Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category

I am sure you have already had the conversation in your troop. How can we be more “green” and eco-friendly? The Boy Scouts have been discussing this long before it became socially fashionable. Take a look at Leave No Trace, for example. Or the points of the Outdoor Code.

I recently received and email featuring a story about the generational differences of being green. I am sure this has been circulating about the internet for awhile already, but it was the first time I had seen it. I enjoyed reading it so I thought I would share it with you. I may even use this as a scoutmaster minute at the end of a troop meeting.

(Unfortunately, I do not know the author of this story.)

The Green Thing

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks
were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

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    So, you are new to the Boy Scout program. Maybe you crossed over this spring with your son who was a Webelos Scout, or maybe you joined with your son as he joined the program. Either way, you may be hearing terms you are unfamiliar with and abbreviations that confuse you. Let’s see if we can make a few of these clear and help you along your Scouting way.

    SPL – Senior Patrol Leader (The elected Boy Scout in charge of running the troop.)
    ASPL – The Assistant Senior Patrol Leader.
    PL – Patrol Leader (The elected Boy Scout leader of a patrol.)
    APL – Assistant Patrol Leader.
    ASM – Assistant Scoutmaster.
    JASM – Junior Assistant Scoutmaster (A Scout who is not yet 18 years old.)
    PLC – Patrol Leader Council. (The boy leadership who plan troop meetings and activities.)
    TLC – Troop Leader Council (Another name for the PLC.)
    OA – Order of the Arrow (A Honor Brotherhood of Scout Campers.)
    NOAC – National Order of the Arrow Conference (Yearly national meeting of OA lodges and leadership.)
    PTC – Philmont Training Center at Philmont Scout Ranch.
    NYLT – National Youth Leadership Training (Training for youth leadership done on the council level.)
    G2SS – Guide To Safe Scouting (Our bible of how to safely operate our troops and packs.)
    BSA – Boy Scouts of America.

    This is not the whole list, but it is enough to get you started. Happy Scouting!

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      Yeah, I know. This is supposed to be YouTube Tuesday. Well, excuse me (as Steve Martin used to say). I found a great little video on a website called Vimeo that I thought would make an excellent suggestion for today. According to the video information:

      A young man fights a battle within himself over whether or not to smoke. Ultimately, he learns something about himself and, with the principles of the scout oath and law as his guide, makes the choice to be “bigger” than he ever thought he could.

      This video is my entry into the “Smoking Stinks” video contest hosted by the Boy Scouts of America. If you liked it, then feel free to vote at the following link.

      Big Things… from Bryson Rushing on Vimeo.

      What did you think about it?

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        Those of you who read this blog and follow me on Twitter (stevejb68) may have noticed that out troop has been having some rough times. Last month I sat down with the Boy Scouts during a troop meeting and discussed the future of the troop with them. We needed to make some changes. They seemed to be ready to do what needs to be done. Tonight was a night that really began to take us in that direction.

        Tonight’s troop meeting would be the first one in which the new senior patrol leader and his assistant would really take charge of the troop. They had been elected last month but last month’s meetings were a little chaotic and not planned well. This month’s had been planned by the new ASPL (the only Scout who attended the patrol leader council meeting) and were planned out very well.

        Even though I have been a scoutmaster for 29 years I have been finding myself being up in front of the boys too much during a troop meeting. Tonight would be different. I pulled my assistant scoutmaster off to the side when he arrived and explained that we are going to sit in back of the room tonight and let the boys run the meeting, something we should have always been doing but were not. I wanted to be behind the boys tonight, out of direct eyesight with them.

        The boys did pretty well. Oh, everyone was a bit late coming to the meeting. Yes, there was some goofing off and joking around but they did get much of the meeting’s agenda covered. I only stepped in front of the troop twice for short moments; once to ask a few questions about the menu and plans for the weekend outing at the end of the month followed by a quick uniform inspection, and at the end of the meeting to give announcements and a scoutmaster minute. All in all, it was a successful meeting.

