When I was 12 years old (1959), I spent part of the summer at Camp Napowan — a great Boy Scout camp in Wild Rose, Wisconsin. One hot sunny afternoon, I was loping back to my campsite when I saw a fellow camper named “Wiley.” I looked at him and called him a “______.” It was a highly offensive and nasty slur. What prompted my outburst, I don’t recall but from the moment the words left my lips, things began moving verrrry quickly. And with great and lasting impression.
The Senior Patrol Leader, Bill B. – age 14, heard my comment and yelled an order to other Scouts. They grabbed me and dragged me shouting and struggling to the wash stand. Bill took a well-used cake of Lifebuoy’s finest and pushed it into my mouth. Then – with a word from Bill – I was released. I ran back to my tent on the verge of tears – spitting soap shards. When I emerged, the matter was forgotten.
But you know what? From that time on, I never used an epithet like that. I learned. Some might say “the hard way.” But I disagree. I wish other young people could learn like this — from their peers. I look at this lesson (and others I’ve had) as being key to my development (see posts of 8/16/11 and 11/23/11). I’m glad I learned.
Oh and Bill B.? He and I went on to become Eagle Scouts. We worked together on staff at Camp Napowan for the next 3 years. He became one of my two closest friends (along with my great pal Col. “Ox” – another Eagle Scout). Bill was best man at my wedding. And we talk frequently. Today, he’s the finest veterinarian in the State of Kentucky. And to this day, I’ve rarely heard Bill utter anything stronger than a (usually appropriate) “doggonit.”