And now a riddle: What’s like six feet long, decades old, and entirely trustworthy when it comes to defending its post just above the belly button?
Answer: Fred MacMurray’s pants.
I’ve always been a staunchly loyal Fred MacMurray fan (as well as a die-hard cucumber fan, but that’s not relevant right now). Not only was this man hugely helpful to the success of old Disney films like this one and The Shaggy Dog, but he was a good, friendly guy in real life, too. (By the way, I stumbled on to this clip of Bob Hope commenting on Fred MacMurray’s courteous character—and if you don’t want to click on that link, you can just find it by spending late nights on YouTube like I did watching clips of What’s My Line? and documentaries about Dennis Rodman. You’ll get there eventually.)
The other star of Follow Me, Boys! is Kurt Russell. In fact, this was kind of his Disney debut, where he plays a not-so-obedient boy named Whitey. This role set him up for several cheerful Disney classics over the next 10 years including Now You See Him, Now You Don’t and Strongest Man in the World. (Unnecessary side note: Dean Higgins was thrifty.)
OK, I’m going to be brave and come clean. In sixth grade I really wanted to have a cool nickname, and I’ve always been jealous of the scouts in this movie who had cool names like “Tiger” and “Hoodoo.” (Heck, I would have even taken “Beefy.”) So I tried to get all my friends to call me “Sketch” like the reverent graffiti rapper in Sister Act 2. It didn’t stick.
The title song for Follow Me, Boys! was written by the Sherman Brothers, who were the studio favorites behind films like The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins as well as other musicals outside of Disney like The Slipper and the Rose. (I was going to mention The Aristocats as well, but I’m boycotting that film until Disney issues a public statement acknowledging that not everybody wants to be a cat.)
OH, SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: This will come out sooner or later so you might as well hear it from me: I’m a fraud. Back in the ‘90s I was awarded the “skating” merit badge, but I never actually earned it. Our whole troop was supposed to have performed all the requirements at our local roller skating rink, and I passed all of the requirements for the badge but one—I couldn’t skate backwards. After struggling for what seemed like hours on this requirement, one of my scout leaders finally grabbed me by the shoulders, pulled me backwards, and said, “There. Passed.”
Follow Me, Boys! was actually the last production personally released by Walt Disney before he died (just two weeks later), and it’s one of his best.
Like many other films released by that great man, this one has a way of capturing the painful realities many of us face in life: Not everyone makes friends easily. Not everyone can have children. Not everyone was raised in a happy home.
That scene where Whitey’s drunk father comes stumbling into the scout meeting with ice cream has always been particularly hard for me to watch. Just when this boy had finally learned to put himself out there, he’s reminded in a very public, very humiliating way that he doesn’t have the same happy home life as other kids.
As a father myself now, I also feel pain for men like Whitey’s dad, men who once had dignity and a sense of responsibility to their family and their community, but who gave up trying somewhere along the way and don’t see a way back.
Compare that father to men like Lem, the scoutmaster, who want nothing more in life than to be a father but are denied that opportunity. God had a different plan for Lem, just as He does for many of us. However, as we follow the promptings from the Spirit of the Lord we are able to make our own unique contribution to this world. And when we follow God, others can follow us.
We all need someone to follow, especially young men and young women. Be the kind of person they can follow—in your work, in your community, and especially in your home. The Lord didn’t send you here to sit and wait for someone else to make a difference.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24