        It will be interesting to see how things go during the next few meetings. Actually, for the next few months. I have decided to step back, like a scoutmaster should, and let the boys handle things. It is the best way for them to learn. Unfortunately, I have to re-learn a few things again. Or, may not so much re-learn as much as re-apply the things I already know.

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          We have all heard that being a scoutmaster or cubmaster will only take an hour a week. In the last article I wrote about how many hours it may actually take for a scoutmaster. But what if we take this further? If Scouting only takes one hour a week that means it will only consume 52 hours per year. But let’s be a bit more realistic. Instead of looking at hours, let us take a look at evenings and days per year. Here is an average year in my Scouting life:

          Troop meetings – 33 evenings
          Patrol Leader Council Meetings – 11 evenings
          Committee Meetings – 11 evenings
          Troop Parents Meeting – 1 evening
          School Night To Join Scouting – 1 evening
          Courts of Honor – 4 evenings
          Roundtables – 8 evenings
          Summer Camp – 7 days
          Weekend Camps (average 6 per year) – 18 days
          One Day Activities – 6 days
          Yearly Planning Session – 1 day
          Fundraisers (meals) – 2 days
          Troop Service Projects (varies per year) – 4 days

          Grand Total  = 107 days/evenings!

          This total surprised me. I did not realize that I give over three and one half months a year to the troop. And this does not count extra things like district or council training, evenings spent writing newsletters, working with boys on merit badges, or other such things. Wow.

          I would like to hear from other scoutmasters out there. Does this sound similar to the time you dedicate to your troop?

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            The Sauk River runs through the city of Melrose, the home of Boy Scout Troop 68. This river nearly cuts the city in half. It is not very large. In fact, A teenager could through a football across most portions of the river. Below the dam in Melrose, in the city park, a person can walk across the river and not even get your chest wet.

            The Sauk is an “old” river, with a lot of twists and turns as it flows from Sauk Centre to the Mississippi River in St. Cloud. It is actually a nice river for canoeing. It is quite scenic, and at times you will not see any signs of civilization. But it also has its challanges. There are curves of strong currents, downed trees, and the occassional wire fence stretched acrossed its width.

            Yes, you read that correctly. The Sauk River meanders through a lot of farmland and pasture. There are parts of the river in which a farmer owns pasture land on both sides of the river so he stretches a single wire across the river to keep the cattle from “escaping” the pasture. There are many wire fences along the bank of the river. Many of them are electified with enough current to keep the cattle from walking through it.

            In 1994, the troop was canoeing down the river for a weekend outing. We had permission from one of the farmers to camp overnight in his pasture. Between the river and the pasture was an electric and barbwire fence. The Scouts were very careful as they moved the gear from the canoes to the campsite. No one wanted to receive an electric shock.

            After supper, some of the guys became bored. A couple of them walked up to the fence and decided to see how strong the current was by giving it a quick touch. More boys joined the crowd. They noticed that some guys received a larger shock then other guys due to the soles of the shoes.

            They began experimenting. Two guys grabbed hands. One would touch the fence to see if the second would receive a shock. A third joined the line. It did not take long before all the guys had formed one line to see who would get a jolt, and how far the current would travel. After a short period the boys grew tired of this and began looking for other things to do.

            The following morning was cool. A heavy dew covered the ground. An 18 year old alumni of the troop who had joined us for the weekend walked out of the tent in his barefeet. He walked across the dew covered campsite and, for some unknown reason, grabbed the electric fence. His yelp was loud enough to alert the whole camp that the current was still flowing through the wire.

            As we loaded the gear into the canoes the Scouts were very careful handing the packs and bundles over the fence. No one wanted to experience the same shock that the eighteen year old had received that morning.

            View some pictures of the trip at

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              The June outing for the Boy Scouts of Troop 68 was canceled due to a lack of transportation, so the Scouts came up with a Plan B. They would go on a one day bicycle ride on the Lake Wobegon Trail which happens to run through Melrose. The Scouts would bike to Albany, which is about 13 miles from Melrose, have a treat at the Dairy Queen, and then bike back. The trip went well, with almost no problems.

