Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category


racoonIt had been a good day at Many Point Scout Camp, but it was time for a good night’s sleep. My last check of the campsite was complete. The Scouts were all in their tents, crawled into their sleeping bags, laying on their cots. I walked into my canvas A-framed tent and began changing my clothes. I noticed a small field mouse exploring the far corner of the floorless tent, looking for something to eat. “You are looking in the wrong tent,” I thought to myself as I pulled off my socks.

I had just crawled into my sleeping bag when the yelling began in the tent that was next to mine. It was the tent that housed the senior patrol leader (SPL) and his assistant. “There is something in our tent,” the SPL shouted. “Steve, there is something in our tent!”

My first thought was of the little field mouse I had just seen in my tent, so I called back to him, “It’s probably just a field mouse. Don’t worry about it.”

“It’s not a field mouse,” he yelled back. “There is something in our tent.” Then, his voice became louder and higher pitched as he screamed, “My backpack just disappeared!” Okay, so it is not a field mouse, I thought to myself as I crawled out of my sleeping bag, grabbed a flashlight, and put on my shoes. I poked my head out of the tent, shined the flashlight around, and almost immediately spotted a couple beady pair of raccoon eyes reflecting back to me. I was startled to see how big they were. Obviously, they had been eating well this summer. I also saw two young raccoons on the edge of the woods. Isn’t that nice, I thought. The whole family is here.

The raccoons were checking out the SPL’s backpack for any tasty snacks. After scaring them off and returning the pack, the SPL admitted to having food hidden in his pack. He removed the food and returned the pack to his tent. Unfortunately, the damage had been done. The raccoon family now knew of a tent that may have food in it. That family of critters returned every night about 10:30 for the next three nights, hoping to find something to nibble on.

It turned out to be a good lesson for the troop, although it was a hard lesson for the senior patrol leader. It has turned into a good story for around the campfire. To me, it will always be known as “The Night The Backpack Disappeared!”

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    The Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 recently took a tour of Dick Young’s Memoryville which is located west of Melrose. Mr. Young was the Scout’s guide as they went through several of the historical buildings on the site, including a railroad depot, a country school house, a one truck fire station, and the Spur gas station that once was found on Main Street in Melrose. The Scouts, leaders, and parents were amazed as they walked through the buildings, each a museum in itself. The train depot was full of train memorabilia from the last hundred years. The school house was complete with old desks, maps, and books from over fifty years ago. The visit served as a great field trip for the troop as they discovered a few new things about the history of central Minnesota during their Local History month.

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      I would be willing to bet my ThermaRest sleeping pad that every troop has at least one critter story to tell. Maybe it was the chipmunk that sat by your feet waiting for you to throw him a crumb or two. Or the skunk who wondered through your campsite just as the boys returned to camp after an evening’s campfire program. Or the eight point buck that walked into the nearby clearing as your troop sat down to supper.

      Boy Scout Troop 68 has several stories of their own from the last twenty-seven years. Here is one about the Boy Scouts learning a lesson a little too late.

      The troop was spending the weekend at Camp Stearns which is located about an hour from Melrose. The Scouts and adults had had a great time during the day as we played disc golf and other activities. We even collected several dozen wood ticks as we went on a nature hike. Everyone was good and tired when it came time to turn in for the night.The boy’s whispers did not last long. It was soon as quiet as a cemetery in the campsite.

      Quiet, that is, until about one or two o’clock in the morning when our campsite was invaded. I was one of two adults along on the outing. The other adult was a mother of one of the boys who was sleeping in a tent next to mine. We both woke up to sounds coming from the picnic table where our food box (tote) was placed. I was not too worried, but the mother was somewhat concerned. She was the first person to look outside her tent and discover the raccoons that were rummaging through our food box. It did not take long for her to inform me that we had a problem.

      I got dressed, grabbed my flashlight, and crawled out of my tent. As I stood up I discovered two raccoons in our campsite, one raiding our kitchen and the other walking patrol around it. The boys had forgot to place the cover on the food box, and I did not catch it before I went to bed. Oh well. I guess we will have a little less food to eat this weekend.

