316

Chapter 02

Wednesday night at Summer Camp.

The new boys were out on their overnight camp so the troop was having a small campfire.  One of the boys asked Mr. Richards, "Ah, is Monty a... You know."

You could have heard a pin drop.  Mr. Alexander tensed up and before he exploded Mr. Tom Richards put a calming hand on his knee.  "I don't know.  He had a really bad thing happen to him.  When he was eight, he and his foster brother were messing around a little.  His foster father caught them."

There were moans all around the fire.  "Yeah, I know I would have been devastated if that happened to me.  Anyway, his foster father kicked him out even though it had been his own son's idea."

"Bummer," Earl, the kid who asked the original question, said.

"Oh, that would have been bad enough but the foster dad made a point of finding out where he had been placed and telling those parents that Monty was gay and would try to seduce their little boy or the father."

"That's sick!" another boy said.

"Well this happened repeatedly until Social Services brought him to me.  It was so bad by then, that Monty was contemplating suicide."

All the boys were wide eyed and several gasped.

 "I really knocked him for a loop when I wasn't upset at all by whether he was gay or not.  Besides, I'm not sure he really is anyway."

There was stunned silence.  Matt Little finally said, "Well, Tom, I like Monty a lot, and all the others, too."

There were murmurs of agreement.

Nick said, "He's one of us and nobody better say anything bad about him.  He needs a safe place and that movie we see every year talks about Scouting being a safe place."

"So what do we do if we hear someone make a comment like that?"

"Punch 'em in the nose!"  That got a laugh.

Nick quickly responded.  "No guys, no violence. Let's think about this.  You know, 'Run The Twelve.'  We can't lie, the Trustworthy thing.  We have to defend Monty, Loyal, Helpful.  No fights, Friendly.  No cussing or shouting, Courteous.  Be nice to Monty, Kind.  Follow through with what we decide, all of us, Obedient.  Include Monty in the fun stuff we do, Cheerful.  Don't waste a lot of energy making a big deal over this, Thrifty.  Stand up for what's right, Brave.  Don't let anyone drag him through the mud, Clean.  And we all need to pray about this too, Reverent."

Jeff said in a stage whisper, "Stretched a bit on a few of those."

"Cut me a break, Mr. A., that was off the cuff."

Preston stood up, "I've got it!  When some A... Ah... When somebody says something like that we laugh and say, 'well you don't know him do you?'."

"Hey that's kewl!  I bet it will work too!"

And so the tactic was decided.  After Taps, Tom and Jeff settled for their late night decaf.  Tom said, "That was absolutely amazing.  Those boys are smarter than I am.  I was ready to call my lawyer and sue somebody."

"I wanted to strangle Earl for that question."

"I'm glad he asked.  You can't deal with a problem if nobody will talk about it.  Poor Monty was afraid to come because he thought he would be rejected.  I think he will be very happy here with these guys.  I'm glad we came."

"What about that foster father?"

Tom blushed, "I can say for a fact, he is no longer a problem."

"What did you do? Shoot him?"

There was silence.

"Tom?  You shot him?  Dead?"

"I'm not proud of it, but he was shooting up my house and then he threatened Captain Henry, so I shot him.  He died instantly. It's a horrible feeling to take a life, but there is no way I was going to let him hurt my family and friends."

"Well, it sounds to me like you did the right thing."

"It was Todd's dad."

"Oh, shit."

The two men shared the silence, finally Jeff said, "God works in mysterious ways.  I'm really glad those boys have you now.  Something for you, the true translation of the commandment is 'Do not commit murder', King James missed it.  Good night, Tom."

Tom remained sitting, silently watching the coals slowly fade, then he finally put them out and went to bed.

The next morning the overnighters were waiting on the parade ground for the rest of the camp to arrive for breakfast.  Tom was relieved to see his boys.  Neal came up to him and gave him a big hug, "Hi Dad.  We had fun."

"I'm glad.  Did you sleep well?"

"Until a tree root grew under my sleeping bag."

"Well, you'll be back on the cot tonight."

"We got a bunch of requirements done.  I bet we'll be first Class by Christmas."

