By Some Guy:
Having spent the last 20 years or so being a Scoutmaster I have noticed some changes in boys. In most instances boys are quite a bit lazier than when I was a boy when it comes to doing chores. It’s nothing against the boy or anything, it’s just that society has made them that way. Modern conveniences have taken away most chores boys used to do. After each generation there seems to be less chores boys are expected to do. After school chores for boys growing up in the late 1800’s consisted of general livestock chores, cutting firewood, burying the occasional deceased family member, etc. By my father’s generation they never had to bury deceased family members after school. Well, there was that one family down by the river I guess.
The only household chores boys have left these days it seems are mowing the lawn, shoveling the walk and possibly doing the dishes. Uploading pictures of your mom’s new tattoo to an internet chat site for her is a chore too, I suppose. Modern conveniences like riding lawnmowers, snow blowers and automatic dish washers have made these tasks easier. Just picking up behind themselves around the house is many times handled by a maid service these days. Society has trained boys to be a bit lazier by nature when it comes to chores.
I’m kind of old school when it comes to the boys in the Troop pulling their own weight. When stuff needs done, everyone needs to pitch in. It’s not fair to the boys who are willing to do all the work for the ones who just want to practice sitting in a chair. I‘ve seen several over the years that I’m sure could have made it on the professional chair sitting circuit. One time I had a boy named Rufus in the Troop who excelled at this. Overall Rufus really wasn’t all that lazy of a boy, he just had certain things he refused to do.
After the first meal on a campout one time I found out one of the things Rufus was repulsed by. A few of the older boys had done the cooking. As customary the others would then do the clean up. Rufus was busy practicing his sitting in a chair technique when one of the boys washing the pans told Rufus that he needed to help. Rufus declined this invitation, and also declined several more times. I would generally let the boys sort these things out on their own, but it seemed this kid needed some intervention of sorts.
I said to Rufus, “Hey Pal!” Utilizing the universally known “Hey Pal” to start my comment showed that I meant business! Everyone in the sporting world knows that if something starts with “Hey Pal” there is already a certain degree of agitation and displeasure present. Being a greenhorn Rufus did not know this. Otherwise he would have gotten up and helped. Of course he would have done a crappy job, but I guess a crappy job is still better than doing nothing at all. I said, “Hey Pal, I’d advise you to get up off your duff and help out!” “Everyone pulls their weight in our camp!”
Rufus looked me right in the eye and said, “I ain’t doin’ dishes!” “And why pray tell may I ask is that?” I asked. He said, “Because that’s woman’s work!” Woman’s work, really? In this day and age is there anything that is reserved only as woman’s work? The only thing I can think of that is truly woman’s work is giving birth. Men really can’t do this! I explained this to Rufus and that the dishes needed done. Since there didn’t seemed to be any women around, that left him. I said to Rufus, “Pal, unless you’re pregnant you’d better help out!” The kid wouldn’t budge.
After the dishes were done the other boys were pretty peeved at Rufus’ dead beat impersonation. I was getting tired of it too, and of all the whining of the other boys. “How come Rufus didn’t have to help?” “That’s not fair!” “He should have to do them all tonight.” “He wouldn’t help cook either!” And on it went. 20 years of hearing these sorts of things has made me a little immune to its effects. But this time the sheer defiance stuck in my craw. Some intervention again was needed.
Sometimes I wish the BSA would let us hog tie, gag and toss kids in the back of a truck. Since they don’t, we always try some other inferior method of “behavior” correction. I told the boys, “Hey if Rufus don’t want to help with the dishes, don’t let him use any!” “Rufus, if you don’t want to wash dishes, you can’t dirty them.” “You’re banned from dishes until you change your mind, Pal!” I figured this was the end of it. This system of banning from use of dishes had worked for me in the past.
That evening the boys had a pot of nice looking chili for supper. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the cooking of 12 year old boys, there is a big difference between looking good and tasting good! Oh, well the boys did their best and they had fun doing it. With this sort of thing a Scoutmaster will develop a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
Rufus grabbed a bowl out of the Troops cook box and headed for the chili. I stopped him and asked what he thought he was doing? “Getting some chili!” I explained to him, “No, if you are too lazy to wash dishes, then you are too lazy to get them dirty!” “You’re telling me I can’t eat?” “No, you can eat, I’m just saying you can’t use that bowl.” “What am I supposed to use then?” “I don’t know, maybe use your hands!” “It’s hot, I’ll burn myself!” “Wait for it to get cold, or use a piece of bark or something then.” I wasn’t trying to starve the kid or anything. I just needed to make a point about helping out. Missing one meal wasn’t going to hurt this kid in the least bit anyway.
This backfired on me though. Rufus came back with a piece of tree back, piled some chili on it and used a stick to scrape it into his head. I was O.K. with this, because I could care less if he washed that chunk of tree bark or not. The other boys thought eating off a piece of bark with a stick looked fun. They headed off into the trees and came back with their new chili bowls too. “This is great”, they said. “We only have to wash the pan this way!” The rest of the trip they ate all their meals off of a chunk of bark.
After the campout I dropped Rufus off at home. He proceeded to tell his parents about the new eating technique he had acquired. His mother was appalled. She was saying things like, “You made him eat off bark!”, and some other nonsense about poisoning her baby. Heck, I’m positive that the bark was actually more sanitary than the chili. But I didn’t tell Rufus’ mom this though. I explained to them that Rufus refusing to help do the dishes is what brought the whole issue on to start with. The dad was appalled too, but it wasn’t about the bark.
He looked me right in the eye and asked, “Why would you expect my son to do dishes?” “That’s woman’s work!” Wow! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it? At first I figured that this guy was just old school when it came to traditional roles of men and women in life. My whole in depth explanation of everyone pitching in fell on deaf ears with this man. He said, “There ain’t no way you’re making my boy do woman’s work!” By this reaction I realized that he really wasn’t old school, he was just a jackass!
About a month later the Troop was getting loaded for another campout. Rufus’ dad dropped him off at my house. The dad came up to me and said, “Hey we need to talk about this whole dishes thing.” I thought, “Oh God, here we go again!” He said, “I told Rufus he needs to help with them.” “I suppose I’m O.K. with it now.” I asked, “Really, what changed your mind?” He said, “My wife.” “You know what she did?” “That next night she served my pork chop on a piece of tree bark with a stick jabbed in it!” “She said told me, Hey Pal, if you’re too lazy to wash dishes, then you’re too lazy to get them dirty!” “And unless we were pregnant, me and the boy were washing the pans too!”