Be Carefull Who You Bunk With; A Thirteenth Birthday Story

So.  Today is my birthday and I awoke early this morning and found myself in quite a mood.  I’m old enough to not really care about my birthday, but I’ll likely not ever age to the point of forgetting events that occurred on my thirteenth birthday.

As a child, and until my thirteenth, birthdays were a wonderful time for me.  Cake and candles and cards and gifts and parties and all that brouhaha made my birthdays some of my favorite days.  I would look forward to them for weeks as I wheedled and charmed my way to better gifts and bigger parties.  I would do extra chores and be extra polite and promise to not be a disruptive little shit.

In the mid Twentieth Century ADHD and its little brother, the ADD, hadn’t been invented.  My crazed antics were considered to be “behavioral issues” the result of my free will rather than something mostly out of my control as a child.  I would promise to behave and  would do everything I could to be the best boy possible in those pre-birthday weeks because my birthdays were always terrific days with many great memories.

Until my thirteenth birthday.

I got my first BB gun on my tenth birthday and a bow and arrows on my eleventh birthday.  My first bicycle was at age six, roller skates at seven.  I was first kissed meaningfully on my ninth birthday and I touched a breast in a quite meaningful way on my twelfth.  Life and birthdays were truly wonderful days for young Mooner Johnson.

Until my thirteenth birthday.

My thirteenth birthday was fifty years ago today.  On that birthday I was at Boy Scout aquatics camp up to the Texas Panhandle with one other scout from my troop.  My thirteenth birthday fell on the last day of this camp and my mother was going to pick us up at noon on the last day.  She would drive from my cousin’s house in Amarillo to arrive by noon and take my buddy and me back to Austin.  We would stop at Underwood’s BBQ in Brownwood for dinner and roll into Austin at about 9 pm.

So you can imagine our surprise when our Boy Scout Leader, an insurance agent and big wig Deacon of our family Baptist Church, showed up at the camp late on the afternoon of the 15th of August, 1962.  The day before my birthday.  My thirteenth birthday.

He drove an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon–white cream body with a candy apple red top. I always thought he was a great man–church elder, Boy Scout Leader and respected family man.  He had a successful insurance business and was great as a Scout Leader.  Under his guidance I was not quite thirteen and was already a Life Scout (the last rank before Eagle Scout),  I was to be awarded my 20th, 21st and 22nd merit badges (21 were required for Eagle), and I had been evaluating community service project options to fulfill the final requirements to become an Eagle Scout.

My thirteenth birthday was to be a very special day for me.

“I told your mother I would pick you boys up on my way back to Austin from Dallas.  She was able to go home from Amarillo yesterday,” he told our surprised and curious faces as he exited his Vista Cruiser.  I loved his car–it had every possible option and he had turned the back into a camping-out bedroom.  All us scouts though it was a neato car.

My first thought was that aquatics camp is NOT on the way from Dallas to Austin.  I had just gotten my Pathfinding Merit Badge earlier in the summer so I knew that as a fact.  I remember thinking that thought in that instant and I have rethought the curiousness of his words many times since.  I sensed something amiss but was too young and too excited to be only one day from completing the next-to-last steps to become an Eagle Scout.  I was to complete these steps on my birthday.

My thirteenth birthday.

Our Leader left us to the rest of our day and he went to pow-wow with other adults.  He told us he would return after dinner to our camp to spend the night, and we could tell stories until late.  He promised we could stay up until midnight because we both had met all the requirements for the badges offered that summer at aquatics camp.  He would pilfer some marshmallows and we’d tell stories and gorge on sticky burnt sugar.  “And I have a special surprise for you–I’ve got an ice chest with Coca Colas hidden in my car.  Don’t tell anybody.  Shhhh.”

OK, let me stop right here because this morning’s Santa Fe New Mexican had a couple stories I can’t let pass. The first says that a man in Sparks, Nevada was in a theater watching the new Bourne movie, shifted in his seat causing his legal firearm to fall out his pants where it hit the floor and shot the man in his ass.  A fitting result if the bullet had hit his balls of whacked his pecker off, if you ask me.  But what if that happened in a large theater instead of in tiny Sparks, and what if that theater had been–as many NRA right-wing Repubbies have recently wished–full of legally gun-toting fuckbags?