              So when the troop planned a ten mile bike trip to complete a part of a requirement for the Cycling merit badge to take place during a troop meeting, I did not expect any problems. You would think that after all these years of being a scoutmaster I would know better. You know, like “Be Prepared”.

              The problems began as the Scouts arrived for the meeting. Only half of them had brought a speed bike. Oh well, I thought, it is only five miles out and five miles back on an easy level trail, so I did not say much about it.

              We noticed that the chain on one of the “one speed” bikes was loose, and that the bike did not have any brakes on it. It was the only bicycle the Scout could bring to the meeting so we tried to make the best of it. We tried to move the tire back to tighten the chain, but only had partial success. Well, he would have to make the best of it.

              Before we left town we already had two incidents of the boys not following safe cycling rules. The first came at the first stop sign a block from where we started when a couple of the boys rode across the intersection without stopping. We stopped the troop and had a short talk about safety. Five minutes later some boys were talking to each other and not paying attention to the trail when they almost ran into a cyclist coming from the other direction. It was time for another talk. I told them that if there was one more offense we would turn around and everyone would be sent home.

              Things went fine until the chain began coming off the sprocket of that one bike. After it happened a second time I told the Scouts to only peddle forward, do not peddle in reverse. He followed those directions and did not have any more problems.

              Near the half way point of the trip the other adult, a mother, and I noticed that one boy seemed to be putting more effort in peddling his bike then he should be. We called for a stop and discovered that the rear brake was rubbing against his tire. An older Scout disconnected the brake line and we rode until…

              We discovered that same Scout actually had a loose rear tire that was now rubbing against the frame of the bike. And guess what? We did not have any tools along to fix the problem. We called back to town to our assistant scoutmaster who was waiting on stand by to come out with the tools needed to fix the problem. The mother exchanged bikes with the Scout and waited for the pickup to arrive as we headed on down the trail. We would hit the five mile mark, turn around, and come back. By then the bike should fixed.

              The rest of the trip was uneventful, but the boys and the adults were reminded of an important lesson. Even on a small trip we all need to Be Prepared!

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                The Boy Scouts of Troop 68 continued their theme of cooking during the June troop meetings. The first meeting we worked on breakfasts (see previous post). The second meeting’s topic was easy desserts.

                Cooking has never been a strong point with the Scouts of Troop 68 for some reason. At times, I get the feeling they would rather be doing anything then cooking or cleaning up. (I do not know if your troop is like ours, but some of the loudest patrol arguments happen when it is time for meal clean-up.) That is one reason we decided to work on our cooking skills this month.

                The seven Scouts who attended the month’s second meeting divided into three teams. Each team was in charge of making one dessert. Everyone would get a chance to try each dessert at the end of the meeting. The three desserts for the meeting were chosen to show the boys how quick and easy it was to prepare some desserts. The first was a cheesecake. The second was a chocolate pudding pie. The third was a cake with frosting.

                The cheesecake and pie were very easy to prepare. Both were made using a pre-made graham cracker pie crust. Once the ingredients were mixed they were spread evenly in the pie crusts and then placed into the refridgerator for thirty minutes. Of course, on a camping trip they would have been placed in a cooler. The cake took a little more work since a dutch oven was needed. I had started the coals about 15 minutes before the troop meeting began. By the time the cake mixture was poured into the pan the dutch oven was heated and ready to use.

                As the cake baked and the other desserts cooled the Scouts played a game of football. I took the time to mix the frosting for the cake and prepare the plates and silverware for the taste testing. By the time the boys finished their game the desserts were ready to be eaten. They began with the pie, then the cheesecake, and finally the frosted cake. There was not much left after the boys, two adult leaders, and two parents had eaten their fill.

                Then came the magical moment. A fourteen year old Scout who is known within the troop as being very “energetic” made the comment that, “I am full of sugar.” His stomach was full and he could not eat another bite. Luckily, we did not have sodas for the boys to wash it all down with. They were already on enough of a sugar high when they left the meeting.

                Hopefully, we will start seeing some desserts made with supper on upcoming camping trips.

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