A Boy Scout Selling Popcorn, A Commander Selling Humble Pie

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SOMEBODY thumped the portal the other evening, so I unbolted, lit the light, and called, ``Enter and be received in due form!'' A Boy Scout came in. I wasn't ready for him. Somehow, in the distribution of all knowledge, I had not been told that we have Boy Scouts in this precinct. I know what they are, well enough, and in my innocent youth I participated briefly. Well, in our town Scouting started disadvantaged. All of us boys took an interest and we went to the meeting and signed up. But before our uniforms were delivered we met with several disappointments.

The first had to do with tying knots. The man came and he would tell us about a knot and then tie it and tack it to a board. As the newest generation in a seafaring town, we already knew our knots (and our bends and hitches), and we also knew what each knot was for. This man didn't; he just tied knots and didn't use them. And when he did a reef knot and said it was a square knot, we looked at each other. So our interest dwindled, and it came apart when we had our first fire test.

We boys had been using Putney's Beach for our outings, and after a clam bake by the tide we'd go up in the pasture and play scrub until everybody had been to bat, and then we'd go back to the beach and have our steaks. We bought top of the round then for 18 cents a pound, and we brought our own potatoes from home. There was a smile about a scoutmaster teaching us boys how to make a fire.

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Anyway, I haven't dealt with the Scout movement since, and when this youngster walked in I had to fumble to come up with the salute. I suppose the salute unhinged him. He had a package under each arm and he shuffled so he got them both under one, and then it was the wrong arm. Things were awkward.

``Sorry about that,'' I said, and I asked if I might be of service. He started all right, and then he forgot his lines. As he flustered and mumbled, trying to remember how his speech went, I had a flashback to Lt. Comdr. Malcolm W. Kelley of the United States Navy, and how he did the same thing back in World War II. I hadn't been ready for Lt. Comdr. Malcolm W. Kelley, either.

A few days before his visit, a snub-winged Corsair had passed between our house and barn, missing each by 3/16th of an inch. This had caused the hens to cease and the cow to fall off, had sent the cat up the tall clock and ruined the dog's appetite, and my wife and I went into a decline.

The Corsair was a battle plane being used at our local naval air base to train English fly-boys, and we were surrounded by limeys, who seemingly had immunity from American supervision. Corsairs were going under bridges and skimming canoeists and curdling milk on doorsteps. After this one buzzed our abode, the shingles twittered for a week. My letter to the CO was pleasant,but it conveyed my displeasure.

In response the CO sent Lt. Comdr. Malcolm W. Kelley, who was a public relations specialist, but that was not his real name. He arrived at our place fully adorned for meeting his public. When he came, he entered our home when bade to do so, removed his cap, and launched into his prepared speech, which was meant to calm civilians bothered by the realities of war, and he got to the second sentence when my wife eyed the spinach up and down his bow and said, ``Gracious! Isn't he pretty!''

This threw him. He forgot his lines. He was holding his cap at the approved angle, and his authority was in a posture of earnest entreaty. All was well except that he was speechless.

He turned out better than this sounds. I guessed at what he was trying to say, and knew well enough why he was with us, so I assured him we were not mad at the English and that we still held the good old USA in high esteem. I said we merely felt that with much of the atmosphere lying idle, we'd just as soon have the Corsairs less handy by. He then recovered himself and began his speech again. I suggested he waive things and sit for a rawzbree shrub and cookie, and this threw him again. At this I suggested he forgo his purpose and return another time to socialize without any official duty. He never did come back. I said to give our finest kind to the CO, and he promised to do so. After that no Corsair came within a mile of us.

The Boy Scout was selling popcorn, and after his first misflourish he made his speech and I bought some. He had two kinds - one was for microwave ovens and the other wasn't. I took the kind that wasn't, although we do have a microwave oven. I took it because it was cheaper by a dollar.

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