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Three score and ten or more

Monday, October 11, 2010

Second Verse. a Little Bit Worse

This is a lead in to something else, but: (another song or two.)

I came to a river and I couldn’t get across,

So I paid five dollars for an old blind hoss.

Oh he wouldn’t go ahead and he wouldn’t stand still,

So He went up and down like an old saw mill.

Turkey in the straw, Turkey in the hay,

Tune up the fiddles doodle ee  ay

With a hi tukka hay and a hi tukka haw,

Tune up the fiddles for the Turkey in the Straw.

Most everybody my age knew those lyrics and that tune.  and some of us knew other lyrics as well.  Any one who was a Cub Scout in that time knew

Do your ears hang low? Do they waggle to and fro

Can you tie ‘em in a knot? Can you tie ‘em in a bow?

Can you thow em oer your shoulder like a continental soldier?

Do your ears hang low?

I probably taught that song to three hundred boys over the years.  Being a cubmaster for cub-scouts was one of the most pleasant and rewarding experiences I ever had.

In Oneonta New York, for two years I was the cubmaster for a Cub Scout unit sponsored by a Methodist church but really it was a community Pack.  You have never seen more excitement and competition when you have a pretty eclectic group  set up for a Pine Wood Derby.  (To the uninitiated, a Pine Wood Derby is a race with home-made model cars down a slanted track set up under pretty stiff regulations.  Some of you may have seen the commercial currently on the air when this boy brings in a really rough looking little model and beats all the boys with their slick sophisticated cars built by their fathers.)

The boys get the materials, basically four wheels, two axles and a block of wood and they build their cars to a standard length ( I don’t remember the specs, but about ten inches long) and width and they race with time trials.  A whole lot of screaming and shouting and they love it.

When we moved to Georgia we fpumd a little farm house in Portal, GA. about fifteen miles from the college.  I became the Cubmaster for a Pack sponsored by the Baptist church, and Janet worked as a den mother.  As before, it was really fun, and we had five dens, with about five or six boys for each den.  It was spoiled when, in December, with our van literally stuffed with craft items that the boys had made for their parents Christmas we went to the meeting.  When we got to the room where we usually met, their was a youth choir practicing Christmas Carols.  I hunted down the Minister for youth and asked where the Cub meeting had been moved to.  He looked a little confused, then muttered, “Didn’t any one tell you?  We’ve cancelled Cub Scouts.”

I asked the reason, if something had happened in a meeting, or what was wrong, and he just clammed up and walked away.

We went on home, then spent the next two evenings driving around Portal and environs giving mothers the gifts their children had made.  I asked a couple of the mothers if they knew why the church had cancelled Cub Scouts, and most of them replied in some puzzlement that they were told that WE, (Janet and I) had suddenly quit and that Cub Scouts had been stopped until they could recruit a new Cub Master.  Finally, the last lady we talked to said that she had heard that Mr. Brown had told the Pastor that we were Communists.

For a moment, I was stunned, I had spent a lot of time and energy just a while ago campaigning for Barry Goldwater for President.  I just couldn’t understand until it hit me that we had just moved from New York to Georgia, I was getting quite a lot of newspaper space for the work I was doing in Theatre, and one of the newspaper articles had a blurb in it that we had recently spent a year in Finland where I was working at the National Theatre.  Finally, I had a beard and a 1970’s New York haircut.  I felt bad about it but had no idea who “Mr. Brown” was so I couldn’t make contact with him.  We determined just to let it be.

About a week later, Stuart, our second son, came home from school and asked “Daddy, are you a communist?”  My ears pricked up and I asked him what in the world would give him that idea?  “I heard Our Principal, Mr. Brown, tell my teacher that you are a communist.”

Now I knew who Mr. Brown was, and I blew a cork.  I was about to go to the school to confront the guy, when my wife suggested that I bring up our problem with some of the faculty (actually my boss) at the school.  I was advised to not make an issue because Jerry Brown, the principal had enough political influence that he could make our lives hell.

For the remainder of the year, our children had no friends at school, and they were miserable there, but we lived out in the country, had a wonderful bass pond on the property, and the kids had friends at church so we did pretty well.

Things came to a climax when as school got out, my two oldest boys, aged eight and ten decided to play little league baseball.  As the story goes (I was not present at the time) after they were picked for a team, one of the fathers in charge of the teams made an issue that they could not play.  The boys told me that their coach actually had a fist fight with the other guy to make him agree that they could play.

We immediately started looking for a new place to live, and soon we found a house to buy (very inexpensively) in the small town of Brooklet, about ten miles from the school in the opposite direction and our lives improved enormously.  It was a wonderful experience.  The town desperately needed a new Cub-master (their boys had not yet learned “Do your ears hang low”) our children were adopted informally into the Young Ambassadors and (I can’t remember what the girls organization was called) in the Baptist church across the street.  (We continued to attend our own church, but this was during the week.)  I have never had a more welcoming experience so we learned that not all of Georgia was like Portal.

Their boys learned “Do your ears hang low” (with actions) and a lot of other songs, and I still run across some of my cub scouts around town.  They all still greet me with pleasure.  We moved into Statesboro after about five years, because we got into the Carter years and gas became difficult to find and expensive (about fifty cents a gallon, I think) for the commute into school and a lot of the Statesboro Activities (Our kids all became competitive swimmers and the swim team practiced several times a week in Statesboro).  We still go back and periodically shop for a house there.  Who knows if there are still some boys who need to learn that their ears hang low?


At 7:03 PM, Blogger M. Rigmaiden said...

Thanks for sharing this Richard. I think I might sing this to my boy:)


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