      I was about to scare off the raccoons when movement on the edge of the campsite caught my eye. It was a smaller animal, black in color, with a white stripe down it’s back. Off to the side I noticed the first skunk had brought a buddy of his to this party.

      Okay, I thought to myself, I am outnumbered. Two raccoons and two skunks. I crawled back into my tent and prepared to go back to sleep. When the mother asked if I had scared off the critters I replied no, but that she was welcome to try. I did not want to take the chance of getting sprayed by one or two skunks.

      The next morning we discovered our guests had eaten pretty well. The Boy Scouts took notice of this. It appeared that the lesson given by our little furry friends was a better lesson then the one the scoutmaster ever gave. And it continues to be a great story/lesson to give to the current Scouts of the troop.

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        If you have been a Boy Scout leader for any length of time then you have probably given your troop a “lesson in stupidity” at least once, whether you wanted to or not. It is inevitable.

        In the previous blog I wrote about one of the lessons in stupidity I gave to the troop about ten years ago. Recently, during a cooking demonstration at a troop meeting, I gave the boys another unplanned lesson.

        The demonstration involved making an apple cobbler using a dutch oven. After lining the oven with tin foil and adding the ingredients, we placed the oven in the campfire ring. One Scout began using a shovel to place coals on top of the oven, but just placing one or two coals at a time. This one-sy two-sy thing was too slow for me. (Impatience is the number one cause of lessons in stupidity.)

        The shovel being used was the type that had a ring that could be loosened to change the angle of the shovel blade to the handle. I decided it would be quicker to have the blade at a ninety degree angle to the handle for moving the coals so I asked the Scout if I could have the shovel for a moment. I unscrewed the ring, and even though I had just watched him moving hot coals with the shovel, I grabbed the blade to change it’s angle, and immediately let go of it as I discovered how hot it had become.

        D’oh! Ouch!

        I could have slapped my forehead for being so stupid, but I was already in enough pain. I ended up with a nice big blister on my index finger of the right hand, and a small blister on another finger. Needless to say, I was extra careful during the rest of the meeting. So were the Scouts.

        I sometimes think that we Scout Leaders need to give these “lessons in stupidity” to remind ourselves that we are not the almighty know-it-all leader of the troop. These lessons humble us. After all, we are mere humans. We feel pain. And we do stupid things once in a while.

        Have you given any “lessons in stupidity” lately?

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          Anyone who has been a Scout Leader for awhile will have a few stories about Scouts acting without thinking about the consequences. I like to use some of these incidents as lessons for Scouts in later years, sometimes changing the names a bit to protect the innocent.

          Of course, we as scoutmasters, and other Scout leaders, can be just as careless at times. We will get impatient and do some really stupid things in front of the boys of the troop. I am no different. I have done a few stupid things myself. I like to take the stories of these incidents and turn them into “lessons in stupidity”.

          One of these lessons happened nearly ten years ago when the troop was camping near Duluth, Minnesota. It had been a busy Saturday so everyone was looking forward to relaxing around the campfire in the evening, both Scouts and parents. Unfortunately, the wood was a bit damp and did not want to keep burning. (Do you see where this is going?)

          I did not see any flames in the fire ring, although there was a little smoke rising from the wood. I grabbed the can of white gas that we used in the stoves, told the Boy Scouts to never, ever do what I was about to do, and poured a little gas on the fire. After all, there was no flames, you know.

          Well, there must have been a few hot coals buried in the wood pile because as soon as the white gas hit the wood I found myself engulfed in a fireball of flame to the astonishment of the Scouts and the concern of the parents. Luckily for me, it was a short lived blast, not quite hot enough to start my clothing on fire or burn my skin. It did singe my eyebrows though. I looked at all the blank stares from the boys sitting around the fire and replied, “That is why you never put gas on a fire!”

          I was very lucky to escape injury from that lesson in stupidity. It has become a story I tell the new boys whenever we discuss fire safety. Troop alumni still like to tease me about that incident.

