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A Poem: The Ballad of Reckless Youth


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I've done a lot of research on my Houston, TX scout troop.  In the 1910s and 1920s, troop meetings included 10-ft wall scaling, boxing and wrestling.  On the trip across the Atlantic for the 1929 World Jamboree, "... in boxing matches with the New Orleans scouts, (the Houston troop) won all honors."  Walt Hearn was a 1930s scout in my troop.  At our 70th Reunion, Walt read this poem that he wrote about his favorite game at troop meetings:  Roughneck.  Along with other super fun activities like wall scaling, boxing, wrestling and pool noodle fights, today's Scouts BSA would not allow Roughneck.   So here is Walt's poem, which is pretty good.

THE BALLAD OF RECKLESS YOUTH,  by Walt Hearn

Now that I’m grown,
And have kids of my own,
I seldom think of the days,
When I was a kid
Or the things that I did,
In my adolescent phase.

But two weeks ago,
I was watching a show,
On TV with my son who was five.
When something occurred
That memory stirred,
And those scenes all began to revive.

For a young astronaut,
With his features drawn taut,
Was forcefully pointing this out,
“For today’s space science,
You need self-reliance,
And you get it by being a scout.”

Now this fella John Glenn,
Is the noblest of men,
Looked up to by millions of youth
I haven’t orbited the earth
But whatever its worth,
I’ll clue you — he’s telling the truth.

Old veterans like me,
Would surely agree,
On the benefits, many and diverse
That our scouting provided
Though you might be misguided,
Since we represent the survivors.

Yes, I’m rather afraid,
That not all made the grade.
Back in nineteen, let’s see, thirty-seven.
Cause we played sort of rough
And you either got tough
Or you dropped out of scout Troop 11.

Roughneck was the name
Of our favorite game,
Which we played before the regular meetings.
We all had to play
Or else stay away,
So the smaller guys sure took some beatings.

We fought for that ball,
In that echoing hall,
Like a pack of ferocious young fools,
In a piling-on game
That was somewhat the same,
As wrestling without any rules.

We managed to repulse,
Interfering adults,
By posting a guard at the door.
Since after each scrap
There was usually one chap,
Who couldn’t get up off the floor.

And we thought it was wise
To shield from the eyes
Of our leaders, the damage we’d done,
So after we played
We’d render first aid,
Before fighting to settle who’d won.

The ball couldn’t be passed,
So us little guys who were fast,
Would grab it and race for our side.
We wished we’d been slower
When we hit that hard floor,
Though hardly a one of us cried.

Even under the pile,
Getting kicked all the while.
We figured we’d live through the slaughter.
But out by the dam
At the place where we swam,
We played the same game — underwater!

Part of the joy,
Of being a boy,
Is risking adventurous death,
No kind of disaster
Can fill that need faster
Than struggling and gasping for breath.

When you’re fighting for air,
You don’t really care
About things that might otherwise hurt you.
And you haven’t the time
To plot juvenile crime,
Which could be considered a virtue.

With an achievement or two,
Our self-confidence grew,
Climbing up from the tenderfoot rungs.
But a cowardly scout
Was soon weeded out,
And the ones with inadequate lungs.

So the system we had,
Wasn’t really half bad
And I hope for my own growing son,
That several years hence
He won’t have the good sense
To pass up such clean, wholesome fun.

Well, like the man said,
Our country’s ahead.
With our youth self-reliant and tough.
But it does make me think
With the world on the brink,
Is that kind of training enough?

So when you hear the scouts coming,
With fifing and drumming,
And not enough sense to be scared,
With scout banners unfurled
In this battered old world,
They’d sure better — Be Prepared!

====================================

Attached MP3 file is audio of Walt Hearn reading his poem at the 70th Reunion (9 minutes cause he tells a few stories, too.)

524360141_WaltHearnTroop1170thReunion.mp3

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Did you hear this as a scout? I told some scouts what we used to do and they get all wide eyed. Nothing like this story but the response is part jealous and part you're out of your mind.

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Yep National would throw a coniption fit if some of the things Scouts used to do back in the day were done today. One of the SM's told me about his Sea Scout days where his ship spent a month, month and a half travelling from Little Creek VA to Maine and back to pick up their new vessel: a decommissioned WWII PT boat.  They traveled by train to Maine, repaired the PT boat to make pass USCG inspection, then steamed her down the east coast with stops along the way. And they spent the 4-6 weeks and time on the ocean without any adults.

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22 minutes ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

Yep National would throw a coniption fit if some of the things Scouts used to do back in the day were done today. One of the SM's told me about his Sea Scout days where his ship spent a month, month and a half travelling from Little Creek VA to Maine and back to pick up their new vessel: a decommissioned WWII PT boat.  They traveled by train to Maine, repaired the PT boat to make pass USCG inspection, then steamed her down the east coast with stops along the way. And they spent the 4-6 weeks and time on the ocean without any adults.

Even I have to admit that practicing their marksmanship skills with live torpedoes might have been slightly over-the-top.  

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27 minutes ago, David CO said:

Even I have to admit that practicing their marksmanship skills with live torpedoes might have been slightly over-the-top.  

Alas, the bulk of WWII torpedoes had issues, and either could not hit the target, or if they hit, not detonate. The US had to reverse engineer captured IJN torpedoes to fix the problem.

As to the torpedo tubes, I bet the Navy fixed it so they were inoperable. However, a good Chief Gunner's Mate could probably make them operable again, kinda like the 5" guns on the USS KIDD (DD 661). 😝

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On 3/23/2021 at 2:44 PM, Eagle94-A1 said:

They traveled by train to Maine, repaired the PT boat to make pass USCG inspection, then steamed her down the east coast with stops along the way. And they spent the 4-6 weeks and time on the ocean without any adults.

Does the name NYGARD (as in Henry)  mean anything to you, perchance?

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11 minutes ago, SSScout said:

Does the name NYGARD (as in Henry)  mean anything to you, perchance?

No. Does the name Norton? That was the Quartermaster's last name who served as SM when I was an ASM.

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Well, shucks.  Henry Nygard was a good friend of my dad's. He founded SShip 759 in Ashton MD, led a bunch of SScout adventures and became the Council/Region Commodore .  It was before my time in Scouts but my more elder Scout friends took cruises around the Chesapeake on various boats, one of which I thought was an ex PT boat. Could be wrong. 

The local Regatta is named for him: https://seascout.org/stec_event/2019-henry-i-nygard-regatta/

 

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