Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Merit badges of the Golden Age

I was never a Boy Scout.

For a few years, I was a Cub Scout. My parents were even Den Mother and Den Dad. But I quickly got tired of the charade — I wasn't a joiner, I hated camping, I despised having to accomplish meaningless tasks in order to advance in Scout rank, and I thought the uniforms were ridiculous. Plus, the Scoutmasters creeped me out — who are these guys whose whole agenda in life is hanging out in the woods with prepubescent boys?

So I bailed on the whole Scouting business a year or so before I was old enough to qualify for the Boy Scouts.

I was surfing the Web the other day when I stumbled upon a Wikipedia entry listing merit badges that have been discontinued by the Boy Scouts. For those of you not familiar with Scouting, merit badges are cloth patches Scouts earn by demonstrating proficiency in various areas of knowledge or activity. If you stockpile enough merit badges, you get promoted to a higher level of Scout. If you really get busy and amass practically every merit badge offered, you achieve the ultimate rank of Eagle Scout. Being an Eagle Scout puts you in the company of such outstanding Americans as serial killers John Edward Robinson and Arthur Gary Bishop, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Washington D.C.'s crackhead mayor Marion Barry, and John Tesh.

Imagine my surprise at discovering that the Boy Scouts once awarded merit badges in the following arts and sciences:
  • Blacksmithing. I presume that for this merit badge, you had to do a little more than merely stand beneath a spreading chestnut tree.

  • Small Grains and Cereal Foods. You ate a ton of Grape-Nuts and Cream of Wheat in pursuit of this coveted badge.

  • Seamanship. Think "In the Navy" by the Village People.

  • Cement Work. To earn this badge, you had to pour the Scoutmaster a new driveway.

  • Masonry. This involved building a brick garage at the end of the driveway you poured to earn the Cement Work badge.

  • Farm Arrangement. "Well, Buford, I think we oughta put the cows over yonder against that hillside, then maybe plant the cornfield next to 'em to kinda set 'em off."

  • Pathfinding. "Looks like trampled grass to me." "Found another one!"

  • Stalking. Replaced in 1952 by the Sexual Harassment badge.

  • Handicapped Awareness. "I never realized there were so many people in wheelchairs. I just wasn't aware, I guess."

  • Rabbit Raising. How difficult could this have been? Step One: Buy a male and a female rabbit. Step Two: Stand back.

  • Poultry Keeping. This was known in the Scouting trade as the Colonel Sanders badge.

  • Taxidermy. You earned this one automatically when you told the Scoutmaster to get stuffed.

  • Rock Lifting. Leave no stone unturned. There was persistent speculation for years as to whether God could create a rock so large that He could not earn this merit badge.

  • Signaling. Left arm straight out: Left turn. Left arm bent upward at elbow: Right turn. Left arm extended with fist clenched and middle finger upright: I believe you just crossed into my lane.

  • Fruit Culture and Nut Culture. Naaahhh, too easy.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous katya offered these pearls of wisdom...

I think that was your funniest post ever. I particularly liked farm arranging.

10:04 AM  

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