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June 18, 2012 by jooshanoosh
It’s summer, and if you are a young man between the ages of 12 and 16, you are probably getting pretty amped for Scout Camp! Also, if you are a young man between the ages 12 and 16, you are probably not reading this blog. Also, if you are a young man between the ages of 12 and16, there’s a pretty good chance you are not amped for Scout Camp. Let’s keep it real.
Like Chris, I regularly attended Scout Camp in my youth, and, as you might have guessed, there is an unending supply of stories I could share from those impressionable years. Like the time my friend Derek was inside a port-a-potty changing into his swimsuit and knocked his OP shorts – OP! – into the seemingly bottomless pit that was the toilet. Then, terrified of facing his mother without said OP shorts, Derek allowed our Scoutmaster to lower him in – head first, with his feet firmly held by Brother White – to retrieve his shorts. Brothers and sisters, there is nobody on this or any planet I trust enough to do such a thing. Nobody. Not my dad, not Thor, not Mitt Romney, not you. (No offense, everyone I know who thinks I should trust them to do this.)
But for today, kids, I want to talk about an incident when this guy with two thumbs (insert image of me doing the thing where I have my fists up in front of me, pointing my thumbs back at myself) consciously decided to notbe an example of the Scout Law. I was neither trustworthy nor loyal, nor courteous nor kind. (In my defense, I was at least brave and clean.)
It was 1987 and my standard camping companion, Steve, and I went to camp as kind of “Mentor Scouts” for the younger boys. We were 16 and not thrilled with going, but truthfully didn’t hate it either. Mostly we were excited about the candy we had purchased at Costco and how we were going to take advantage of the younger scouts by selling it to them at a significant price increase.
On Day 1 of camp our Scout leader came up to Steve and I and asked a favor. “You know I brought my 12-year old nephew, Brandon, with me to our Scout Camp because he missed his own camp earlier this summer,” he started.
“No, we didn’t know that,” we said, “because we are 16 and unless whatever you’re doing directly affects us, we really don’t notice it.” (That’s not what we said, but that’s what was always implied in my mind from around 1985 to 1988.)
“Well,” he started again, “he’s already feeling pretty homesick, and I think if two ‘older Scouts’ took him under their wings, he would really feel pretty cool and it would help take his mind off his family.”
“Sounds ok,” we responded. “Can we interest you in some overpriced Watermelon Blow-Pops?”
So, Brandon moved into our tent. And that was fine. For a while. He didn’t make a lot of noise, he fed himself, and we didn’t have to clean up after him. As far as homesick 12-year old Scouts went, he was fairly run of the mill.
Then on Thursday we caught wind that little Matthew, another 12-year old Scout, was struggling with a bout of homesickness. As I noted earlier, my radar would not normally have picked up on such a thing, except that Matthew had an older sister, Amy, who was…(hold on, let my get my Thesaurus out)… ‘smokin’ hot.’ I took a poll of everyone my age in my tent, and Steve and I both agreed that Amy was cuter than any sister Brandon could possibly have. It was time for a change. We approached our Scout Master.
“Thing is,” we began, “your nephew seems completely rehabilitated. I don’t think he’s homesick at all, and maybe he never was. So…it’s time for him to graduate from our tent, so we can make room for Matthew, who is truly suffering.”
Did I feel badly for giving the boot to Brandon so I could hopefully interrogate little Matthew to the point where he would tell me all the many detailed things his sister was looking for in a 16 year old “man”? I guess the answer would be, “Yes…but only after I realized that little Matthew knew shockingly very little about his sister.”
I actually did recognize that I was acting a bit selfishly, moving around 12-year old boys like chess pieces to benefit only myself. And I felt badly long enough to offer a free bag of M&Ms to Brandon, which for a 16-year old is the equivalent of “throwing money at a situation so it goes away;” technically not against the Scout Law. But what did Old Lady Karma think about this?
Fast forward to 2011. I was chatting on the phone with a friend of mine from my youth. I told her how I’d hunted down my old Scout Master and we’d emailed a few times. “He just finished writing a book!” I told her.
“Oh, yeah. That’s probably because he’s got connections. You know his nephew is Brandon Mull.”
“Brandon Mull? The author of the famous Fablehaven books? THAT’S Brother Davis’ nephew?”
“Nothing. Well. It’s just that I’ve always wanted to be a published author.”
“Well maybe you could talk to Brandon.”
“I doubt it. When he was 12, I threw him out of my tent at Scout Camp.”
Fast forward another couple of months, my friend DeNae was doing and interview on the Mormon Channel…with Lady Karma. No. With Brandon Mull! I told her my sad story, and she shared it with Brandon. Then she texted me a photo of them together, along with a note. “Ken, I forgive you. Brandon.”
Isn’t he nice? A gentleman and a published author. I think we all learned a very valuable lesson. It just makes your heart…wait…waaaait a second. I’m having a thought, here. What if that very night I kicked Brandon out of my tent, he consoled himself in his new sleeping quarters by beginning to write Fablehaven? Correct me if I’m wrong…but couldn’t I have some royalties coming to me? I mean, if his story has risen from the ashes of a fire that I started… shouldn’t I be seeing some of that cash? Could it be that Brandon Mull was holding out on me?
No. Instead, I get a second backhand from Karma. This time it came in the form of an email from my good friend, Eric D. Snider, who unbeknownst to me, is friends with Brandon Mull. Knowing that my son, Garren, is a Fablehaven fan, Eric surprised him with this photo for his birthday.
I hope that one day Brandon and I can be friends. Then maybe Karma will leave me alone.