For those of you who are familiar with my work, you know that I mostly write about murder. All kinds of murder. From the serial killer who preys on young females, to the son who goes berserk and destroys his parents, to the mothers who for no apparent reason, slaughter their offspring. Unfathomable crimes that often cause the normal mind to temporarily short-circuit. And very often, sadism goes hand-in- hand with homicide. But not all sadism in linked to the taking of life.
When I was twelve-years-old, I started attending Boy Scout meetings at my local Troop. Every Tuesday night we would meet, and for a time it was very enjoyable. However, it wasn’t long before strange things began to pop up; and one of these was the actions of the head scoutmaster. It wasn’t that he never cracked a smile, which I found a little odd, but he ran the troop like it was a boot camp, where infractions often resulted in pushups and other forced exercises. And this “activity” happened a lot.
I remember the assistant scoutmaster was the complete opposite from our rather disliked disciplinarian. He was always kind and chose to instruct us when we made mistakes, and he was certainly the type of leader that the kids gravitated to; and we were all pleased when the head honcho was off doing other things. But the senior scoutmaster would never miss a weekend away with the troop at camp, and regrettably, I asked a friend to come along for the weekend.
What I am about to tell you, I will never forget. I must also say that strangely, I never harbored any ill will towards anyone involved – including the scoutmaster – and in a sense, I felt a bit of pride that I was able to endure the “test” and walk away from it without shedding a tear.
It was a Saturday morning, and my friend and I had volunteered to make breakfast for the 30 other boys who were even then outside playing football or some other “contact” game. And at some point, the scoutmaster entered the building and instructed us to come outside. When we did as we were told, he turned to us and said the two teams, evenly split at 15/15 were arguing that someone cheated, or that something happened that really needed to be addressed. What I didn’t know was that he was looking for a reason to let his sadistic nature come to the surface, at the expense of the kids.
He told us he was going to send one group of 15 through what he referred to as “the belt line”. I would later refer to it as the Gauntlet. And the real kicker was that my friend and I had to decide which group was the guilty party. I immediately informed him we had no idea who was wrong as we hadn’t seen a thing. It didn’t matter, the sadist barked, we had to pick anyway. I looked at my friend and I remember saying I was sorry about what was happening. After a couple additional protests, I told the boys I was sorry and we picked the group we “believed” was most likely the offenders. After that, the kids who were forced to go through the belt line waited for the other group to pull their leather belts from their pants, and by this time, the “executioners” had the scent of blood and were ready to go. After a brief shout from the scoutmaster, the boys started running and endured the flying, stinging leather the best they could. Some of the boys were crying as they ran while trying to cover their heads. Thankfully, it was over fairly quickly.
Of course, I felt terrible we were the ones who pointed the finger and thus ensured their fate, but what could we do? Believing it was now over, we turned to go back inside, when the sadist called out that he was now forcing the battered survivors to line up with their belts as they were now going to whip their oppressors. The beaten lot, some of whom were still sniffling, were ready to dish it all back with interest. I must also add, that as each grouping ran through, the scoutmaster could be heard laughing. It was clear he was having a really good time.
And then came our turn.
Astoundingly, as it all was winding down, our sadist looked at us and declared that because of our role in picking the first group, we too had to run, but that we wouldn’t be running through 15 only, but all 30!
I told my friend that I was going first, and that when his turn came, he should cover his head and start running, adding “do not to stop until you’re out the other side”. With that, I took off, and immediately the stings and the pain started popping up all over my body. One kid either mistakenly or intentionally hit me with his buckle, but he only got in one good whack and I was past him. Within seconds it was over, or so I thought.
My friend, who had come to camp to have fun, would not do well, and when he got to the middle, he became confused and started to spin around and he quit running, as if he was going to sit down! I immediately ran back into the melee and actually pulled him forward until we were out. By doing this I exposed myself in ways I hadn’t the first time, and took some hits to the face. It was absolute madness, but we were soon in the clear.
As can be expected, my friend never joined the Boy Scouts, and it wasn’t long before I put my uniform away and told my parents I was never going back. My dream of becoming a long-lasting member of the Boy Scouts was gone forever. The sadist would have to go on without us.