Cub Scouts was created to test my tenacity, perseverance, and courage. Whoever chose our leaders seemed to always look at who happened to be my biggest nemesis at the time and then select his mother to be our den mother. I was always doomed to spend one afternoon each week at the home of the biggest bully that delighted in endlessly tormenting me.
If I didn’t have to go to Nick’s home after spending all day listening to him mock my girl-like athletic abilities, I would have to go to TJ’s house. TJ was more of a physical than a verbal bully. He couldn’t get through a day without pushing, pinching, or punching somebody, and his mother didn’t know how to control his compulsions.
I am not sure why I endured attending cub scout meetings at those homes, but I did so silently. I never once complained to my parents about the abuse I had to endure. To tell you the truth, I just assumed that most of the boys had to put up with the same abuse, so I tolerated it as well. I figured that most boys that age were naturally mean to each other.
During my third year of cub scouts, we got a new den mother. A new boy, Wes, had moved into the neighborhood and ward, and his mother was called to be our new den mother. I was excited, because the new boy seemed nice—and cute—and it felt like we would finally attend our den meetings in a bully-free home.
Sister Hawkins, Wes’s mother, was a wonderful leader. She was aware of the bullying problems within our group of boys, and she knew how to put a stop to the problems in a stern but loving manner. Those afternoons in her home became a break from the verbal and physical abuse we had learned to endure during the school day.
One of the highlights of den meeting was always the treats at the end of our activities. We normally had a bucket that we would pass around and take turns bringing a refreshment. They were usually cookies, Rice Krispy squares, or candy bars. Our den mother would fill us up with sugar and then send us home.
I still remember that day we piled into the Hawkins’ car to get ice cream at Dan’s grocery store. This was a real treat because Dan’s always put a large scoop of ice cream in their cones. Somehow we managed to fit all twelve boys into the suburban and made our way to the market.
We all looked at the variety of ice cream choices as we waited for our turn to order. Once we got our cone, we browsed the magazine covers on display next to the ice cream counter. I was the last to get my ice cream, rainbow sherbet (how’s that for some symbolic foreshadowing?), and we piled back into the car.
There was some extra elbowing and pushing of shoulders as we rode back to the Hawkins’ home. Before we knew it, we were all teasing and calling each other names. The names seemed pretty innocent until Wes spoke.
“Stop touching me, fag!” he shouted.
Sister Hawkins pulled to the side of the road and slammed on the breaks.
“What did you just say?” She asked. Her eyes were narrow, and she did not have the normal, calm tone in her voice.
“Please stop touching me,” Wes corrected himself.
“No, Wesley James Hawkins. What was that ugly word you used?”
“Fag.” He looked down as he said it under his breath.
“I don’t want you to use that word ever again. Do you even know what that means?”
“Homo,” he said in a little more than a whisper.
Nick had been trying to be quiet, but at that point, he let out a big laugh, and a few of the other boys joined him.
“I don’t ever want any of you using those words. Do you hear me? None of you boys are fags, homosexuals, or gay.”
“But God loves gays” Wes said a little bit louder.
“Where did you hear that?” Sister Hawkins asked.
“It said so on one of the magazines at the store.”
“That’s nonsense,” she explained. The frustration levels in her voice were rising. “God does not love gays. They are immoral, degenerate, and are not worthy of his love.”
“But, why?” Wes asked.
“They just are, and I will not talk about it any more.”
We remained silent the rest of the way back. I think we were all thinking the same thing on the way home. Why doesn’t God love gays? I didn’t even know what gays were, but I wanted to make sure I never became one. After all, I admired everything Sister Hawkins stood for, and if she told us that God doesn’t love gays, it must be true.