When my kids first began playing youth baseball, it struck me that virtually everything I knew as an adult could be traced back to Little League.
When my kids signed up for Cub Scouts this year, however, I realized how wrong I had been. Somehow I'd lost those scouting memories, but they've all come flooding back.
Now I realize that I learned 44 percent of everything I know in Little League, 44 percent in Cub Scouts and 12 percent in the gutter and/or from my grandpa's stash of Playboy magazines.
As for the Cub Scout portion, this is what I learned as a boy, and what my boys are hopefully learning now:
I learned that fire is what separates us from the beasts. Fire provides warmth, light and protection, and keeps us from eating squirrels raw. Fire burns things. Fire is cool. Fire is good. Burn, fire, burn.
I learned that a Swiss Army knife can cut off an insignificant tip of your finger, and shouldn't be used until you're older than 7 or have been trained in safety by a responsible adult. Also, the corkscrew is really effective at poking an eye out.
I learned that there is no problem that can't be solved by putting a roasted marshmallow and a chocolate bar between two graham crackers.
I learned that it doesn't matter what your (Pinewood Derby) car looks like. As long as it doesn't scrape the road or contain illegal lubrication, it can get the job done without earning the ire of the judges (or police). A serviceable car doesn't need fancy paint … or a suspension system, brakes, power steering, an engine ...
I learned that real men don't have to be embarrassed about wearing a neckerchief.
I finally learned what the odd word "Webelos" — the level between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts — actually means. It's short for "We Be Below" the Boy Scout level. What? No?
I learned that nearly everything you find in the forest is OK to pick up and eat. Young stomachs will dissolve just about anything.
Don't eat those little red berries though. Don't ever eat the little red berries, no matter how tasty they look. Not those — those over there.
I learned to tie my shoelaces into a knot that would hold a cruise ship to a pier.
I learned that it's important to say please and thank you. Somehow wasn't listening when my parents tried to teach the same thing. Sorry, mom.
I learned that it's important to help other people, because one day you'll be really old — like, 40 — and need help yourself.
I learned that the pack is important. If you mess with the pack, the rest will tear you apart, and possibly eat you.
I learned that honesty is the best policy. Dishonesty will almost always be noticed by the den mother, who, if she's not your mother, is someone's mother, and will know.
I learned that kids need incentives. Cash and video games are good, but badges and pins will do it, too.
I learned to always do your best. Because the blue and gold outfit makes you stand out in a crowd, and people will notice you if you're not trying.
I learned that a respectful two-finger salute is much preferable to the traditional one-finger salute popularized by non-Scouts.
I learned that it's always important to wear clean underwear. Because if you get mauled by a bear, you don't want the emergency room doctor to judge you on your dirty undergarments.
I learned that if you don't put your name on your Spider-Man underwear, you're going to lose it.
I learned that everything tastes better when skewered on a stick and held over an open flame. That includes fettuccine alfredo.
I learned that all liquids taste better out of a metal canteen. Ice-cold mountain stream water. Cool, refreshing lemonade. Banana daiquiris.
I learned that duty is much different than doody.
Thank you, Cub Scouts. Keep up the good work.
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