On craft

On Buying a Christmas Tree from the Boy Scouts

by Brian Doyle

In the sudden tree lot on what usually is the town baseball field,
But this is winter, sir, says the scout, and we own it this month.
This is the most headlong funny wry loquacious Boy Scout ever.
He tells me his name is Flip and he is proudly Scout First Class,
Which is, he tells me, a mere bus stop on his way to Eagle Scout.
This is how he talks, which I find hilarious. I don’t have the guts
To tell him I was the worst boy scout in the history of the galaxy,
But it’s not like I was going to get a word in anyway, he’s rolling
Along telling me about his merit badges, Indian lore and insectry,
He actually says insectry, which I didn’t know was a word before,
And reptile and bird lore, and rowing, and basketry, that was easy,
Basketry, that’s why all the guys score that one early, he confides,
And dog care, another totally easy one, he says, the only way you
Don’t get that one is you kill your dog, and I got one in bugle lore,
That was a pain because my father wanted to crush my bugle with
A hammer after a while, and I got badge in reading, that was cake.
There are some badges, says Flip, that probably no scout ever got,
Like theater, who would get a badge in theater, you know, and art,
You’d think that would be easy but it isn’t, so no one goes for that,
And now there’s one in entrepreneurship, which I know a guy who
Got that by starting a company selling cookies for like three weeks
Until he got his badge, and anyway all he ever sold was to his aunt.
There are some odd badges you can tell started in the old days, like
Pioneering and radio and shotgun-shooting, like who has a shotgun
These days, and railroading, and plumbing, and then there are some
That are like college prep or something, American labor, what’s up
With that, you know? Me, I like to go for the ones you would never
Do on your own, like fingerprinting and archery and auto mechanics.
So listen, speaking of entrepreneurship, sir, you want a tree or what?


Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine in Oregon, and the author of many books, most recently the novels Chicago and Martin Marten.