tagNon-EroticMerit Badge

Merit Badge

byThe_Technician©

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This one is TOTALLY non-erotic.

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I was just supposed to be the assistant to the scout master, that's all. I was never a boy scout. My idea of roughing it on vacation is a three-star hotel without an indoor pool. But Tim said, "Dad, we have to have two adult leaders at all of our events. That's the national scout rules. All you have to do is tag along and stay out of Mr. Thompson's way."

It sounded so easy. And it was... until David Thompson got transferred to New York and I was suddenly in charge of seven young men who expected me to know how to do everything that was needed for them to earn the various merit badges required for their next level of scouting.

I spoke with the head scoutmaster, and he assured me that they would find someone else to lead the troop after the big fall dinner and awards ceremony in November. All I had to do was to hang in until the weekend before Thanksgiving and I would be OK.

No problem, except for the winter camp experience merit badge. I never quite understood what was required for what, but Dave had promised them that they would all meet the winter camp experience requirement this year. "After all," he had said at the meeting, "it isn't as if you have to camp out in a blizzard. The only requirement is that we camp overnight sometime between November 1 and February 28." Then he added, "Even up here in Minnesota, it isn't that bad at the beginning of November. We can do this."

Fine, except it was no longer we. It was me and seven scouts who expected me to know everything you needed to know about camping out in the woods. My wife had agreed to be present for the meetings and events to satisfy the scout rules until another leader could be found, but she was more of a tenderfoot than I was.

Dave had planned to take the troop all the way up to a camp near Duluth. He had connections with someone up there who ran a winter snowmobile camp. The idea was to camp on the first weekend of November and meet the requirement in time to give out the merit badges at the fall awards dinner.

I couldn't just cancel the camp out. The awards had already been ordered. If we went camping, all seven advanced to the next level. If we didn't they would fall behind the other troops. I was stuck with having to lead them into the woods myself.

I checked the requirements. We didn't have to do a full week. We didn't even have to do a full weekend. All that was required was one night in a "primitive camp area." I checked with one of the other scoutmasters to find out exactly what that meant, and he told me that it meant an open area with no electricity, no running water, and at most primitive latrine facilities. Then he added, "If you want to stay local, you could just camp in a pasture on someone's farm."

Maybe I could get through this after all. There was an old abandoned farmhouse at the edge of town that had a nice grassy area and some woods behind it. It was for sale, and my next-door neighbor was the realtor, so I could probably get permission to be out there for one night. There was even an old outhouse at the edge of the property so we wouldn't have to break out the latrine shovels. I could handle this. We would go out on Saturday morning and come back Sunday noon. Piece of cake.

I figured the earlier we did this, the better chance I had of not freezing to death overnight, so I figured we would stay with the first weekend of November. When I brought up my plans at the next scout meeting one of the boys said, "We could even go the weekend before that and still qualify because Sunday would be November 1st. Then we could be out there on Halloween and tell scary stories around the campfire and stuff like that." Everyone else yelled, "Yeah!" and the plans were set in motion.

So on Halloween day, seven boys, my wife and I drove in our minivan for the short trip to the edge of town and our designated campsite. My luck was still holding. It was supposed to be a clear night with temperatures staying above 40 degrees. We set up camp in the corner of the pasture near enough the outhouse to use it, but not so near we could smell it. Actually, "we" were not going to use it. They were. After checking out the site when we first started planning this, my wife insisted that we borrow a porta-potti that she could use. "I'm not sitting down in that old outhouse and having spiders and who knows what crawling across my butt," she told me very emphatically.

The evening went beautifully. Hot dogs cooked over the fire are wonderful and smores are the perfect desert. As it got later we heaped some more wood on the fire and then one of the boys said, "I've got the perfect Halloween ghost story."

Actually it was pretty lame, so was the next one and the next and the next. I was actually trying to keep from laughing at the boys attempts to scare each other when all of us were nearly scared out of our skins as a loud deep voice boomed out, "What are you doing on my land!"

I looked up and an old man in coveralls stood just within the glow of the campfire. I couldn't see him very clearly, but there was enough light to see the twelve gauge shotgun that he held pointed in my general direction. I tried to answer in a very calm voice, "The realtor, Mr Arnold, got the owner's permission for us to be here for the night."

"Well, your Mr. Arnold made a mistake, because I never gave anyone permission to be on my land! What are you doing here?"

"We are just camping overnight. I'm the scoutmaster and the boys need an overnight camp experience for a merit badge."

"Oh, Boy Scouts, eh. I guess that's OK." He opened his shotgun and showed the breech to the boys. "Wasn't loaded, but I always carry it when I talk to trespassers. Tends to get my point across."

He walked up next to the fire and warmed his hands. "Telling scary ghost stories on Halloween night are you boys? Mind if I join you? I've got a scary one for you."

He sat down on one of the logs we had pulled into a circle and began, "This here used to be Indian land a long time ago. They lived and roamed all over this area except for this exact spot where you are camped tonight. They never came here or walked across this land because this was sacred land. They believed an evil spirit lived here. It was a spirit so old that it saw the day when the great spirit gave the first corn to the people of the land. It was so old, that it watched the great spirit form the mountains. It was so old that it knew where time came from. And it was evil."

"What made it evil was that it was hungry. It wasn't hungry for grass or water. It wasn't hungry for the flesh or blood of the kill. It was hungry for life. It would sneak up on you while you slept, and suck all of the life out of you. And I don't mean just that it killed you! No, it was worse than that. It took your entire life. Once it bit into your life, it would drain all of your life out of this world - all the way back to the moment where you were born. It would be as if you had never existed at all."

"It didn't have to eat human life. While the grass was green, it could live off the life of the plants. The way that you could tell it was around was that bare patches of ground would suddenly show up here or there where living plants should have been. There should be corn or grass or whatever there, but their very existence had been consumed by the evil spirit. That is bad enough, but as everything died out in the fall, the evil spirit needed a big feed so it could last the winter. Along about this time of year, it needed human life. So it would come up out of the ground and take human form and roam this area looking for life upon which it could feed. It could even be roaming around tonight hoping to find someone to satisfy it's hunger."

His story obviously had an effect on the boys because they were all watching wide-eyed as stood up and again warmed his hands at the fire. He looked at their faces and laughed and then added, "But you boys have nothing to worry about. The spirit of this land can't feed on you. It can only feed something that can bear fruit or grain."

The boys looked confused and he added, "That would mean, in human terms, on women. So I guess you are safe tonight, unless one of you isn't really a BOY Scout."

He laughed again and continued laughing as he started walking off into the night. "You have a good night, but next time you get my permission to be here, not some realtor that don't know squat about this land."

Shortly after that the boys decided - with a little help from me - that it was time to go to sleep. I made sure the campfire was out and turned in myself. The next morning we made breakfast and cleaned up the campground and by noon the six boys and I were headed back into town.

Everything had worked just as I planned except that I got in trouble with the head scoutmaster for not taking another adult along with me. "You know the rules," he said, "there has to be two adults present. Especially since you aren't married and you don't have a child in the scouts, people could talk. I know Dave talked you into being his assistant and then left you in the lurch, but you still have to follow the rules. I'm going to let it go because a new scoutmaster and assistant are taking over after the awards banquet, but I'm going to have to write this up so I don't get in trouble with national."

My last official act was to hand out the merit badges at the awards dinner. One thing that I never did figure out though, was why Dave had ordered 8 badges. I knew there should have been one left over because his son had moved away, but who was the seventh badge supposed to be for?

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