Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category

Troops and Scouts are beginning to travel to Philmont Scout Ranch for two weeks of adventure and fun. The year was 1986 when I first participated in a Philmont trek with five youth from a troop. Here is an except of our first day on the trail from my journal of that trip:

Today we begin our ten day trek. We began the day by having our group picture taken. They take it at the beginning of the trek while we are still clean and handsome. We will probably not be very clean after the ten days in the back country. We boarded our bus, which was to take us to our drop off point, in the early afternoon. The route took us past the troop leader training center and the Kit Carson museum. It was a mile and one half trip from our drop off point to our first campsite.

Greg made sure that we knew how to use a map and compass before we started hiking toward the camp. Our first one and a half miles. In a way it was exiting. It was a short preview of the sixty six others to come.For many of the crew members it was the first time wearing a fully packed backpack for more then a few hundred yards. We made it to the camp without any problems.

We had just finished setting up camp when a pair of mule deer walked walked by the outskirts of our site. We became like statues instantly. The deer paid little attention to us. After a few minutes they wondered on, but in that brief moment they had given us our first taste of how well man could be a part of the wilderness also.

It was time for supper. Out came the food, pots, and stoves from the various packs. Along with the equipment came our first problem. We had bought two new backpacking stoves shortly before we had left on the trip. We had tries to light them only once before we left on the trip. It had seemed easy enough. But now that we were on the trail, and not one of us could remember the proper way to light the things. “Get the instructions,“ someone said. But we didn’t have the instruction along on the trip. I had left them on the kitchen table back home. Oh well, it was no big deal. We would figure it out. I tried lighting the first one, and almost got burned in the process. The stove had sprung a leak and the whole thing was aflame. The only thing I thought of, as I tried to blow it out, was that if I was not quick enough I could have the stove blow up in my face. It was not a pleasant way to start a ten day journey.

After the fire was extinguished, Scott began to work with the other stove and soon had it lit. At least we would have one stove that worked. This evening’s supper consisted of beef stroganouf, sour cream and vegetable soup, and peas. All dehydrated, of course. Greg, our ranger, came up with this great idea of putting all of it into one pot at the same time. It would save cooking time, he told us, and make a minimum of dishes.

Suddenly, I found myself beginning to dislike this ranger. Being an extremely picker eater myself, I was concerned about eating trail food as separate dishes. A suggestion to mix everything together in one pot caused me to have a slight amount of paranoia. Needless to say, I did not eat much supper that evening, although everyone else seemed to get their fill.

Just a little lesson there for all of you heading out on your trek – Be Prepared, and check your equipment thoroughly before you leave home. And don’t be a picky eater. You can read the rest of the journal, and see pictures from the trip, by checking out:

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    Boy Scout Troop 68’s theme for the month of June is Cooking. Each troop meeting will cover a different area of cooking and give the Scouts a chance to sharpen their cooking skills a little. During the first meeting we will do breakfasts, the next will be desserts, and the last will be suppers. Of course, everyone is looking forward to desserts.

    The troop usually meets at one of the city parks during the summer months, but this month we will meet in my backyard. The troop’s storage shed sits next to my garage so it is easier holding the meeting here instead of loading up all the gear needed and bringing it to the park. Much easier to put everything away also.

    It was thirty minutes before the first meeting of the month during which the Scouts would be making pancakes and omelettes. As I began to take the gear from the shed it began to lightly rain. “Oh well,” I though, “I guess I will have to set up the stoves in the garage.”

    The light rain continued throughout the meeting but the Boy Scouts did not seem to mind. After opening the meeting with the Pledge of Alligience and the Scout Oath, and a brief intro about cooking today’s items, they began having fun cooking an evening breakfast, and then eating their creations. They could have cared less that they were in a garage.

    They tried various ingredients in their omelettes. They tried making pancake batter at different consistencies. They discovered thick pancake batter is as challenging to fry as batter that is too thin.

    As the last scrambled pancake was scraped out of the frying pan, the dishes and stoves were cleaned and stored away in the shed, and the floor was swept. Then it was into the basement of the house for game time which included card games, darts, and ping pong.

    As the meeting came to a close we discussed the June calendar, this month’s camping trip to Duluth, and the upcoming court of honor. The Scouts ended the meeting with the America Yell, and then the parents arrived to take them home.

    It was great watching the boys as they had fun cooking breakfast at 7:00 in the evening. They had a good time trying new foods and working on their skills. I hope on the next camping trip they put those skills to use.

    Next week is desserts. I have a feeling the meeting will be even more fun as the boys try making a cake in a dutch oven, and a pie, and a cheese cake. My mouth is already starting to water.

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      I once wrote that as an adult Scouter we need to watch the language we use, and be sure to not use bad language in front of the boys. After all, if we use foul language then what right do we have to tell the boys not to use it?

      We also need to be aware of the words we use in regular speech. Be aware of what you are actually saying, and how you say it. Younger Scouts may believe virtually anything you say and could take it very literally. I am sometimes amazed that things I say “off the cuff” are the things that the Scouts remember.

      Beware of how you pronounce your words, or you may find your Scouts picking up your bad speech habits, or worse yet, start teasing you about them. Here are a couple examples that happened to me.

      I was invited for supper by a family that had two boys in the troop. As we sat around the table for the meal, I noticed the younger of the two Scouts begin to use the word “basically” a lot. In fact, he was drawing attention to the word as he used it. And he was using it a lot. It suddenly dawned on me that I had been using the word quite a bit when I talk to the Scouts. This Scout was poking fun at me! We all had a good laugh about it, but needless to say, I basically stopped using the word for awhile.

      The Cougar Patrol made a career of picking up my little language quirks. I never realized that I answered the phone by saying “yellow” instead of “hello” until they started using it on me.

      The troop, lead by the Cougars, once worked one of my ways of speaking into a skit during our annual Laughs For Lunch Show. It seems that I would say “not chet” instead of “not yet”. All the boys involved with the “Is It Time Yet?” skit said chet instead of yet during the skit. They thought the inside joke was hilarious. I think the audience thought they had a speech impediment.

      The best example of young Scouts believing everything a scoutmaster says happened to me during a troop committee meeting. During a discussion, one of the mothers stated that her son said something like, “Well the scoutmaster said it, so it must be true.” Another mother chimed in that her son was the same way. “The scoutmaster said it so that must be the way it is.” It was at that moment I realized the power that language has over the younger Scouts, and the power that a scoutmaster has in general.

      Peter Parker’s uncle said in the first of the Spiderman movies, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Well, I do not know if being a scoutmaster counts as one having great power, but I do know the position comes with great responsibility. We need to think before we speak, and talk good, or basically we can expect to have the Scouts talking just like us. Whether we like it or not.

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        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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