked like they swallowed a bug.
“Let’s pull up a hay bale and jaw awhile,” Mr. Small pointed to a couple of bales sitting in front of the last stall. “You know, I couldn’t help but hear some mighty strong words coming from the barn, so I thought I’d better check it out. I was hoping for some new words to help me improve my vocabulary, but I was pretty disappointed to hear the same old worn out cussing words we’ve all heard. Now just why do you suppose anybody would want to use swear words?” Mr. Small leaned back on the hay bale and linked his hands around one knee. Tad began to relax.
“I think it’s when you get mad,” Rusty answered his grandpa.
“Or when you get hurt,” Conner added. “My dad says something when he smacks his thumb with a hammer.”
“Maybe it’s when you’re trying to make someone else think you’re braver than you really are,” Elliot said, remembering when the guys had helped him face down some bullies.
“Or when you do something stupid in front of people, and just try to make them forget about the stupid thing that happened,” Tad said.
“Yep,” Grandpa agreed, “those all sound like situations I’ve found myself in from time to time. And you’re right, when you get backed into those kinds of corners, how you respond is how you’ve trained yourself to respond. Now you boys appear to me to be some pretty smart cookies. I’ll bet without half trying you can come up with some words that express yourself better than some of these old words we hear all the time. In fact, I’ll bet Rusty here can recall some that I’ve used from time to time.”
“You mean ‘criminently’ and ‘jumping jehosophat’? “ Rusty asked.
“Yep. Those words were from back in my daddy’s day, and they were used to make a point, just like we’re talking about. But I expect you boys to show your intelligence by coming up with some words all on your own.”
“How about Shazbot?” Elliot queried, looking up from studying his shoes.
“Or Fudgesicles,” Wyatt added.
“Or Cowabunga, like the Ninja Turtles,” Tad threw in, feeling better already. Rusty’s grandpa wasn’t going to ground them or wash their mouths out with soap, so the pressure was off.
Mr Small said, “You never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression. When the first impression you make is made with a poor choice of words, it reflects poorly on who you are. You boys are Scouts, and you really want that first impression to be a good one.”
The next morning, the rest of the den arrived and it was time for their trail ride. Each of the boys was assigned a horse. With the help of the stable hands, each boy was responsible for getting his mount ready for the trail.
Tad had been hanging out with Rusty for the past few months, so he felt like he already knew what he was doing. He was assigned to Buttermilk, a pretty little mare with light brown coat. He grabbed the saddle, ready to show the rest of the den what a pro he was. But instead of landing on the horse’s back, she stepped sideways and Tad missed the horse and landed flat on his back with the saddle on top of him. Some of the other guys were laughing and pointing.
Tad opened his mouth to say a bad word and hopefully distract the guys from his predicament, when he caught Mr. Small watching out of the corner of his eye. So he thought for a moment, and then he said, “Aw, horse feathers!”
“Yeah, horse feathers!” a couple of the guys copied. Within a few minutes, ‘horse feathers’ could be heard around the barn. Tad breathed a sigh of relief that no one seemed to be remembering him getting knocked down. He felt even better when Mr. Small gave him the ‘two thumbs up’ sign. The stable hand helped him up, and they worked together to get the mare saddled without any more mishaps.
The ride was terrific. The boys took turns riding around the practice ring to get a feel for their horses and to learn the basic commands. Once the ride was over, each Scout brushed his horse and helped put the tack away just like a real cowboy would do.
As always, they had to have a den closing ceremony before they headed home. Mr. Bolton had them form their living circle as usual. He started by saying, “I don’t know about you boys, but I’m starting to smell a little like the horse I was riding.” All of the guys make a big show of smelling their underarms, making faces and holding their noses. “At times like this, you may wonder how it would be possible to live up to the point of the Scout law that says ‘A Scout is clean.’ No matter what, there are times when we’re all going to get dirty.“ Tad was getting uncomfortable, feeling pretty sure he knew where this was going.
“Dirt on the outside is easy to clean up with a little soap and water. Okay, in some of your cases, maybe a LOT of soap and water,” he joked. Everyone laughed, and Tad held his breath. “I just wanted to encourage you boys not to let Hollywood tell you how you should act, how you should talk. You’re going to hear a lot of foul language as you get older, especially in the movies and on television. You might get a coach who thinks the way to get his point across is to swear. You might choose some friends who think it makes them sound older if they swear like you hear in movies.”
Tad tried to swallow the lump that was forming in his throat. He had done that very thing last night; he had copied those guys in the movies, and now Mr. Bolton was going to use the D word – disappointed. He was going to tell everyone he was DISAPPOINTED in Tad. His great day was going down in flames.
Once again, Mr. Bolton surprised him. He finished up by saying, “I try to remember some advice I got a long time ago, and it helps me remember to watch what I say. I don’t say anything that I wouldn’t want my grandma to hear. My grandma is a really special lady, and I wouldn’t want her to be disappointed in me because my language. Especially in the heat of the moment when something happens — like when you do something in front of people that is really embarrassing. Okay, Wolves, hands in for our den cheer, then you’re all dismissed.”
On the way home, Tad’s mom wanted to know all about the weekend and the trail ride. As usual, Tad left out a few minor details such as incident with the bad words. He figured if she never actually came out and asked, “Tad, did you get in any trouble this weekend?” he was probably okay not offering the information. If HIS mom knew about the words Tad had said to that stable hand, there were probably had laws against the type of punishment his mom would think up. Better to just keep that little nugget to himself.