"Wow, took me two years."

"Jeez.  Slow poke."  Neal moved out of range quickly.

While waiting in line, Monty came back to Tom, "Dad?"

When Tom looked at him it was just like the first time he saw Monty.  Those eyes were so haunted.  "Come on over here and let's talk, son."

Tom and Monty walked out of earshot.  "Okay, Son, what happened?"

"I want to go home."

"Why?"

"He's here."

"Monty, please tell me so I can understand."

"In one of the other Patrols, there's a boy from one of the foster homes.  He's saying those things about me.  Neal wanted to sock him, but I stopped him."

"What troop is he in?"

"Over there," Monty pointed to the troop and Tom made note of the adults.  He realized that he would have to talk to them about this.

"Okay, let me try something.  What is the boy's name?"

"Billy Woodcock."

"Okay, Son, you go get back now and try to have a good morning.  We'll talk at lunch."

"Okay Dad, I'll try."

When Tom got back in line, he told Jeff the problem.

"That's Troop 582.  They are chartered to the Three Crosses Christian Church.  We have had some trouble with their leaders in the past.  They are a very hateful bunch and they will start misquoting the Bible at the drop of a hat.  Want me to go with you?"

"Well..."

"Tom, you are not a dad this week; you are a troop leader.  I know if I were you, I'd want to go punch someone in the nose."

Tom laughed; he had been thinking just that.  "That's right, the Troop policy on this issue, laugh in their face.  Come on; let's get this done before breakfast."

Tom and Jeff strolled over to where the other troop was waiting in their line.  Tom walked up to the man that seemed to be in charge.  Jeff stepped in front of him.  "Brother Michael, good to see you and you boys here this year."

The man looked almost like he smelled a fart.  "Alexander."

"One of your boys is trying to cause trouble for one of ours.  Could we have a chat with Billy Woodcock?"

"I don't think so.  What's he saying?"

"Possibly something hurtful and wrong."

"Not Billy.  He's a good boy."

Tom moved so he was facing the man.  "I'm sure he is and we would like to keep him from getting into trouble.  See, the kid he's picking on is being adopted by Tom Richards, the new owner of Haven Enterprises.  He isn't someone you want angry with you, believe me."

"So the old heathen is dead.  Well I say good riddance.  I'll tell Billy to dummy up.  No use pissing off a rich prick."

Jeff grabbed Tom's fist before he raised it.  He laughed and Tom followed suit.  "Thanks, we sure don't need that kind of trouble."

The man dismissed them and walked over to a boy who was most certainly Billy Woodcock.

The doors opened and the campers went into the Mess Hall to devour this morning's scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and jelly.  After eating, Tom motioned to Neal to come over to his table.  "Okay, Patrol Leader, one of your boys is being picked on.  The troop actually worked out a plan last night, and I want you to spread the word to the others."

"Jeez, Dad, who is being picked on?"

"Monty.  One of the boys in the Powell Program was in one of the foster homes Monty was in.  The Troop decided that anytime someone says something, you laugh and tell them that they sure don't know Monty.  No fights, verbal or physical.  Any Questions?"

"Got it, Dad... I mean Mr. Richards.  I keep forgetting to call you that.  Nick says we don't have dads on a camping trip, just adult leaders."

"Oh, that explains it then.  I wondered why you guys kept calling me Mr. Richards."

"Yup.  I'll go tell the guys the plan, the other new guys too?"

"Yes, Son, that would be great.  See you at lunch."  Neal went back to his table and soon Monty came over.  Tom noticed that as soon as Monty was out of hearing range, Neal started talking to the other boys at his table.

"You wanted to see me?"

"Yes, Mr. Alexander and I had a word with Billy's Scoutmaster and he was going to speak to Billy about keeping his mouth shut."

"Thanks Dad, Thanks Mr. Alexander.  Do you want me to quit?"

Jeff replied, "No, Monty.  I want you to stay and I think you will find that all the boys in this troop want you to stay.  I heard some of them talking last night about how much they liked all the new guys.  That included you."

"But, Sir, they don't know..."

