Call me the skunk at the campout, but I believe the Boy Scouts of America should allow gays to join their ranks.
The sooner, the better. I fear that decades from now historians will brand Scouting as one of the last bastions of anti-gay sentiment if the organization doesnít change its policies.
Donít get me wrong. I owe a lot to my six years in Scouting, such as learning how to pop Jiffy-Pop over an open campfire without burning it to high heaven.
Ever smelled charred Jiffy Pop? Only thing itís good for is driving skunks out of an entire zip code where a Scout troop camped.
I wonder if Texas Gov. Rick Perry has ever had to deal with charred Jiffy Pop. Perry is an Eagle Scout and a staunch opponent of the BSA softening its stance on gays.
But a more important question for Perry: Does he snore loud?
If so, I wouldnít want him to be my Scoutmaster.
I still have nightmares about Scout leaders who snore. I remember a weeklong summer outing at Camp Flaming Arrow near Lake Wales. Iíd lie in my tent late at night wide-awake, trying to cope with the stifling heat. The fear that mosquitoes will find a way to break through the bug netting. No fans, no breeze. A fog of insect repellent.
Yards away, through a nearby tent, I see the shadow of a Scoutmaster dimming a lantern. Soon, the concert begins. Three adults snoring loudly, almost in unison, nonstop, blowing our tent flaps.
Only six more nights of this, I told myself, and Iíll be basking in the AC again. Iíll never complain about cutting grass again.
Thatís probably the only criticism Iíve had camping with a dozen or so Scout leaders who I knew during my youth.
Under their guidance, I learned to swim, put up a tent, build a campfire, tie knots, apply a tourniquet to a buddy and clean nasty skillets with steel wool pads.
Iíve said the Scout Oath several times, reciting the controversial words ďmorally straight.Ē
However, my troop didnít dwell a lot on being morally straight. As long as we didnít fight, curse and steal nor giggle louder than our troop leaders could snore, I guess they figured we were being morally straight.
There seems to be some controversy, too, about whether gays can obey the 12 points of the Scout Law, such as ďa Scout is reverent.Ē
Again, my Scout leaders by and large steered clear of whether we were reverent, leaving such matters to our parents.
Iím glad, too. Because I would much rather share a tent with a gay Scout who preferred to sleep at night than the self-righteous kid hell-bent on reading me scripture. I prayed to God heíd just shut up.
Iíd rather share the tent with a skunk, for that matter.
My most serious attempt of doing something reverent as a Scout Ė other than singing Kumbaya Ė was trying to learn the steps of a sacred Indian dance while I was a member of the Order of the Arrow, a Scouting honor society. Made a mess of it, though. My audience of younger Scouts snickered so much as I did an Indian dance during a camping trip in North Carolina I donít think I wore the leather string of bells around my feet ever again. Irreverent little twerps.
Nevertheless, I thank Scouting for instilling in me a great appreciation for nature. I earned the reptile study, bird study and conservation merit badges without having to buy a gun.
In my last year of Scouting, I caught a hog-nosed snake and my dad built a cage for it. Found a Nixon campaign bumper sticker and slapped it on the side of the cage. My snake and I were great pals.
Looking back, Iím proud of being a Boy Scout. However, I hope the organizationís directors will take a hard look at its policies targeting gays Ė people who bleed like everyone else, including soldiers who die for our freedom.
The ban troubles me, even more so than the fact that a political polecat signed my Eagle Scout certificate. None other than President Richard Nixon.