In 1972, Jeff, Rob, Larry, and I were Cub Scouts of Pack 3 in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Once a week, we’d gather at Rob’s house for a meeting with his mother, our den leader. She always greeted us warmly and started the meeting with some treats, like cookies and milk. She’d say, “you can’t be your best on an empty stomach.” After we recited the Pledge Allegiance and the Scout’s Oath, we would start the Lesson of the Day from the Cub Scout Handbook. These lessons focused on learning new skills and character development. As kids, we just thought that we got to try new and fun stuff both indoors and outdoors depending on the weather.
Most of our activities were outdoors. We would go biking, hiking, and swimming, or just fool around. We were fortunate to have a lot of woods to play in and Chezies Pond to play around. While at the pond, we would catch frogs, skim rocks, and fish. We couldn’t swim there because the bottom was too mucky and there were snapping turtles lurking about.
We would stay indoors if it was super rainy or too cold. One of our indoor projects was generating the photograph you see above. For this project we took each other’s picture and then develop them in Rob’s dad’s dark room. I was so intrigued by the red light hanging over three trays of liquid that magically transformed white paper into the image we saw in the view finder. (I asked my former den mates to share their photos but sadly, the one you see is the only photo that survived.)
What also survived are my friendships with Jeff, Rob, and Larry. And although we live in different towns and have quite different lives, we still get together once a year on the first weekend in October at what we call “the Man-away.” We pack up the cars and head to Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire for two nights and three days of car camping, biking, hiking, swimming, and just fooling around. We have known each other for so long that we’ve shared, weddings, divorces, births, and deaths. Every year we recount our childhood memories and forge new ones. Even though we have replaced the cookies and milk for whiskey and beer, we still remember Rob’s mother’s soothing words, “you can’t be your best on an empty stomach.”
Remaining in all of us after five decades is trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, kindness, cheerfulness, thriftiness, and bravery.
These are the characteristics that I most admire in my friends, that I seek in others and do my best to live by. These may seem like old fashion traits given the Cub Scout Handbook was first written in 1910, but I still find them meaningful and valuable.