Scouts-L Mail Archive for August of 1999: "Returning to the Scene of the Situation" (2/2)
"Returning to the Scene of the Situation" (2/2)
Settummanque, the blackeagle
Mon, 9 Aug 1999 04:44:12 CDT
(this posting is the second of two parts; I struggled with trying to shorten
this today, but because the content all is important to the overall story, I
decided to leave it in. Here's why those "old geezers" are so important
even to people my age (at the time, I wasn't even 30 yet!). This was the
last entry in "Patches and Pins" and how I closed it. )
After 90 minutes of asking me questions dealing with my attitude toward
Scouting, the merit badges I'd earned and which ones were challenging and
which were a piece of cake, whether or not I liked being a patrol leader
over being Senior Patrol Leader, and questions dealing with summer camps and
overnight camps and my Scoutmaster, Treadwell sat up straight and asked me
"Mike, what would you say and do if we told you this evening that we did not
think you were ready for Eagle?"
My heart reached up to my mouth at that question. I shoudn't lied about the
three days I spent at the TV station instead of at the high school. They
also found out that I worked on Mrs. Allard's yard for nothing, cutting the
Mayor's yard and making sure that the two bushes surrounding the door to
their apartment looked neat from the street. I helped get her elected as
our first Mayor and it gave me some pride to insure that while her husband
was in Korea, like my Dad was, that someone took care of her yard. She
filled out one of those nomination forms on me. I was sunk. I should've
Treadwell -- or was it Swope -- I can't recall straight now, but one of the
three talked with Cora Wood. She gabbed her mouth off about me, telling one
of them about what I did for the Chapel and the impact I had on their
Coffeehouse program. She also told them, and Willis made a point of
repeating what the paper in front of him stated, that "I would make a very
strong husband for a very lucky young woman. He has his head on tighter
than any other student I've ever encountered." I've got to make a mental
note to call Cora and thank her some day.
And they had a note from Belinda. She told them how much she loved me. She
lied like a dog, for she had broken up with me a month and a half before
that November evening. But her letter, which they took delight in reading
aloud and stumbling over the "tell him that I love him and always considered
him a great friend" parts, was nice. At least it didn't say what I called
her when she wanted to break off our "going together!"
I felt sick. I gathered my thoughts and told them the truth: "I would be
very disappointed, sir. Eagle was one of my goals since childhood. But I
would find out what I did wrong, correct it or fix it, and come back and go
through this again if I had to." I then looked down at my merit badge sash.
I'm going to have to go through this again. What embarrassment!
After those mighty three Scouters had me wait in the hallway for close to 15
minutes (felt like an hour to me!), they had me to come back in, sit down
and explain that they are recommending that my Eagle be quickly approved by
the National Court of Honor. My father was then brought into the
President's office, the site of the Board of Review, and all three gushed to
him about the fact that I was one of their finest candidates. They say that
to all of the families, I was told by Eagles that gave me some idea of what
to expect...but not enough.
Mr. Treadwell stopped me in the hallway and asked me to walk with him down
the hallway to the water fountain. I listened as he talked in his graveled
"We ask that last question of every Eagle candidate...and we ask you only
not to let other candidates know that we ask that. We want their true
feelings about why being an Eagle Scout is so important to them. Will you
help us with that, please?" I nodded and said "Okay. But you guys really
scared me...I almost went to the bathroom in there!!" We started down the
wide hallway toward the cafeteria.
"I wanted to let you know how proud we are all of you, Mike. I also wanted
to give you some advice -- probably the only bit of advice you would get
before you graduate and go off to college." I listened, expecting the usual
things: stay in school, don't do drugs, and mind your parents. And don't
forget about what you've learned in Scouting.
"First," he explained, "There are going to be people out there that will
want to use you. Don't let them. You turn the tables on them and offer
yourself to help them. You have the key to your own life....you drive it."
"Second," he stopped, turned around and then looked me in the eyes. "Never
forget that you represent all of us Eagle Scouts. In everything you do, in
every word you say, and every deed -- good or otherwise. I've seen too many
boys go through here and end up in the _News_Enterprise_, arrested for
something or another. There is always some Eagle Scout looking to you and
always some Scout looking up to you." I understood that plenty, even at my
"Finally, there are people whom are going to rip you to sheddes out there.
They are going to rip you up because you're Black, because you're
successful, because you're a Scout. They are going to resent everything you
are and everything you've done for yourself. Let them. Don't fight it. Let
them. For the time will come, when after they are done tearing things down,
that they will come to YOU and ask you to help them put things back together
the way it should be done. And if you're an Eagle Scout, you already know
what that answer is, don't you?"
He waited for me to think about it. I didn't know the answer. He did.
"You're going to say "When do we start?" I know these things, Mike,
because..." he started to wet his whistle at the water fountain, the cool
water washing over his mouth as he sucked in the liquid. "Because, it
happens and it happens to the best of us." He wiped his mouth with a
hankerchief, and then wiped his hands before placing the cloth back into his
"That's all I wanted to tell you. I hope that you come back and see
us....you'll make a great Scoutmaster some day. Ever thought about being a
District Executive some day??"
"I think about it all the time, sir. Thanks for the advice." I extended my
left hand -- the Scouting hand -- to the man whom minutes before, led the
most intense verbal beat-down I've ever had.
He shook my hand and I went onward out the door, past the cafeteria, to
where my father was waiting in the car in the parking area.
Years later, here I was in that cafeteria I passed, waiting for the verse to
start off "I used to be a Staffer, and a good old one too...", our cue to
come join each other up front to sing the last verse of the Wood Badge Song.
I noticed when they started out, that another Scouter, a much younger man,
was holding Mr. Treadwell up as they made their way toward the center of the
front of the room.
"God, that's ME!" I told myself. "How old is he? Seventy? Almost Eighty?
Nah, he was in his fifties when we were both on the District Committee
together in 78. So he's like, in middle sixties." I shook my head from side
to side as I watched him move...then I heard the first words...and I got up
and made my way to the front.
I was too late, some burly old Scouter beat me to his side, the other being
held by that young man in the uniform helping Willis up. I sang loudly and
when we all responded "Back to Gilwell, Happy Land...." I looked over to see
Willis looking at me. My heart warmed as I went over to hug the man whom
years before, grilled me like I was going to be convicted of some heinous
crime....and then had the gall to ask me "what would I do if I didn't make
it to Eagle" that night. He warmly returned my hug, patting me on my back
a couple of times and asking me what I've been doing. We talked after the
event was over for a good ten minutes before his son, the skinny man whom
escorted him to the center of the room, told him "Dad, we've got to go." We
embraced again before we both departed our separate ways.
That's what I needed. Instantly, any fears or doubts about whether or not I
was going to endure this new phase in my life quickly went away. No matter
what happens next, or where I go next, or what nasty or deranged comments
come from others next...I know that as long as I'm around Scouters...former,
present, future Scouters...I'm home.
I'm in Kentucky. I'm back at that school Brenda Kay "tricked me" into going
to. And I'm around Scouters again, real Scouters.
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (settummanque, the blackeagle)
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