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The Boy Scouts Continue To Devolve Into A Garden Club


There’s an art to the perfect water balloon. Too large, and it will explode before you can throw it. Too small, and it won’t explode at all. I was given a strong reminder of the latter back in the seventh grade when a friend and I were perhaps throwing water balloons at cars. This perhaps resulted in hearing the squeal of a car coming to a quick stop as we perhaps ran inside before a large man, who obviously spent a large amount of time at the gym, perhaps walked to my friend’s back door.

“You lose something?”

If only my Scout troop had covered the finer points of water-balloon strategy, perhaps we wouldn’t have faced that man and then lied through our teeth. Now, thanks to a rule change, no scouts will ever have the chance to learn the art of the water balloon. They will learn to fill them so small as to avoid being able to pop them, which undermines the whole endeavor and makes situations such as the one I might have experienced possible.

First, though, scouts would have to go renegade and throw a water balloon at a car. Another activity which isn’t just frowned upon, but outright banned, is using a Super Soaker on fellow scouts. You read that correctly. With these moves, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) haven’t technically banned fun, but they have placed it—and perhaps the entire organization—in hospice.

Killing Boy Scouts with Kindness

To be honest, the BSA hasn’t been doing well for a while. Membership has been steadily declining for decades, and recent decisions to go full Episcopalian—and you never go full Episcopalian—haven’t helped. But with this decision, and the resulting onslaught of righteous indignation, we see just how far a once-proud paramilitary organization has fallen.

Why the change? The cynic in me, the one who remembers how long it took to evacuate us when we were sleeping in the woods without shelter and the skies opened up in biblical fashion that one weekend, thinks the BSA is now run by a bunch of effete pantywaists. The optimist in me reads this sentence, which supposedly explains why water gun fights are wrong, then slaps the cynic for being too forgiving: “Why the rule? A Scouter once told me this explanation I liked quite a bit: ‘A Scout is kind. What part of pointing a firearm [simulated or otherwise] at someone is kind?’”

Billy the Kid Walked Into a Bank with a Super Soaker

Are you kidding me? Seriously? Yes, gun safety is extremely important. You should never point a firearm at something you don’t intend to shoot. You should also never point Super Soakers at people you don’t intend to shoot, because that’s the purpose of a water gun! To shoot people. They have no other purpose. You cannot feed your family with game brought down with a Super Soaker. You cannot defend yourself with a Super Soaker, unless it turns out vampires are real and you have some holy water. (I may need to check with Neil deGrasse Tyson on that.) You cannot rob a bank with a Super Soaker.

You may be curious as to why I mention robbery. It’s because brandishing a gun when robbing a bank conveys that one can do harm. Water guns are designed not to cause harm, unless you’re a witch or a vampire.

Now, a Word from the Lawyers

It’s not just Super Soakers and water balloons that could trigger young scouts and send them scurrying for their safe space. Wait, there’s more. The scouts’ “National Shooting Sports Manual” also mentions other unauthorized activities. The list includes but is not limited to:

  • Flintlock rifles and flintlock shotguns
  • Reloading ammunition and using reloaded ammunition
  • Crossbows
  • Bottle rockets
  • Exploding targets of any kind
  • Short-barreled rifles or short-barreled shotguns
  • Destructive devices or other regulated items such as grenades
  • Firearms included in the National Firearms Act
  • Cannons (Their use is limited to council camp ceremonies only and must follow the BSA’s guidelines for cannon use.)
  • Ballistas
  • Boomerangs
  • Blow guns
  • Anvil shooting
  • Ninja weapons such as stars, spikes, and torpedoes, and activities such as shovel throwing
  • Spears
  • Spear guns
  • Potato guns

Boomerangs? I can’t even begin to wrap my head around this.

To be fair, scouts aren’t restricted solely to arranging flowers and making friendship bracelets from locally-sourced organic thread. Here’s just a partial list of the “high-adrenaline activities a young man or young woman [ed. What?] enjoys in Scouting”: .22 rifles, dirt bikes, shotguns, mountain biking, slingshots, and motor boating. (The last one I listed does help explain why “young woman” was included.)

Be Prepared, Boy Scouts

This isn’t just an esoteric topic for me. I am an Eagle Scout and was a member of the Order of the Arrow. I achieved the rank of Eagle in the same troop, Troop 100, as my father did. My father is now the Scout Master for Troop 100, and rules like this are slowly ruining his ability to reach a new generation of young men. (And he lives in an area which desperately needs men such as himself who are willing to take time and spend money to provide a positive example and experiences for young men who often lack men in their lives who can or will do the same.)

There is nothing kind about watering down a venerable organization such that young men have no longer have any interest in joining.

I’m not sure destruction isn’t the point. BSA is an old organization with many rules and policies that are on the wrong side of history. Given decisions like these, it’s altogether possible that the effete pantywaists who run the BSA do want to see it destroyed and are tearing it down from the inside. Maybe that’s why my dad’s job is more about paperwork and CYA bovine excrement designed to placate the lawyers than helping young men. Because rules that forbid water gun fights and water balloons capable of actually exploding doesn’t convey, “This organization will help you grow into a man.”

That’s a shame. To be honest, I didn’t love my time as a scout. Even in the late ’80s, it was already more about process and procedure than shooting and canoeing. But we still got to tear some shit up, experience a little danger, and roughhouse, as young boys are wont to do. In the process, we learned skills we could carry with us for the rest of our lives.

For example, last December I was tying my ginormous “Christmas Vacation”-size tree to my car. The man who owned the tree lot observed my knot-tying and said, “You were a Boy Scout, weren’t you?”

It’s not just knots. I still know how to start a fire. I can pitch a tent. I can paddle a canoe. I can sharpen a knife and use it without cutting myself. I know how to rescue someone who’s drowning. I can cook over an open fire.

Yes, part of the Scout Law is to be kind. (So is being reverent, but you don’t hear much about that these days.) There is nothing kind about watering down a venerable organization such that young men have no longer have any interest in joining. There is nothing kind in denying the simple truth that boys will be boys. And if your goal in life is to make harmless if rambunctious fun an unsanctioned activity, then you best be prepared to be pilloried as the effete pantywaist that you are.