Jeff smiled, "Monty, I honestly don't think it would make a bit of difference to them.  They are a lot like your dad.  It just isn't all that important.  I want to see an Eagle Badge on your pocket.  I think you could earn it if you wanted to."

Suddenly Monty beamed, "Thank you, Mr. Alexander!"

Monty returned to his table a happy boy.

The Merit badge classes were wrapping up and Jeff and Tom made the rounds checking on how well everyone was doing.  At lunch, Monty and Neal came up to the adults.  Neal was the spokesman, "Umm, I need to ask you a question and I think it is a bad thing, but..."

Tom crouched down to be on eye level with Neal, "Okay, I understand.  You don't know, but you don't want us to get mad at you for asking."

"Yeah.  Ah, well some of the kids are calling another one a 'dildo' and the little guy is pretty upset."

"You are absolutely right, that is not a nice thing to call someone."

Monty asked, "Dad, what is it?"

Jeff patted Tom on the shoulder and walked off.  He was almost to the Mess Hall door when he heard the two boys, "EEEEWWWWW!!!!"

At the table, Tom said to Jeff, "Well that went well.  I wonder what they will do now."

In Troop Baden Powell that afternoon, the boys were heading out for their five mile hike.  They hadn't gotten very far into the woods when Monty thought he saw somebody off the trail.  He told Neal and then he and Todd went to investigate.  Neal told their leader to hold up, they had a problem.

Monty and Todd went off the trail and heard the muffled sobs.  Monty thought he recognized the boy who was curled up in the fetal position.  It was Billy Woodcock.  Billy had been his foster brother for three months about three years ago.  It had been a good three months until that day at church when Todd's father had recognized him.  Billy looked up when he heard someone approaching, seeing Monty he broke down all over again.  Monty told Todd to stay there and then he went to Billy.

"Hey, Little Bro, what's wrong?"

Billy just sobbed and shook his head. 

Monty sat down and pulled the younger boy into a hug.  "It's okay now.  Can you tell me?"

"It wasn't me, honest."

"Wasn't you?"

"I didn't tell anybody about you.  I really liked you and was, was, real sad when Daddy made you leave." Billy managed.

"I didn't really think it was you."

"Most of the guys in my Troop go to my church and they heard Mr. Gunther that day and one of them recognized you.  Then Brother Michael came and told me not to run my mouth about the fag in 316...  The older guys started calling me names for being a rat.  I don't want to be around them anymore.  I'm scared."

"Come on, Billy, you are safe with us, and we won't call you names.  That is a really bad name they called you.  Come on, I want you to meet my friends."

"But what about Todd..."

"He's cool.  His Mom got wise and left, and then his dad got really stupid and got himself killed.  It's all okay now."

Reluctantly, Billy got up and let Monty lead him over to Todd.  "Hey Billy, you okay?"

"Sorry about your dad."

"Don't be.  He was a bad man and did really bad things.  His lies about Monty were the worst."

"I didn't believe them." He gave Monty's hand a squeeze, "You was always good to me."

Monty smiled at the boy and said, "Let's get back on the trail; our patrol is waiting for us."

When they rejoined the group and began hiking again, Neal dropped back and asked Billy, "So, where is your buddy?"

"Oh, he won't miss me.  He's hanging out with his friends.  He was only my buddy cause nobody else would be."

Neal was seeing red but didn't let Billy know how upset he was.  "Okay well, Monty and Todd are your new buddies."

"Kewl, thanks."

Neal then approached the Patrol Staff Leader, "Steve?  We have Billy Woodcock from Patrol 2.  He has had some problems and we will watch out for him from now on.  I don't know why his patrol hasn't missed him yet."

Steve was an eighteen-year-old Eagle Scout.  "They should have, that's for sure.  Let's just' see what a buddy check produces?"  Steve lifted his whistle and gave one long blast and two short ones then yelled "Buddy Check!  All patrols report!"

In a short time they heard the reports, "Patrol 1, all present!"  "Patrol 3, all present!"  "Patrol 4, all Present!"  "Patrol 2, all present or accounted for!"  then Steve replied, "Patrol 5, all accounted for, Troop all accounted for!  Carry on!"

