Boy Scouts gave Mike Brown a life long appreciation of boobs and Hooters. Illustration: Phil Cannon
Amidst my teenage rebellion years and before my parents put me in drug rehab, I was a member of the classic American institution of the Boy Scouts of America. Although I never achieved the prestigious award of Eagle Scout, I conquered many merit badges and learned how to pitch a tent, both in my scout shorts and in the woods.
My journey started as a Cub Scout. No real fond memories stand out for me as a young cub, other than the time we were riding with our den mother, Mrs. Pope, in her minivan and I told everyone that I needed to ride in the front seat or I was going to barf. None of the other cubs believed me and I proceeded to fill the van up with an ocean of vomit that I am still proud of today. From that point on, I always got the front seat. That was the first of many epic pukes I’ve had in my life—but this story isn’t about puke.
When I was finally old enough to become a boy scout, I was twelve: young, awkward and proud. At first I took that shit seriously. I camped once a month for the next two years, learned how to make a proper tinfoil dinner, and other skills that carry on with me to this day. Knot tying has come in handy for more than one relationship I’ve been in over the years.
I know that it is important for teenage boys to have strong male role models in their lives, but I would never volunteer for that scoutmaster bullshit. Teenage boys are total assholes. The great Jerry James was my head scoutmaster. To this day, I don’t know how he survived our constant teasing and ridicule.
Jerry would lead us on insane camping, canoeing and backpacking trips in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere. Every time I read a story of a boy scout dying on a camping trip it makes me sad for a minute and then I think, “How the fuck did no one in troop 750 ever die?” It has led me to believe that Jerry was secretly fighting back against our constant ridicule by taking us camping in places where nature could inadvertently kill us and he would have a perfect alibi—God’s will.
During my time in boy scouts, I met a little asshole who would eventually become one of my best adolescent friends, Cody Olsen. Cody was short and not a very good boy scout, but was a catalyst for much of my teenage rebellion. He showed me how to smoke cigarettes, how to make a bong out of a 2-liter bottle and got me into skateboarding. I guess I owe him a lot.
The summer when I was 14, I talked my mom into sending me to the National Scout Jamboree that happens every four years in Virginia. The trip was with another troop with different scout leaders. Lucky for us the scoutmasters were Catholic and not Mormon. Catholics are slightly more liberal.
The trip started with us flying into New York and taking a tour bus over the course of a week to Washington, DC. We stopped in Baltimore and Philadelphia and saw all the famous shit you learn about in your eighth grade American history class. When you are a teenage boy and all you want to do is masturbate, a trip like this is kind of lame.
The highlights for me included buying a butterfly knife in Chinatown and sneaking it on the plane ride home. Eating at Hooters was also pretty good. On the bus ride down to DC, every time we passed a Hooters, we would all erupt, begging our scoutmasters to take us there. On the second to last day of the trip our scoutmaster finally said, “Bus driver—pull over, we’re eating at Hooters tonight.”
When I was a teenager, I could stare at a chair that a girl had sat in and it would give me a boner, so this was pretty awesome—except for the fact that the kid I was forced to share a tent with got his picture taken with all the waitresses and could not hide his erection. We all called him “Woody” for the rest of the trip.
When we arrived home in SLC, all of our parents were at the airport to ask how the trip went. They had paid a lot of money for us to see the Statue of Liberty, the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell, the Twin Towers and the Washington Monument, but all any of the scouts could talk about was how awesome Hooters was. I remember several Mormon mothers staring down those Catholic scoutmasters with a look of celestial death.
When I think back now, I regret coming so close to getting my Eagle Scout but opting for weed and skateboarding instead. Boy Scouts gave me Hooters and a life long appreciation of boobs, but perhaps my biggest accomplishment was making it through the program without getting molested.