          Last night during our troop meeting I gave the boys a new lesson in stupidity, but that story will have to wait until a future blog entry.

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            Several years ago our troop held a weekend camping trip at a public park at Lake Koronis in Minnesota. Activities included swimming, volleyball, football, and a massive water balloon fight. A few fathers attended this activity to provide leadership and transportation. This camp location was so popular that Scouts of all ages were in attendance. We had an excellent turnout.

            The outing was a blast! Everyone, Scouts and adults, had a great time. As we sat around the campfire Saturday evening I asked the campers what they liked best about the outing. One of the older Scouts gave me an answer that caught me by surprise, and it is something I have never forgotten. His highlight was when the fathers played football with them (the Scouts). I saw a few other boys nodding their heads in agreement.

            That simple statement hit a nerve with me. It suddenly occurred to me how seldom today’s teens get to play with their fathers. Teenage boys love to play. It is a part of their nature, part of how they identify themselves, part of how they learn to cooperate with others.

            Unfortunately, in today’s world, fathers do not seem to have enough time to play with their sons. They work long hours, have more work to do when they get home, and often are too tired in the evening to do much more then sit in front of the television with the kids. Oh, and mom would like a little of his time also. Of course, this assumes that there is a father living at home.

            Today’s teenage boys are not much better. They spend half of their day in school. Many are involved in school sports or some other extracurricular activity. Some have part time jobs. They need to spend time with their buddies, and maybe even with a girlfriend. Then add video games and the internet into the mixture.

            Each generation has their excuses for not spending time with other, which made the impact of the Scout’s statement that weekend all that much stronger to me.

            Hey Dad! You need to get out and play with your son! He will only be a teenager for several years, years which pass by very quickly. He will soon be leaving to go to college, make a life for himself, and probably start his own family. If you think it is hard to find time to play with him now then just think about how hard it will be once he moves out.

            Hey Son! Put down that video game controller, grab a football or basketball, and take your father outside to play. Sure, it may seem like dad has forgotton how much fun it was to have fun and play, and you may need to help him relearn how to be a kid again. He has a lot on his mind but he needs to let it go once in awhile and have fun sometimes too.

            This is one reason why I think Scouting is such a great program. Fathers and sons can spend time with each other outdoors and play together. Scouts, you may need to ask you father to join you on an outing or two. Dads, you need to get out of that lawn chair and run around a little. I think I can safely say that it would be a win/win situation for both generations.

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              Many Point Scout Camp 2003I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of heavy rain falling on the canvas tent. “Boy, it is raining pretty hard,” I thought as I rolled over on my cot and fell back to sleep.

              I was with the Boy Scouts of Troop 68 for a week at Many Point Scout Camp. We were staying in the Tyler Campsite in Buckskin Camp. Tyler is located at the north end of the road that runs through Buckskin. It is the campsite that is furthest away from the dining hall and beach. Due to it’s location, it is also the most quiet campsite in Buckskin, which is one of the reasons we like it. The campsite is located on a hillside so it has wooden platforms for the tents.

              When we woke up that morning we noticed everything around camp was soaked. A couple of the Scouts complained that they had some wet gear, but nothing too serious. We also noticed that there was water in the deep ditch along the campsite. Due to the sandy soil we had very seldom seen standing water in the ditch. We thought it must have rained a couple of inches during the night.

              Little did we realize how wrong we were.

              As we walked through Buckskin on our way to the dining hall for breakfast we began to realize how much it had actually rained overnight. The lower-lying campsites had been flooded. Dozens of campers has drenched gear and soaked sleeping bags.

              The worst damage had been done to Ten Chiefs Camp, located south of Buckskin. The road through Ten Chiefs crossed streams on each end of the camp. Both of these creeks had overflowed their banks during the night and had washed out the road on both ends of camp. Ten Chiefs had, temporarily, become an island. Food had to be brought to the campers by boat on that day.

              The camp had received seven inches of rain during the storm. The water level of the lake had risen two inches.

              The Boy Scouts and adults of Troop 68 that were staying in Tyler were very grateful that we had slept on a sandy and hilly campsite that night.

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