"Jeez, they didn't miss him."  Neal was about beside himself.

"Jerry is in deep doo-doo now.  Neal, you move these boys along and keep the pace up so we can catch up.  I need to talk to Billy."

When Steve returned, Neal had closed the gap so they could see the Patrol in front of them.  When they had joined up, Steve went and talked with the Staff member of that patrol then came back to Neal.  "You all are temporarily part of Patrol 4, until I get back."  Steve then dropped back and began talking into his walkie-talkie.  When the boys reached the halfway point where they would get to rest, Steve and Mr. Denson were waiting for them.

Billy was getting upset because several of the guys in his patrol were looking at him and not very pleasantly.  Finally, Neal had enough and walked over to them.  "You guys got a problem?"

"Yeah, WoodCOCK, got us all in trouble."

Mr. Denson grabbed Steve to keep him from intervening.

Neal laughed at the kid, "Jeez, you guys pick on him so much he runs away.  Then you lie about where he is.  And now you think it is all HIS fault?  You all need to read and understand the Scout Oath and Law not just memorize it.  All that stuff means something and all of you missed it.  Jeez."  Neal shook his head and walked away. 

The one boy rushed him from behind, one of the other staff members caught his arm and Mr. Denson was there in a flash.  "What troop are you in?"

"582," the kid said it like a challenge.

"Okay, come along; you have some packing to do."

"Packing?"

"Yes, you just earned yourself a trip home."

"Brother Michael won't make me leave."

"But I will."

Mr. Denson left with the staff member and Scout.

When the hikers returned, Brother Michael was waiting for them; he told the boys in his troop to go pack; they were leaving.  When Billy started to go, he said, "Woodcock, you are no longer in MY Troop.  We'll leave your stuff; you stay away from us.  I won't have fag loving cry-babies in MY Troop or around MY boys."

Billy stood there in shock, as his troop abandoned him.  The 316 boys all gathered around him.  "Don't worry, Billy. It's going to be okay."  Monty said.

Neal said, "Jeez, what an... Jeez, just jeez."

They stayed around the Trading Post until they saw 582 load up and leave in a cloud of dust.  "Monty, Todd, you two are good to go help Billy with his gear.  Bring it back to our site.  He's in 316 now."

"Kewl," Monty and Todd chorused.

By the time Billy got to 316's campsite, Neal had filled in the adults on what had happened.  Tom got his satellite phone and called Jim at Haven.  It turned out that a Richard Woodcock did work for Haven Enterprises.  Tom asked Billy to come over and talk.  They sat at the picnic table in the center of camp.  "Hi, Billy, I'm Neal's and Monty's dad."

"I didn't know they was brothers.  How come Monty was in foster care if he had a dad?" Billy asked.

"Well, they are almost brothers, I have already adopted Neal and am about to adopt Monty."

"Oh, that makes sense."

"I need to call your folks and let them know you are safe and are staying with us.  Is your dad Richard Woodcock?"

Billy suddenly looked worried, "You got to call him?  He's going to be really mad at me for causing all this trouble."

Tom smiled, "He'd better not be.  You sit right here, so you'll know exactly what I say to him,"

Tom dialed the number Jim had given him.

A man answered on the second ring, "Hello."

"Richard?  This is Tom Richards."

"Tom Richards of Haven Enterprises?"

"Yes, sir, that Tom Richards."

"Ah, ah, what can I do for you, Sir?"

"Well, I'm at summer camp and your son's troop got into some trouble.  Now the first thing I want to tell you is that Billy is fine, and no matter what Brother Michael tells you, Billy has done absolutely nothing wrong.  His troop left camp and refused to take him with them.  Our troop has taken him in.  If you could come by the Scout Camp either tonight or tomorrow and sign the necessary papers so he can finish the week with us, I would really appreciate it."

"They did what!?!  How could they just leave him.  Wasn't he where they could find him?"

"No, Brother Michael told him he was kicked out of the troop, and he would have to find his own way home."

