Scouts taught more than survival skills

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

The folks who run the Boy Scouts of America in the Clovis area are having a recruiting drive. Just hearing about the Boy Scouts brought back all kinds of good memories.

I was in Troop 62 in a city back east. I don’t think it was a typical Boy Scout troop. Troop 62 was run by guys who wanted to get away from their wives for the weekend. After the boys were asleep in their tents, the scoutmasters would sit around the campfire indulging in copious amounts of their drink of choice, Canadian Club, talking about the “hot babes” at the local bowling alley.

When I first joined Troop 62 it was run “by the book” by Mr. Simpson and a guy named Sarge. If we did things wrong, Sarge yelled and called us lots of fun names. Guys who have played high school sports are familiar with the words Sarge used. I can’t print them here.

Mr. Simpson and Sarge were soon replaced by Levesque, the French-Canadian from Maine who was gruff and frequently cursed in French. His assistant was Scoutmaster Phil, the all-around bon vivant and rounder whom I came to admire. We were in the hands of renegade Boy Scout leaders. And we liked it.

In addition to learning my knots and camping skills, I learned how to drive a car with a manual transmission, how to ask a girl out on a date, an appreciation for good country music and a bunch of other stuff growing boys should know but won’t be found in “The Boy Scout Handbook.”

There was the time I discovered beer joints. One Saturday night while on a camp-out, me and Woody, another older scout, went on a “beer run” with Phil. Phil pulled up to a jumpin’ honky-tonk. Country girls with beehive hairdos were in the parking lot sitting on the hoods of “suped up” hot rods that would’ve left the Dukes of Hazzard’s “General Lee” in the dust.

Inside, angry-looking guys played serious pool, hard women sat at the bar nursing drinks and smoking. The bartender was 275 pounds of spring steel and rawhide with greased-back hair. Conway Twitty’s “Linda on My Mind” was playing from the jukebox.

I would never have gone into this place alone. Phil got his six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and headed back to the car.

“Where’s Woody?” Phil asked.

“He went over to talk to those girls.”

We turned to see Woody being confronted by three angry young men.
“Aw hell,” said Phil. He put his six pack on the back seat and went to go rescue Woody. I stayed by the car. I didn’t want my glasses to get broken.

I don’t know what Phil said to the locals, but they backed away. Phil seemed to have a way of working magic when it came to tough situations.

“What’d you say to ’em, Phil?” I asked when they got back.

“I just told ’em if they messed with Woody I’d have to kill ’em.”

“I coulda taken ’em, Phil.” Woody said as we drove away.

Phil had a good laugh.

The last time I saw Phil was in the late 1970s. He was off to Saudi Arabia to make a million dollars in the oil fields.

Renegade Boy Scout troop or not, I recommend scouting to every kid.
I’m glad I did it.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: