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A Scout geek

Terror and excitement swept through the camp.

In the predawn dark of northern Maine two dozen Boy Scouts lay wide-eyed and shivering in their snow-caked pup tents.

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No one dared answer the call of nature.

There it was again. A low rumbling. And a rustling. A hungry bear was rummaging through our camp.

This was the annual Troop 119 Polar Bear hike, a sort of subzero survival test, and one of the few things I admitted to enjoying as a scout. My step-dad was gung-ho on scouting. I was lukewarm. Scouting was a refuge for dorks.

I quit in seventh grade, persuading my parents that it was interfering with my true love, baseball. It hurt my step-dad. But even today, youth organizations find it hard to draw kids to a group with an "un-phat" reputation.

Yet, by 10th grade I was back. Like Hanna Thomas in this week's cover story, I found that scouting offered something I couldn't get elsewhere. (No, not the chance to wear a goofy necktie.)

Actually, it was outdoor adventures and a place to hone leadership skills.

I was still playing baseball. And I loathed the dweeb label. But at some point I realized that dorks and geeks were often just people with a passion for things other than sports. As adults, they often led more interesting and successful lives than the "cool" crowd.

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The bear in our camp?

Someone finally got up the courage to have a look. They "tracked" it to my step-dad's tent and found Ursa stepdadicus in deep but sonorous hibernation.

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