Scout’s Dishonor

An Eagle Scout wrestles with what’s happened to the organization he loved.
Illustration by Thomas Fuchs

More than anything, I remember the tarantulas. As the older boys of Troop 291 poured out of our Suburban to claim the best spots for their tents, I lingered behind with my two best friends, Jeff and Sean. We were in the sixth grade, and it was our first overnight camping trip as Scouts. Hours earlier, as our caravan had pulled out of the parking lot of the First United Methodist Church in Plano, I had been talking as if I were the reincarnation of Grizzly Adams. But as I surveyed the campsite in southern Oklahoma that I would call home for the next two nights, I began to worry that children sleeping in tents would be eaten by bears or carried off by homicidal maniacs with hooks for hands. That’s when the cry rang out: “Tarantulas!” I assumed it was an expression of terror, but in fact the older boys were overjoyed as they quickly captured their prey in glass jars and began discussing whether to keep them as pets or sell them when we got back home. On my honor, I didn’t sleep at all that night.

Thus began my six-year adventure in Troop 291, which would culminate in my attaining the rank of Eagle, in 1989, an honor I

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