Kirby: Abuse allegations overshadow Boy Scout leaders' positive role
When I was a kid, I saw my Scoutmaster physically abuse a guy. It never got reported but it's an account that needs settling. I'm prepared to do that now.
Recent allegations in the news that the Boy Scouts of America covered up abuse by Scout leaders in the past make this a timely column. People should get what they got coming to them. So here's what happened.
On a quiet summer evening in 1966, my Scoutmaster punched a guy unconscious at a gas station in Beaver.
There were plenty of witnesses. Harold, Mikey, Leon, Duncan, Buddy, the Leavitt twins and I all saw it happen. Calvin didn't because he was still in the rest room.
We stopped in Beaver because it was 200 miles from home to Puffer Lake. After three hours padlocked in Ray's camper, eight boys desperately needed a bathroom.
We were climbing back into the camper when a pickup pulled in behind us. A woman jumped out crying. A cursing guy followed her out and grabbed her arm.
Things probably would have been OK except the man hit the gal. Ray yelled at him but the guy drew back his fist again.
There was a loud crack and the guy went down like every fuse in his head had been tripped. He didn't even twitch.
Ray suggested the woman call the cops. Instead she mumbled her thanks, got back in the pickup and left. So did we.
Ray went into the bathroom and came out lugging Calvin. He threw him into the camper with the rest of us, locked the door, and we were on the highway again.
Calvin: "What'd I miss?"
Harold: "Ray killed somebody."
Sitting around a campfire later that evening, a chagrinned Ray tried explaining the concept of chivalry to a collection of grubby trolls.
Ray: "You guys understand what I'm saying?"
Duncan: "Yeah. If we're mean to girls, you'll kill us, too."
Ray committed other abuses during his reign as our Scoutmaster. He once hiked us three miles without Kool-Aid to a ranger station to apologize after we chopped a tree down across a highway.
And he was into bondage. At various times Ray chained one or more of us to a fence, the bumper of his truck, a tree stump, picnic table and a Forest Service sign. I don't know about other fathers, but mine told him he could.
There was a certain amount of hypocrisy in Ray's abusive behavior.
For example, he sometimes cussed. But he also burned our girlie magazines, fireworks, cigarettes and a patrol flag we made out of an enormous brassiere we stole from another camp.
Oh, and he was maliciously hygienic. If he caught us peeing anywhere other than a latrine, he would summarily sling us into the lake or a creek.
Finally, there was real physical abuse, known among us as "Ray-Aid." Fishhooks, animal bites, food poisoning, sprains, cuts there wasn't any injury so severe that Ray couldn't fix with a long finger, a bottle of Bactine and a pair of pliers.
I can't vouch for what went on in other BSA troops. I only know that the treatment we received had a lasting effect on us.
Two cops, bank vice president, general contractor, lawyer, musician, college professor hell, who knows what we could have become if we hadn't suffered this abuse at the hands of a Boy Scout leader?
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.
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