"What did Billy do to deserve treatment like that?"

"He refused to repeat lies about my son, and ran away when the members of his troop started calling him very nasty names."

"He ran away?  Is he lost?"

"No sir, he was found by some of our boys, before he was even missed by his troop.  We are finished with dinner about 6:00 o'clock.  Could you meet us at the Camp Office?"

"Sure, My wife and I will be there to pick him up."

"No, please, We want him to stay and be a part of our troop.  He is a really good boy and you should be very proud of him."

"I don't know...  I'll talk it over with Sandra.  We will be there at six.  Bye."

Billy looked up at Tom, "Is he mad?"

"I think he is more confused than anything.  He and your Mom will be here after dinner and we'll talk.  I think I can convince them that you should be allowed to stay with us."

"Thanks, Mr. Richards!"

At dinner, Mr. Denson joined Jeff and Tom.  "I guess you guys have heard that 582 left this afternoon.  Not so much as a 'How Do You Do,' They just packed up their stuff and the kids and left, didn't even sign out.  I called Council and they are really P.O.ed."

"How did they react to them refusing to take one boy home with them?" Jeff asked.

John literally dropped his fork, "WHAT!?!"

Silence fell and all eyes were looking at them.  Slowly, everyone went back to eating.

Tom explained the basic facts including Billy's parents coming after dinner.  "I'm getting too old for this nonsense.  I guess his parents want to sue us."

"I don't think the Scouts will be sued.  After all, it was the Scouts' quick action that has saved the poor kid.  I would like to have what ever paperwork is needed to transfer Billy to our Troop in hand when Billy's parents get here.  His dad works for me, so I don't really see any problem."

"No problem there, I've got the applications in the office.  Just costs a dollar to transfer."

"I think I can afford that," Tom's comment brought laughter from the adults.

After dinner, Jeff returned to camp and set the boys to building a nice log cabin fire for later.  Todd, Monty and Billy stayed with Tom and Mr. Denson.  Billy spent about ten minutes with Mr. Denson a few yards away from the others so they could have a private conversation.  When they were done, he walked Billy over to Todd and Monty.  He handed Todd a slip of paper.  "I think maybe you three should go over to the Trading Post and get Billy a pocket knife like yours and a kit for the holder and help him put it together.  You can use the table there by the office.  Oh, and each of you can get an ice cream cone too."

The boys took off with shouted thank-yous.

Tom and John didn't have long to wait, the Woodcocks soon arrived.  John welcomed them and invited them into the office.  Tom introduced himself and then told Billy's parents the whole story.  Mr. Woodcock stiffened when Todd Gunther and Monty were brought into the story.  "Mr. Richards, I'm not sure you are aware of what that boy is."

"Yes, Mr. Woodcock, I am aware of exactly what he is.  He is a thirteen-year-old boy who has been hounded for the past four or five years by a mad-man.  And if I hadn't been there for him, I believe he would have taken his own life.  Mr. Gunther was a murderer, bigot and so homophobic it was downright scary.  He told you a pack of lies and half truths.  Monty is no more gay than you or I were at that age."

"It was Gunther on the news?  Oh my God, what have I done..."

"The big question is, what will you do now?"

Sandra stated, "Dick, I've told you before, that church isn't any good.  How can you even wonder when the Head Deacon just abandoned your son!  I'll not darken those doors again and if you do, you will do it alone."

"Now Sandy..."

"Oh shut up, Dick."  She turned to Tom and John, "So, where do we go from here?"

Tom said, "Well, first I would like to invite Billy to join our troop.  You need to understand that Monty and Todd are both in the Troop and as a matter of fact, they are the ones responsible for finding him and preventing what would have been a tragic incident."

"Do you think... What do you call him now, Monty?  I like that."  Tom nodded.  "So, do you think Monty would be okay with Billy and maybe us?  I know we did a bad thing, but I had started to really care for him..."  Sandy had tears in her eyes.

"I think he will be fine.  He and Billy are re-bonding as friends.  Let's take care of the paperwork and then go see the boys."  Tom nodded to John who produced the forms and in just a few minutes, Billy Woodcock was an official member of Troop 316.

