Bugle Boy, Bugling Badly

At last a story to break the drought…

I have moved to a new office -there is a story to tell there, too – on 13th Street in Oakland, opposite the Oakland Tribune building. At street level is a wonderful coffee shop, Modern: Coffee, which serves pleasing green teas, too. I popped over for a refill a few minutes ago, and was served by a pretty young lady wearing  a Boy Scouts of America shirt. Which shirt and prettiness (or Satan) prompted  me: “You are the loveliest Boy Scout I have ever seen”. Modest blush from her, which pleased me, and I volunteered that the Boy Scouts were started by Lord Baden-Powell after the Boer War. He was a Brit. And then I confessed that I was never a Boy Scout. But I had once been Sea Scout.

I was about 12 or 13 years old. The Sea Scouts had a little shed beside a canal in our part of West London. They owned a dinghy. But despite being nowhere near the salty tangy ocean, we got to wear Sea Scout sailor uniforms – bell bottoms with 7 creases (for the seven seas) and a tight jacket, and a wide blue collar with three stripes; apparently they used to be worn by sailors long ago when the were known as tars – if their long hair was tarry or dirty the white stripes showed the stains. And then the tars were lashed, or whatever….

The Sea Scouts were good for two skills. I learned it was OK to swear, and I learned those words well. I still use some them, actually. All the officers swore – not like troopers, but like old tars. They were a great example to us young Cadets. It was really cool for me, a kid in a too-religious home, to hear and speak unmitigated, constant, effortless dirty words. And, better,  not be lashed for staining the air myself.

I also learned to blow a brass bugle. I learned to play it, mostly while riding home on my bike past Daphne T~’s house. Daphne went to my church and I had a huge crush-lust thing  for her ever since I had kissed her playing Postman’s Knock at a party. I think she liked me. I knew she would adore me if I serenaded her with my bugle. So I was  crushed when she told me her dad hated the  boy who went down the street late in the evening blowing a bugle badly. Since the key to Daphne’s heart -and whichever other bits of her I could lay hands on- was through acceptance of me by her very strict religious dad, I had to stop serenading her.

My father put a stop to Sea Scouts when he heard some of my swearing.  It may have been the last straw – he left our home, and his family of 6, a short time later, claiming Satan ruled our home. But without  Satan, I would have been a  worse Bugler and certainly a  milder curser…

About Ed Medley

Ed Medley has been on a random walk for over 50 years. Many scribbles and snapshots at this site are from his vagabond transits; others are from his decades of international experience in geological and geotechnical engineering, academia, and mineral exploration prospecting.
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