Next, the New Mexico tourist industry will lose $50 million of business this year due to Global Warming.  Most of that loss is due to fewer ski days on the state’s beautiful ski ranges because of higher temps.  “Oh, Mr. Republican VP Candidate Pookie Ry-an.  Hello, Poo-kie!”  That quote there was to be read like you were sing-songing it.  Please go back and sing to Pookie Ryan for me.  It’s my birthday, so induldge me, for shitsakes, so do it.

The third and most interesting was that New Mexico has been named the second clumsiest city in America when it comes to cell phone usage.  It is estimated that over 30% of all New Mexican cell phones will be damaged this year from being “dropped”.   Here, again, I have personal knowledge to verify the veracity of this prediction, and once again the evidence comes from a visit over to the Ace Hardware.  I got out of my car last week and this guy was standing outside the Ace store fumbling and cussing at his cell phone.

“Chinga tu madre’, you fucking I-Phone sonofabitch!”  And “BOOM”,  “Down goes I-Phone, Down goes I-Phone!”

Did you know that an I-Phone, when hurled with same force one would use to remove a dirty baby diaper from one”s face, will make a sound not unlike the crack of a .22 cal. pistol as it smacks into a concrete sidewalk?  To me, another instance to cause a rethinking of that whole gun ownership dealio.

Anyway, my buddy and I returned to our camp after our tasks and duties and dinner where our Leader had things all set up.  He had the fire going, ice chest of Cokes and marshmallows and sticks at the ready.  We told stories and recapped our two weeks at aquatic camp and ate and drank sugar to the buzz state.  When we all seemed to be sagging, Scout Leader looked at his watch and said, he announced, “Well, it’s after midnight, boys.  Why don’t one of you bunk in comfort in the Cruiser with me.  Mooner, you’ve never had the honor.”

To place perspectives, when that Baptist Deacon Boy Scout leading, respected family man and successful businessman said, “… it’s after midnight…” those words meant that it was now officially my birthday.

My thirteenth birthday.

My Boy Scout Leader gave me a very special birthday present after I accepted his invitation to bunk in comfort, a birthday present that has affected my life immeasurably every day since.  It wasn’t a present of money of toys or a card.  He didn’t impart great insight or tell me the secret of living a successful life.  Instead, he gave me the worst present any adult ever gave any child.

He raped me.

Fifty years ago today, on my birthday, my Boy Scout Leader molested me and almost ruined my life.  Screw that, because he did ruin giant pieces of it.  And he did it on my birthday.

My fucking thirteenth birthday.

Now look, everybody, and I mean friends and foes alike who trip over this post.  I don’t want sympathies and “poor sweet babies” for something that happened a half-century ago.  What I want–my birthday present from you–is for you to be ever-vigilant and watchful for any abuse of a child.  In my youth, 90% of all molestations went unreported in any way and very few of those offenders were punished unless a child’s family saw to the punishment.  Tell kids to report to you any strange behaviors of any adults when alone with them.

And understand that the vast majority of those assholes are friends or family or a respected authority figure.  Like a Baptist Deacon or a Boy Scout Leader or a respected family man or an uncle or auntie.

Having said all of this, I suddenly feel pretty damned good.  It took me forty years of healing and thirty years of intense psycho therapy to get here, and I didn’t even acknowledge to anyone the fact of it until ten years ago.  In this last decade I’ve managed to be able to speak of it and even in an open forum such as here in Loonyland.

But I’m a lucky one and I know it and am mightily grateful for it.  Life has given me a terrific birthday present.  Happy birthday to me!

Manana, y’all, from beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico.


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8 Responses to “Be Carefull Who You Bunk With; A Thirteenth Birthday Story”

  1. Squatlo says:

    Just for the record, one of the reasons I have so much respect for you is the fact that you’re able to tell this story. You refer to this event often, and even though there’s nothing humorous about any of it, you don’t bring it up to elicit sympathy. You mention it because it’s a huge part of why you are who you are. In some ways, it might be the defining moment of your life, and as such just might be the reason you’ve turned out to be the person you’ve become.

    If there’s a hell, I hope folks like your pillar of the community adult scout leader are sizzling there as we speak. There aren’t words for the contempt I feel for pricks like that.