When the adults came out of the office, the boys were working on putting together Billy's knife case.  Monty and Todd had purchased a small leather canoe to work along with Billy.  Sandra looked at her son sitting there smiling and talking with the two older boys.  "He actually looks happy."

Billy looked up upon hearing his mother's voice, "Mom!"  He jumped up and ran to give his Mom a hug.  Then a formal, "Hello Father."

For the first time, it struck Dick that he wanted his son to run to him and hug him, not just stand there like a robot addressing him formally.  "Billy, I'm sorry you got into such a mess.  I feel like I have let you down. I have really made a lot of mistakes.  Can you forgive me?"

"Of course, Sir."  Dick had to go sit down and he began to cry.

"Mom?  I'm sorry.  I don't know..."

Sandy hugged her scared and confused son.  "It's all right Billy.  You haven't done anything wrong.  I think your Father has finally opened his eyes and now he has actually seen what is going on.  We have taken care of some paperwork, so you can stay with your friends."

All three boys cheered.

"How would you like to be a member of this Troop?" Sandy asked.

"For always?  Really?  Thanks Mom!"

"Todd, good to see you.  I'm sorry to hear about your father."

Todd stiffened, "I'm not sorry at all.  He was bad.  He killed people, I saw him do it.  He beat me and my Mom.  I'm glad to be away from all that hate."

"I didn't know."  Sandy turned to Monty.  "We're so sorry.  We were just trying to protect Billy..."

Monty gave her a sad smile, "Yeah, I'm very dangerous."

Tom gave Monty a stern look.

"It really hurt, 'cause I had started to..."

Richard had recovered himself, "It was me.  I was buying into all the teachings of the church and I've just realized tonight that they were teaching hate, intolerance and bigotry.  Please don't hate Sandy; she tried to make me see and I wouldn't.  Hate me.  I deserve it."

Monty stood and stared at the man who had said such awful things to him.  "I don't hate you, Sir.  I don't trust you or like you much right now, but I don't hate you."

"You are a better man than I. Come on, Sandy let's leave these men to their fun.  We'll see you Saturday."  Dick took Sandy's hand after she got another hug from Billy. 

As they walked away Tom said, "We should be back to the Presbyterian Church about 10:00."

The boys gathered up their leather kits and headed back to the campsite.

John and Tom watched them as they thought over the past few minutes.  Tom finally said, "I don't understand how some people treat kids.  I think Sandy and Dick are good people, but they have been led astray.  That church seems to be the center of some really bad things."

"Yes.  That's right, I sort of forgot, you are new here; we have had several run ins with them.  I hate to see Scouting taken away from boys, but unless they are willing to replace Brother Michael as Scoutmaster, I'm afraid that is exactly what will happen."  John was truly sad at the thought.

"Well keep me informed.  You can certainly let anyone interested know that our Troop will welcome anyone who wants to join."

"Thanks Tom.  You are becoming a good adult leader."

"Coming from you, that is quite the compliment.  Well, I'm heading back to camp to give Jeff some moral support."

 

 

            Friday morning arrived, and Tom wasn't quite sure where the week had gone.  The boys were in a state of excitement.  Friday night's campfire was the big event.  The award for best troop went to a big troop from out of council; Troop 316 earned the Troop Spirit Award.  Finally Mr. Denson came to the center stage.  "I have two special awards tonight.  I have been working all week to get these processed, and approved.  One of our leaders told me about this, and I have had the particulars verified.  I would like Neal Richards and Mr. Tom Richards, to come forward."

