golden cliff (c60clg1@CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Thu, 15 May 1997 18:12:05 -0500
This is not a story about my humiliating experience, but that of a Scout
in my troop. Well, let me reconsider that statement. No it is about my
humiliation also. Another kind though.
About 18 or 19 years ago, a young fairly green Scoutmaster (me) was on a
campout with his troop. A boy named Tom was on his very first campout.
Back then troop initiations were more or less a tradition. Nothing much
more than the "left handed smokeshifter" or "tent stretcher" variety.
The boys kept after Tom all weekend to go get a left handed smokeshifter
but Tom refused. I finally decided to ask Tom myself and get the thing
over with, it was getting tiring. Since I was the one asking, Tom
obliged and went to a cabin where another troop of Scouts were camping.
The Scoutmaster and his boys were very creative and in good fun made a
contraption out of paper plates, a coat hanger, and aluminum foil. It
was quite a dedicated piece of work. Tom returned with the smoke shifter
much to the delight and laughter of the troop. I was glad the joke was
over and we could put it behind us and get on with the campout.
For Tom it was quite a different thing. He felt very hurt and
humiliated, and probably worse yet betrayed by someone he trusted. I
took him aside and tried to apologize and explain things to him as best I
could. He said he was going to quit the Troop and never go camping again.
Eventually things returned back to normal and Tom seemed to be enjoying
himself again. I hope he enjoyed the remainder of the campout, since it
was his last involvement in Scouting. He made good on his promise, he
never came to another meeting or activity, he quit Scouting.
There was another part of the story that I didn't realize at the time. A
few years earlier there were two brothers playing on a railroad trestle. A
train came. The younger brother jumped off the trestle into the shallow
Kishwaukee river, breaking his leg. The older brother didn't jump, instead
losing his life.
I had known of the story, but did not know Tom was the younger brother.
He was still sorting out a lot of emotions and was very vulnerable at the
time of that first Boy Scout campout. Several times after the incident I
telephoned Tom to try to bring him back into the program, each time he
said he'd think about it, but he never returned.
His humiliation was being laughed at by his friends, my humiliation was
betraying the trust of a boy in my troop. After that weekend I declared an
end to any type of initiations in the troop. That was a good ten years
before it became national policy.
Sure, 99% of the time it does no harm and everyone laughs it off as good
natured fun. But what about that 1% of the time it hurts a boy like Tom
and he is lost from Scouting? Is it worth it? There are so many
good positive things that can be done in Scouting, why potentially hurt
someone so needlessly?
That is my humiliating story about hazing. It has no place in Scouting
and is contrary to the ideals we are trying to teach our Scouts. Troop 33
lost a great kid that weekend who could have benefitted from the Scouting
It just isn't worth it. It really isn't.
YIS, Cliff Golden
Scoutmaster Troop 33; DeKalb, Illinois
Three Fires Council BSA
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City