The Real Reason We’ll Never have a Co-ed Army.

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Jambo Journal – Day #4, Wednesday, July 28, 2010 Opening Ceremony.

Yesterday’s entry: When Hot Gets Cold and Cool Gets Hot.

Today is Opening Ceremony. 1214648_gift_box_stock_xchng_royalty_freeThe troop has to leave subcamp two hours before the show. The weather’s fine as they leave but I fear it’ll be in the Black Zone when they return. I’m staying at camp. I volunteered to stay, since a Scoutmaster is required to be in camp at all times. I really want to see Saturday’s evening celebration which includes the biggest Boy Scout fireworks show ever.

The entire camp is empty as the troops parade one-by-one to the Arena. I look around and see some camps have no Scoutmasters, but I don’t mind sitting back and enjoying the soon-to-be hot summer day. I relax. I eye the now empty adult showers, but it defeats the purpose for me to leave camp to take a shower. I decide to wait until the troop leaders return.

In the meantime, I can hear the ceremony – unless a plane flies over – as well as see the three air force jets fly-by and the paratroopers sail down (which is why there are so many planes flying over). The emcee sounds like a real professional. It turns out he’s an Eagle Scout. I can recognize the introduction to only two other speakers – former pro-wrestler Sergeant Slaughter and the current Miss America (whose name I can’t remember).

The Sergeant comes in loud and clear, as one might expect from a drill sergeant. I can hear the boys cheering loudly for him (at least until a plane flies over). When the emcee introduces Miss America, I can distinctly hear her opening sentence (“It’s an honor to be here with” [plane flies over]). Then it sounds like a large roar of cheers. What did she say? I wonder to myself.

The leaders return alone around 1am as the boys head directly off to Compass Mysterium, a boys-only activity sponsored by the Order of the Arrow. I take this opportunity to head to the showers.

As I enter the showers, I’m reminded of something I saw walking back from HTN yesterday afternoon. One of the military style staff tents was labeled “The Swamp.” At the time, my mind reeled back to the movie M*A*S*H (much better than the TV series). Walking by the tent, I was reminded of Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould comfortably reclining while dispensing a certain clear liquid from their homemade still.

These military showers remind me of another scene – one that I’m sure Sally Kellerman might best be remembered for. (Incidentally, although M*A*S*H predates my college years, we found the intellectual pranksterism of Hawkeye and Trapper John as a more attractive role model than anything from the more contemporary Animal House.) The showers require users to pull on a string to release the water. That’s no big deal. The bigger deal is the fact the showers, while still stalls, have no roof.

The lack of roof poses a problem for a potentially co-ed army that features the incessant use of helicopters (although I’m sure the geeks running the spy satellites might find it a particularly attractive challenge).

The lack of roof also poses a “special” problem for those folliclely challenged folks like me. I wasn’t thinking (which is certainly not the first time that occurred nor the last) and I took my hat off to shower. When I returned, people thought I had sun burn. The top of my head and my face shone a bright red. It doesn’t hurt. That’s just the way I tan. Which is why I usually don’t have a tan and prefer to remain in the shade at most times. It’s not easy being a bald man living in a world with an overhead sun (but it sure beats the alternative).

People begin flocking back close to dinner time. I eat with the Cactus patrol. The Cactus patrol contains all but one of the boys from my home troop. Their comments surprise me. First, they really enjoyed hearing Defense Secretary Robert Gates remarks. I did not expect this reaction. I thought this type of speaker might bore them. Sometimes I underestimate the maturity of these not-so-young men.

The next reaction, however, floors me. Two nights before, the Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders showed up at the subcamp (i.e., nearby and smaller) arena. I expected the boys to say, “Eeauu, who wants to see some stupid cheerleaders!” Their fathers should be proud to note they had the opposite reaction. In fact, I know for a fact at least one of our boys took a picture with his phone and texted another scout in his home troop who didn’t come to Jamboree. The receiving scout reportedly seemed very pleased at the honor.

It’s only natural, you see, that I’d expect a similar reaction to Miss America. Instead, she got a universal thumbs-down. It turns out, the part I couldn’t hear was critical. Instead of saying “It’s an honor to be here with all you boy scouts,” she really said, “It’s an honor to be here with all you young WOMEN.” The boys booed and hooted with extreme vigor. What I interpreted as cheers in reality represented something quite the opposite. “Her speech was boring and repetitive, but she could sing OK,” said one Cacti. “Yeah, she should have talked less and sung more,” echoed another.

After dinner, the boys take off for more patch trading. The scoutmasters express a concern this obsession might consume their Jamboree experience. We decide to hold back and monitor the situation.

Of course, in part fueling this decision lies the fact our Scoutmaster is the “Patch Guru.” He’s the contingency’s Quartermaster, meaning was responsible for ordering everything – including the patches. During our regular Jambo meetings (my job for that committee: publicity; hence, these blog posts), he was one of the few who (it turns out, thankfully) understood and fully appreciated the significance of our council’s jamboree patches.

It seems like he and his little subcommittee hit a home run with the “interlocking turtle” design. (The adult patch traders – the real serious ones – have ordained our scheme “the interlocking turtle.”) It has become quite valuable, generating a keen interest among both boy and adult patch traders. And our Scoutmaster happens to be the one who holds the key, as it’s his responsibility to maintain the inventory of all the extra patches. He purposely priced them at a discount for our boys to continue to trade them.

Hour after hour, adults from all over seek out our Scoutmaster in an attempt to obtain the elusive Interlocking Turtle. But he gives our local boys first dibs, and by the end of Day #4, he no longer has any complete sets. With all this patch activity occurring beneath the leader’s tent in our troop’s camp, I feel more than “special.” In fact, I tell our Scoutmaster he’s like the Don Corleone of Boy Scout Patches.

I guess I should add consiliere to my list of duties.

Stay Tuned for Tomorrow’s Exciting Journal Entry: Unexpected Adventures.

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