Friday, February 19, 2010

Bologna and Mustard: Johnson City 1969

I joined the Boy Scouts once. Back in vancouver, WA I had been a Cub Scout for a few months (maybe only weeks) and enjoyed it, until the den mother down the street quit or they moved away and then it all fell apart. But this was in Tennessee and my friend from our neighborhood, Kent, was a Boy Scout and he told me that his troop was going to a weekend jamboree. he asked if I wanted to join up and come along. For some reason, I said: "Yes."
So, one way or another, I quickly joined, must have paid some kind of dues, and then Kent and I were off to some park somewhere in Tennessee for the jamboree! Ha! I knew no one else in this troop--no one else in all of Boy Scoutdom--but here I was staying in a big tent with a bunch of other boys. But let me back up a bit . . . Before going, I had gone grocery shopping with Mother because we had to bring our own food supplies--so I got drinks and chips and what not and I saw this pack of link sausages and said I wanted those. "Are you sure?" "Yes," I said. "You'll have to make sure to cook them all the way through," Mother told me. "Okay," I said . . . So, back to the jamboree: It was a pretty big gathering. There were lots and lots of scouts, lots and lots of troops, there was a gazebo where people sand and played guitar (I had never really seen this before and still remember this one older scout who played guitar and sang--actually sang!--into a microphone and he sounded good), there were games and food and such; I don't remember it all.
I do recall finding it strange to camp like that, in an open park with all those other people. I was no stranger to camping, but this was likely the first time I'd camped without my parents and in a non-forest/National Park/State Park type setting. I was a bit wary of it all but also excited. I remember our Scout Master was an older guy with a very bald head and he'd wipe his whole head down with a bandana, swiping great waves of sweat from himself, I recall there was a boy named Carroll in our troop--never heard of a boy named Carroll before--and he was very concerned with his bodily movements, worrying about taking a dump and then telling us about it and finally coming to the happy conclusion that all he had were "Wet farts". It was Carroll who I ended up trading food with.
You see, by the next morning, I was starving. All I had left to eat were those uncooked sausages. And, I did not want to cook them. I was a kid, still shy, didn't know anyone besides Kent and for whatever reason, I didn't want to ask the troop leader to help me cook my sausages. I felt stupid for having bought and brought them. But! Carroll, of funny name and wet farts, he wanted them. The only thing he had to trade me was a single bologna and mustard sandwich. . . I had never had a bologna and mustard sandwich. It did not sound good to me--too simple, too salty--but I was hungry and was not, NOT, going to cook those sausages. So, I made the trade.
You know what?
Bologna and mustard sandwiches are good.
That sandwich tasted divine. It was one slice of bad bologna with lots of yellow French's mustard and white bread. Yum. And from that day, I ate those sandwiches. I still eat them (now and then). Second Daughter eats them (now and then). Try one. They're good.
After the jamboree (I remember now, it was over Memorial Day weekend and this was a big city park and there was a big cemetery and we scouts went out and placed flags on many of the graves--veterans' graves--little American flags on little sticks) so after when Kent and I got back to our neighborhood outside of Johnson City, I was done. I never went back for a single scout meeting or program or whathaveyou. But I was glad I went, because I still remember those things, it took me out of my usual world, as a kid, and introduced me to things that were foreign to me at the time.
And--of course--I got to eat a bologna and mustard sandwich.

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