[April 12, 2020] Three boys; all friends and inseparable. I thought I might present a short tale about these boys, one that became known as the story of the unknown boxes. At eleven years old, Randy, Wilson, and me (Doug) became eligible to join the Boy Scouts. What a great year it would be for us three as we finally began to enjoy the benefits of scouting with experienced adult leaders.
Each of the troop’s five adult leaders had vast practical knowledge in camping, fishing, hunting, and scouting crafts. They were outstanding men in our small town (there were no traffic lights). All were on the volunteer fire department, members in good standing in our only in-town church, and had jobs and families. What could better serve young boys and teach them the ways of adulthood and the improvement of one’s character?
What we did not know was that we were in for some humility training too. In the previous season, our team had won the regional baseball championship. We were cocky, but we made a good team. We had fun and practiced running, jumping, and trekking through the woods surrounding our town. Our grades were acceptable, and our parents were happy with our moral and intellectual progress. What the adult leaders wanted to do was some character building in these three “cocky little boys.”
The first evening at the home of the Scoutmaster, we were introduced to a new game. It was called “the saps keep running.” They had us running throughout the house with the question of why we were running. By the time I couldn’t run anymore and being the last of the three, I gave up and just asked what the point was. They answered that only saps keep running; saps being a slang word for dope.
After getting a little tired out running in the house, now it was time to go outside and hunt a rare bird that only came out at night. Snipe hunting apparently was an adult pastime that I’d never heard about before that evening. They told us that snipes were easy to catch. All one had to do was look under bushes carefully and grab one before the bird ran off. We all got a chance to hunt the elusive snipes, and none of us ever caught one.
We were also given a task for the next day (a Saturday morning). Each was to go to the only grocery store in town and pick up a cardboard box. That box was to be used to create a nature scene from what we could find in the woods. Easy, we all thought. The three displays would be given great community attention at the science fair the following week.
By Friday, we all had our nature displays ready for the fair. We stood next to our science projects. What could go wrong? We were well-versed in the ways of nature; each hunted birds, and could skin a squirrel. As our teacher and mothers walked by our displays, they started to laugh so hard; I thought maybe somebody had given them laughing gas.
Local young women (we were somehow attracted to them) would also smile knowingly at us. Somehow, we had not got the message. Something was wrong, and we were the joke. My display was exceptionally well-designed with a Blue Jay’s nest, fake bird eggs that I had painstakingly created, and a tree branch. What I didn’t know was that the boxes that we had been given were tampon cardboard boxes.
We all were red-faced. We’d been had again. It wasn’t that we were saps or bad at snipe hunting, but we’d been set up for the entire community to see that we didn’t know that much. Yes, we started the week before as cocky little boys. We ended the week with a bit of humility training.