SI Vault
Jerry Cowle
May 23, 1977
Scrub pine, aspen and khaki army tents covered the hillside that sloped down to a blue mountain lake. Midway up the hill stood a flagpole, with 100 uniformed boy scouts surrounding it. Old Glory had just been raised. Suddenly, the scouts came to attention again and extended their right arms, palms outward, in a salute. The bugler triple-tongued a call. Up the pole to a place just below the Stars and Stripes went a black flag with a white swastika.
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May 23, 1977

Before Hitler Abased The Swastika, Boys Took On An Ordeal To Wear It

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I shook my head. He wasn't going to trick me into talking. He sat down next to me and took a sandwich from beneath his blanket. I watched him bite into it. "Hungry?" he said.

I nodded, and he took out another sandwich, neatly wrapped in waxed paper. "Here, this one's for you."

I shook my head, and he looked at me strangely. "Look," he said patiently, "I'm offering it to you. It's O.K. to take it!"

I shook my head more decisively, and he stood up, saying, "You stupid fool! You don't think I'd squeal on you?"

I shrugged.

"Then go to the devil!" he snarled. He threw down the sandwich and stalked off through the trees. It was the first time I'd ever known Frank to lose his temper. But I knew that if I had taken the sandwich, it would have been all over.

The sandwich lay within reach. I wouldn't have had to move from my sitting position to pick it up. That reminded me that my buttocks were beginning to hurt, particularly where an exposed root was digging into them. I shifted position a little, and it helped. It must have been a salami sandwich, because I could smell the garlic. My mouth watered.

I attempted to force myself into a state of torpor. I had already counted to 1,000, named the starting lineup of every team in the American League and tried to remember the capitals of all the states. Now I simply didn't want to think any more. But how did prisoners pass the time? They slept, read, ate, drank, walked, talked, all things I was forbidden to do.

Finally, long after I had despaired of ever seeing daylight again, the sun came up. Thanks to the clearing, I'd soon be able to estimate the time. Back at camp, the other scouts were probably having bacon and eggs. I was starving. The sandwich lay where Frank had thrown it, ants swarming over the waxed paper. I turned away, my stomach doing flip-flops.

At about noon, I promised myself that if I ever got through this day, I'd never be alone again, never complain about food and never go to bed late. Staying awake was getting to be an ordeal. I couldn't stop yawning. Despite my best efforts, my eyelids were starting to close. I very likely would have dropped off to sleep, if it hadn't been for a terrible crashing and swearing in the underbrush that jolted me.

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