A Scout geek

Terror and excitement swept through the camp.

In the predawn dark of northern Maine two dozen Boy Scouts lay wide-eyed and shivering in their snow-caked pup tents.

No one dared answer the call of nature.

There it was again. A low rumbling. And a rustling. A hungry bear was rummaging through our camp.

This was the annual Troop 119 Polar Bear hike, a sort of subzero survival test, and one of the few things I admitted to enjoying as a scout. My step-dad was gung-ho on scouting. I was lukewarm. Scouting was a refuge for dorks.

I quit in seventh grade, persuading my parents that it was interfering with my true love, baseball. It hurt my step-dad. But even today, youth organizations find it hard to draw kids to a group with an "un-phat" reputation.

Yet, by 10th grade I was back. Like Hanna Thomas in this week's cover story, I found that scouting offered something I couldn't get elsewhere. (No, not the chance to wear a goofy necktie.)

Actually, it was outdoor adventures and a place to hone leadership skills.

I was still playing baseball. And I loathed the dweeb label. But at some point I realized that dorks and geeks were often just people with a passion for things other than sports. As adults, they often led more interesting and successful lives than the "cool" crowd.

The bear in our camp?

Someone finally got up the courage to have a look. They "tracked" it to my step-dad's tent and found Ursa stepdadicus in deep but sonorous hibernation.

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