It’s not always shame and disappointment

The entire endeavor was fraught with peril and mostly doomed from the moment it was conceived. The most likely result included a dozen crying cub scouts, at least one hospital visit, and a shamed, broken, middle-aged man.

Tonight, it was my turn to play Den Leader for the Puddinpop’s Cub Scout den. My previous attempt at this, which was highly scripted by a Dan Beard Council-approved activity sheet, ended with a school in a flames and children running about like uncontrolled savages. Well, ok, maybe the school didn’t *actually* burn down, but there was definitely some Lord of the Flies action after we exhausted the proscribed material in about 15 minutes. Trying to come up with 45 minutes worth of extra activities for a dozen rambunctious seven year-olds who’d just as soon play full-speed tag in the cafeteria is, at best, a losing proposition. And yes, we lost.

When I learned a month ago that I would be tapped again for Den Leader duty, I was determined to prevent the same thing from happening again. So I intentionally picked a week with a topic in which I might have some general interest, and then committed myself to shunning all Cub Scout provided materials.

If I was going down, I was going down my way.

My topic was rocketry, which theoretically needed to be covered in advance of a pack-wide rocket extravaganza in two weeks. Of course, I’m a notorious procrastinator, as my parents will undoubtedly attest. What that means is that while I had every intention of putting together a full-blown Cub Scout Den-a-palooza Event, complete with side shows, fireworks, and a petting zoo, the actual planning for my hour of leadership was nothing more than an occasional, fleeting thought along the lines of, “yep, gonna be my night to lead soon, probably should put something together…oooo, are those nachos?”

The nachos were tasty and plentiful; the planning was, um, light.

And so it became the Saturday before my trial, and I sent the Puddinette to a craft store to find something, anything, that I might use in an effort to contain the attention of the ravenous Den members for an hour. Or at least 45 minutes; getting to snack time alive wasn’t too much to ask, right? Being a wonderful wife and exceptional shopper, she located and procured a dozen paper rockets that could be decorated, stickered, colored, etc., and then made into door-knob hangers. Perfect, I’ll talk about what makes a rocket go for a bit and we’ll color some rockets, and that’ll get us to snack time. If we’re lucky. And I talk slow.

Then, last night, I had a nightmare that Hell was a place full of seven year old boys with paper rockets playing full speed freeze-tag in an elementary cafeteria while I sat, tied to a chair, as the other parents mocked my (lack of) preparation for eternity. When I got up this morning, I was a little uneasy about my plan. It needed…pizzaz; it needed…umph; it needed…a demonstration; it needed…something to blow up.

And then, as I feed the boys breakfast before the bus arrived, the muse took pity on me. I noticed a two-liter of Sprite Zero on one of the kitchen counters. That’d make a pretty good rocket, if you could build up some pressure and control the release, I thought. I was contemplating options as I strolled to the bus stop with the boys. As it happens, one of the other Den dads hangs at the same stop.

“Ready for your rocketry lesson tonight?” he asked.

“I’ve got a little something to talk about, and a craft.”

“Oh, ok. Sounds like you’re prepared,” he replied, unimpressed.

“I think I might see if I can shoot a 2-liter into the air too,” I said, pounding my chest at the corner in the early morning sunlight.

“Heh heh, really? Well, I guess that could work,” he scoffed. It was a challenge.

It was ON now.

It took all day to scavenge the necessary parts, but with make-shift fins and a nose cone cut from a paper plate, my Coke Zero bottle flew its maiden voyage a mere 15 minutes before the Den meeting.

Armed with an updated plan, a bag full of balloons (to demonstrate pressure), a bicycle pump, 6 feet of plastic tubing, and little rubber stopper, the boys marveled and the parents gasped as my little bottle that could flew across the playground, not once, but four times before snack time (which was largely an afterthought). It sprayed the gleeful boys with watery exhaust, and they raced to be the one to recover the rocket for its next flight.

I built a science project with my own hands, and it worked, as designed. Just this once, I will admit to being a little, tiny bit proud of myself. More importantly, tonight I was the Dad that made that cool contraption for his son and all the other kids. It’s not a position I ever expected to find myself in, which makes the savoring all that much sweeter.

I’ll be damned, the sonuvabitch actually flew.


2 comments on “It’s not always shame and disappointment

  1. Linda Pennington would be so proud. Of course, in your youth, several dolls and toy soldiers were rocketed skyward from our yard. It wasn’t a skill you hadn’t practiced. Good to know a mispent childhood provided guidance and boys haven’t changed much – Lol


  2. I am certainly overwhelmed with motherly pride — this conjures up years of bemoaned “Science Projects” by your very un-sciency parents. Good job Andrew!!!!


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