            Jeff had to give Tom a shove to get him moving, and the boys were prodding Neal along too.  They walked down to the front.  John continued, "I have here before me, two real life heroes.  You all have heard the story of the Good Samaritan.  Well, these two saw a young person, who had been beaten and abused; they did not hesitate, and they did not think about what trouble they would get in, they acted.  Neal found the victim, and called his Dad.  Mr. Richards used his Scout First Aid, he had learned years ago, and administered first aid.  When the victim regained consciousness, they wanted to call 911 but the victim was afraid, because of their past.  Neal offered his own new clothing, since the victim was about his size.  They refused to leave the victim, and eventually took him with them to safety.  Their actions were life saving, and they acted in a completely unselfish manor.  They put Help Other People from the Scout Oath and Helpful, Friendly, Kind, Cheerful and Brave from the law into practice.  It is my pleasure to award each of you, the Boy Scouts of America Medal of Merit." He handed each of them a framed certificate and pinned a medal on the left pocket flap of their shirts.  The Scouts were applauding and cheering.  Neal had tears on his cheeks thinking back on the incident and Tom noticed then realized he did too.  Suddenly Jimmy and Monty were there hugging them too. 

            John whispered into Tom's ear, "I'm not done yet."  He held up his hand, in the Scout sign, and silence fell.  "Mr. Richards, and Todd, please stay; the rest of you can be seated.  Now for the second Awards.  Last Sunday night, Todd found the courage, to tell Mr. Richards, that he witnessed a murder." There were gasps from the Scouts.  "Oh, boys, it is even scarier than that, Todd had witnessed his father, commit the murder.  There was absolute silence now.  His father, who was physically abusing him.  It took a huge amount of courage to come forward, knowing, you could die at the hands of your abuser, if he found out.  For that act, Todd Gunther, The Boy Scouts of America awards you the Honor Medal."

            Applause, no yells this time.  Respect and sympathy could be felt radiating from the crowd of boys and men.

            "Now boys, we come back to Mr. Richards. Todd's father had gone over the deep end, and came crashing onto the property.  He was armed and shooting up the place.  There was a State policeman there, to get Todd's Statement.  Mr. Richards found a rifle, and flanked the madman.  When the State policeman tried to arrest him, the gunman was going to shoot, but was stopped by Mr. Richards.  He acted at great risk to himself.  His actions saved the lives of State Police Detective Captain Henry, Todd Gunther, Todd's mother, and others in and around his residence.  For this, the Boy Scouts of America awards you the Honor Medal, with Crossed Palms."

The crowd went wild.  All the boys of Troop 316 were taken aback.  Bret Henry hugged Tom tighter than his own boys.  He said to Tom, "Thanks for saving Grandpa." 

Suddenly, there was wind and the sound of a helicopter.  It landed, out in the field, on the far side of the fire.  The Scouts did get a good dose of smoke.  When the engine shut down, and the blades stopped, the doors opened.  First off was Captain Henry, in his dress uniform, he was followed by a man the adults recognized, the Governor, then, a news film crew, with bright lights and all.  Tom was thanked for his service, bravery and fast action.  He also was presented with an award.  The Governor then said a few words, to the boys about how Scout values were very important, and with examples like Mr. Richards, they were very lucky.  Then he was gone.  Bret was now attached to his Granddad.

Nick surprised everyone, by coming forward, raising the Scout Sign.  Then he led everyone in 'Scout Vespers', and the campfire was over.  Neal, Todd and Tom were mobbed.  Just a few minutes ago they were just Scouts, and now, wow.  They finally got back to the site.  Jeff showed up with a package of paperwork that was then sorted through, and made sure they had all the right things for each boy.  The boys were having their own little campfire, and soon were talking about plans for the next camping trip.  Everyone slowly wound down.

Tom was the last one up, and heard what sounded like sobs.  He zeroed in on that, and it was coming from Monty and Todd's tent.  He went over to the tent, and said softly, "I'm up, if you want to talk."

A rustling and Todd was in his arms.  Tom managed to pick him up, and carried him over to the picnic table, and sat down.  Tom let him cry for a while.  "Can you talk to me?"

He nodded, "I don't want it to end.  I've been free, this week.  I could just be me."  The tears flowed again.  Tom reached over and managed to snag the cooler.  He fished out two cans, handed one to Todd.  They popped them open, and took a drink.

"It has been a really great week.  But you aren't going back to things the way they were.  Everything has changed now.  Just because we go back home, doesn't mean you leave your friends.  Neal, Jimmy and Monty are right there, and Ben and Stephen.  And every week we'll get together with all these guys." Tom reminded him.

