While rock climbing a week ago I was reminded of how grateful I am to the Scouting movement. I was half way up a 80 m rock wall when I had to secure myself. Fortunately I had learnt the Clove Hitch on one of the many Scout trips I enjoyed as a teenager. I tied the knot. I was safe.
While remembering knots and other skills have been useful, there are some memories I would rather forget.
In 2001 our legend Scout Master Mr Cunningham left for New Zealand. After a few months of figuring things out for ourselves, our new leader arrived on the scene.
What would he be like?
Among the usual duties of a Scout Master, we experienced regular punches to the arms, knees and legs. Shots from his high powered BB gun nailed us all over our bodies. On more than one occasion he forced us to squat with our backs against a wall for a period of time and run far distances. These forms of punishment, or perhaps his fun, were delivered during our Tuesday Scout evenings and on camps and hikes. My suspicion is that he used them to control us. Especially those of us, like myself, who were bent towards anarchy. I remember laughing at some of the things he made us do. I also remember moaning in pain. Perhaps it was, just-a-bit-of-fun. Or perhaps not. One could say that the squats and runs were an appropriate form of discipline, but the punches… I don’t think so.
I can vividly remember one evening at the base of Sneeuberg in the Cederberg. My Scout Master arranged a fighting ring in the hut where we were sleeping. He then proceeded to stand on one end of the ring, challenging us to fight him. It felt like a scene from the movie Fight Club.
This event still bothers me to this day. A bunch of us were at his farm, chilling on the grass when he told a younger scout to rub Marmite (a vegetable spread eaten on bread) on his stomach. The Master then proceeded to make his dog lick the Marmite off. Weird right. We just watched in horror. Looking back I wish I had stepped in and stopped him, but the Master had this strange sort of control over us where we would do what he said and yet at the same time we rebelled against his iron fist.
…As punishment I had to strip down naked…
And then there was this event.
While on a hike in the Cederberg we stopped for a break. I think we were near the Wolfberg Arch. I remember doing something or saying something which annoyed him. As punishment I had to strip down naked and run to touch a rock, a certain distance away before returning. While I ran he snapped pictures with his camera. A few weeks after we returned from the hike he brought a stack of photos from the trip. Some of them were of me running naked. I hope those images don’t exist anymore.
At the end of high school I left Scouts and have never seen him again.
I did however hear, through another Scout, that things went pear-shaped for him. The incident I hear of involved the police, rubber bullets, a chainsaw and a burning tent. That’s all I know.