This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Boy Scouts of America is still muddling the issue of whether to allow openly gay people to take part in the time honored activity of indoctrinating young boys in the woods.
Exactly when America will tire of debating this issue remains to be seen. Will there ever come a time when people shake their heads and say, "They used to argue over that #$%? Seriously?"
Hey, the idea that people once debated the merits of slavery seems idiotic to us today, but it was serious moral business to them. They fought a war over it and everything.
Having a recognizably gay scoutmaster would have been difficult when I was a kid. Being highly impressionable back then, I believed all of the idiot indoctrination about gay people that I got from straight people.
I probably wouldn't have been able to get past the commonly held belief that gay men simply weren't rugged enough to lead a bunch of demonic trolls into the wilderness and bring them back again.
I suppose my actual scoutmaster could have been a closeted gay. I doubt it. Ray was way too obviously heterosexual. If we were gone from civilization longer than 24 hours, he stared too longingly at female campers.
Besides, Ray did other stuff to us that BSA would have found objectionable. He sometimes whacked us around, tied us to stuff, cussed at the top of his lungs, and burned our private property/contraband.
A couple of times Ray even threatened to murder us, which anyone (except maybe the Jesus police) will tell you is way worse than being even partially gay.
Truthfully, Ray only ever threatened to kill me and the Leavitt twins. Both times he was provoked. Once by a fish grenade, and another time by the husband of an enormous woman whose underpants we borrowed with the idea of making a parachute for a squirrel.
WOODCRAFT NOTE: To the squirrel's considerable dismay, it didn't work.
In all other areas, Ray was supremely qualified to be our scoutmaster. Actually, there was only one qualification. We steadfastly required that our scoutmaster be interesting.
Ray could have been any of the other things considered horribly dangerous back then Communist, hippie, atheist, Jack Mormon and it wouldn't have mattered to us nearly as much as whether he was boring.
There is no social or religious crime more heinous to a young boy than being even slightly at loose ends. Hell, I'm betting that's why the Boy Scouts was invented.
YOUNG IMPRESSIONABLE BOY: "Could we please go torment a mountain lion?"
ROBERT BADEN-POWELL: "OK, but we have to wear these neckerchiefs."
Ray was never boring, certainly not if you had locked yourself in an outhouse because he was livid about a few measly trees being on fire. He could work himself into such a state of interesting that he chained the thing shut for a day.
My scouting days are long over. I can't remember anything about them that determined or even influenced my sexual orientation. I'm pretty sure that was figured out long before I went camping.
Looking back, I'd have to say that any of the bigoted and socially erroneous things I learned came from people who thought they had my best interests at heart about stuff that no longer matters, or at least shouldn't matter.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.