"Really?  I can really be a Scout, and, and ..." he choked up again.

"Of course you can.  Scouts honor."  Tom thought Todd was going to hug the stuffing right out of him.  He wanted to talk about his experience, this week and shared how he had so much fun, learning to swim and even the school stuff like first aid, cause he learned how to tie stuff on Monty. 

He finally wound down enough to go back to bed.

Reveille came all too soon.  Everyone packed their remaining gear and then the adults went to get the vehicles.  Capt. Henry stayed in camp, with the boys.  The other adults returned and they started loading.  Captain Henry and his grandson, Brett were going to ride back with Tom, since his car was at Haven.  It was a tight fit, and a bunch of gear was tied to the roof.  Tom hoped they really were good with knots.  The site was inspected, goodbyes were said, and they headed out.  At the church, where the Troop meets, everyone helped get the troop equipment stored in the shed, and then had a circle-up.  Jeff passed out the Summer Camp patches, and reminded the boys that they could wear their Camp T-shirts to meetings, until school started.  The parents then were arriving, and were full of questions about the governor.  When they realized it was Tom who had received the award, they had even more questions.

About then, a tall man with white hair, although he was in his early forties, came up to Tom.  He held out his left hand to shake.  "Hi, I'm Mike Little.  I'm the real Scoutmaster.  Jeff tells me you fit right in with us, I'm sorry.  We meet Tuesday nights at 7:00.  I hope we see you and your crew."

"Thanks.  I don't think the boys would let me live, if we didn't come." Tom replied.

 

Author's Notes:
The Awards that were given at the campfire to Tom and the boys are, in fact, real awards, and are given for the reasons that Mr. Denson stated.  However, these acts took place before they were Scouts so would not have really been given.  Also, the second award Tom received would not have been given, since it did involve taking another life.
Those of you who have read Haven probably found some of these first two chapters were a retelling of chapters 11 & 12 in HAVEN.  The sub story with Billy, however, was totally new and I hope you enjoyed that.  Most of that part just kind of wrote itself and I'll blame Neal for all the mistakes.
Yes I know, I left out the scene with Matt, Nick and Tom at the end.  That storyline is handled quite well in Haven, so I'm leaving it out of 316.
My vision for this story is to tell the Scouts' story and not cover the Scouts in a lot of detail in my other stories.  After all, in January, the boys from The Phoenix House will be joining as well.  I suspect I'm insane, but I'm not too dangerous.
As always, please let me know what you are thinking.
            Str8mayb

 

Editor's Notes: I think he means me.  I enjoyed this chapter and the two previous ones, well one previous chapter and a prologue. The story about Billy was heartbreaking in several ways.  As you may know, when it comes to kids, and even sometimes with adults, there is such a thing as mob mentality. When a group of people start acting stupid, and rush to do something, others follow without much thought about it. No one knows exactly why that sort of thing happens. Good people who would never do bad things by themselves join in with the crowd and stoop to levels that are simply unbelievable.  Deep down, Billy was a good boy and didn't want to hurt Monty.  Of course, Monty being the kind of person he is, didn't want to hurt Billy either.  I am very glad things worked out so well. I suspect we will see more of Billy in future chapters of this wonderful story. 

Some of you might have noticed that Scouting in general has received a lot of bad publicity, in many cases due to such people as Brother Michael.  Str8mayb has told me that he plans to make this story show just how wonderful Scouting can be for the boys.  It has been many years since I was a scout.  My reasons for leaving were not based on any discrimination that I had to deal with.  I am afraid that I wasn't and am still not cut out to be an outdoors man.  Let's just say that the sun and I don't get along all that well. Now it is time for me to send this off to its final edit, and subsequent posting.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

 

Fort Chief Editors Notes: Where was the Snipe Hunt???? Oh that's right you can't do that anymore shucks!!! That was so much fun..........[Evil Laughter in background.] This story brings back many pleasant memories of my own time in Scouts. Thanks for your wonderful and positive portrayal Str8mayb.

            Now if you could only remember how to spell your character's names ;)

TSL