    As much as it might seem inappropriate to say this, if this horrible thing had to happen to a kid fifty years ago, I’m glad it happened to a kid who would grow into a man who could help others with this story. Too many of us bottle it up, never tell a soul, and live tortured lives as a result of that internal stress and unjustified guilt. There might be someone out there who reads your posts and comes to realize they can unburden themselves without shame or recrimination. They would be forever in your debt, and you’d never know it.

    Happy birthday, Don. Crack open a Carta Blanca and tip ‘er back. I’ll follow suit with my Killians from here in the ‘Boro.

  2. Cynthianne says:

    Happy birthday!

  3. Mad, mad love to you, my ADD-addled spouse-to-be! You being able to share that story is one of the things that makes you a mother fucking kick-ass human being in my book! (Although…I AM marrying you solely for access to the tomatoes…). Happy Birthday, my crazy friend! I’m still pondering sending you pics of the girded loins…(I laughed my ass off when I read that comment!)

    And on a serious note – I agree with you 150% about being ever-vigilant when it comes to our precious little ones. I can promise you with every fiber of my being that I am almost psychotically obsessive about making sure the hooli is as protected as he can be…and I know that even THAT is never a guarantee.

    Tomorrow, when I go have fish tacos and beers with my BFFs after work – I’m gonna order a Carta Blanca and toast you (a one day late) Carta Blanca!

  4. Squat. I bottled it up for forty years and have ten ex-wives to show for it. OK, and a few arrests. But when the fucking Catholic Church still protects their rapist clergy, you know the problem is still way to big. And we’re in America where more has been done to recognize, educate and protect kids than in most other countries.

    I can only hope that some benefit somewhere can come with my ventilations. BTW- one beer does not a birthday celebration make!

    Cynthianne. THX. How’s it hanging in your neck-O-the-woods? Been low 80’s and 60 at night up here to the high dessert.

    Reck. Only an idiot would attempt something on your hooli. It’s a shame more parents don’t have your levels of concern. Wait, level of concerns?

    And you can say that our pending nuptials are tomato-based, but I know it’s all about my testo-phemorones. As for the loins pics, please be sure to capture each angle as loins are one of my favorite parts. Maybe you can get Squattie to take some pro shots–I’ll be more than happy to foot the bill.

    BTW–how goes it with the new dude? I’m almost afraid to ask for jinxies.

  5. J.O.B. says:

    Mooner- been dropping in from time to time, but felt like commenting here. I will not give you sympathy my friend. But I will give you an on-line hand shake and hug. Your ordeal was horrible, I know, but you managed to overcome. No matter how long it took, you climbed a hill that millions of children can not climb. And I am so happy that you did.
    Happy Birthday Amigo, and I’m glad I stumbled upon your story. Be proud of yourself.

  6. Cynthianne says:

    Mooner, to veer off-topic from your birthday trauma, the climate in Santa Fe is gonna spoil you completely for Austin.

    Not to mention the clement political climate… We got kinder, gentler fundies here, prolly one of the reasons NM will end up in Obama’s column in Nov. My two sisters are resolute, evolution-hatin’ mega-church goers, but they can’t stand Mittens, which proves they do have a few working brain cells.

    Have you spotted your first Roadrunner (the state boid) yet? They’re quite urban birds- one lives in a shopping center lot near here, and another was patrolling the Costco parking lot, so they are around, if you keep your eyes open…

  7. admin says:

    C’ianne. Anytime people are more concerned with the welfare of their pets than they are about funding stupid wars, I’m right at home. There is a roadrunner living just off St. Francis Street near a lodge where I often miss my turn and do a Uey. He’s old and feather-beaten and he often stands near the stop sign where I halt to go back towards town.

    I fucked the turn Friday afternoon and when I pulled up to the stop sign, I could swear he shook his head at me.

  8. Katy Anders says:

    Happy (late) birthday.

    The difference between people who have bad shit happen to them and get wiped out by it forever and those that don’t is… Well, those that don’t get past it in some way. Or at least drown enough brain cells to keep functioning, I guess.

    I wish we were better at protecting kids now than we were 50 years ago. I suspect we’re not. ON the upside, we can at leats protect ourselves now – for the most part.

    And by the way – you always have carte blanche to ransack my page as you see fit. If my words can make someone laugh or, hell, keep ’em from becoming a lawyer, then my work is done!

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