The early sixties. An era of thick-rimmed glasses, beehive hair-dos, Andy Griffith episodes, and too much eye-makeup.
The sixth-graders made fun of Greg Ford. Nobody could even tell you why. Maybe because he was a soft-spoken kid.
Maybe because kids will be kids.
Greg lived with his father on the poor side of town. His mother left them long ago. Nobody heard from her again.
Young Greg talked about her sometimes, but he was only repeating stories he’d heard from his father. He couldn’t remember her.
He wore a key on a shoestring around his neck. The key to his front door. The other children teased him about that.
Like I said. Kids.
A teacher made him wear the key around his neck after he lost it once. The last thing Greg Ford needed was to wait on a porch-step until dark for his father to get home from the mill.
Anyway, the story here isn’t about keys, or childhood bullies. It’s about the day Greg found a copy of the Boy Scout Manual on the school bus. He took it home and read it cover to cover.
He asked his father if he could join the Scouts. His father told Greg it wasn’t in the cards.
His father was a good man. The kind who had no extra time between mill-whistles. Thursday night Scout meetings were impossible. He drove long commutes, worked overtime, his hateful boss ran him raw. He barely found time for supper.
Thus, Greg carried the Scout Manual with him. He read it often. He learned about campfire safety, water safety, identifying bear tracks, and how to handle the American flag.
“He never put the manual down,” one classmate remembers. “Was like his security blanket, he really wanted to be a Scout.”
Which broke his teacher’s heart. She looked into taking Greg to meetings herself, but she had a busy family life. Meeting times couldn’t have been more inconvenient—they were held at suppertime in the Baptist church.
So, she approached a troop leader. She asked if he could adjust the weekly meeting. He told her it was impossible. So, she asked if they’d consider holding assemblies in the school gymnasium so Greg could attend.
He reluctantly agreed.
And on one Thursday afternoon, after class, she took Greg out for a hamburger without explaining why.
When she carried him back to school, they walked empty halls toward the gymnasium, her arm around him.
The double doors opened. A crowd of Scouts and three Scout leaders greeted Greg with a big, “Welcome, Greg!”
A man presented Greg with a pocketknife, a uniform, a wide-brimmed hat, and a brand new manual with “GREG” written on the cover.
But Greg’s face wasn’t as happy as it should have been.
“What’s the matter?” His teacher asked.
Greg shrugged and said he wished his father had been there to see it.
He was in luck.
From the back of the room came a man who’d quit his job just to be there. A man who answered to the name, “Daddy.”
They swore in a new troop leader that night.
And Greg just wanted me to tell you about it.