Archive for the ‘safety’ Category

Today’s adult Boy Scout leaders are well aware of the BSA’s “two deep leadership” rule. It states that a troop function must have at least two responsible adults in attendance. At least one of these adults must have attended “Youth Protection Training”. One part of Youth Protection states that an adult must not share a tent with a Scout unless that Scout is his own son.

Overall, the Youth Protection guidelines are excellent rules to follow, and unfortunately are needed in today’s (can you say “twisted”?) society. It was not always this way. In fact, two deep leadership did not become the rule until the late 1980’s.

I remember the first several years I was the scoutmaster back in the early and mid eighties. There were several occasions when I was the only adult leader on a troop activity. In fact, in 1986, I was the only adult adviser of our troop’s Philmont crew. I shared a tent with one of the Scouts, as did many adult leaders. Adults and Scouts used the same shower facilities. At the same time. And you know what? No one thought it was wrong! It was normal.

Then the winds of change began to blow. As my troop began to make plans to attend Philmont in 1989, we discovered some of the rules had changed. Two adults would needed with each and every crew. My first reaction to the new policy was “They have got to be out of their mind! Where are we going to find a second adult to attend when we have enough trouble finding adults for our troop’s weekend outings?” Then I thought, “Am I not good enough to take the Scouts on outings on my own? Have I not proved myself capable? Am I not trustworthy?”

Yeah, I know, it was stupid to think that and take it personal. Once I sat down and actually thought about this new two deep leadership policy I began to realize this was a smart move by the BSA. I began to think, “What would happen if I was the only adult and something happened to me. What would happen to the boys?” And then I thought about the lawsuits involving a couple scoutmasters who were not trustworthy and had taken advantage of boys in their troop. Yes, I began to agree more and more with the wisdom of two deep leadership.

It is nearly twenty years since that first trip to Philmont. Troop 68 follows the two deep leadership rule for its outings. And yes, there have been times were we have had to cancel an outing or activity because we did not have two adults who could attend. The rules can sometimes be a pain in the neck, but I have come to appreciate them. These policies were created not only to protect the boys, but also the adult leaders. I think they have worked out well.

There are times when I look back to those early days and think that it is a shame that society has changed so much that we have had to add these policies. I hate to say it (because it makes me sound old) but I almost long for the “good old days”. Those days seemed to be so much more innocent and carefree then they are now, or is that only the way an “old” scoutmaster remembers them?

How many of your troop members know the Outdoor Code? How many of you adult troop leaders know it by memory? I think the Outdoor Code is an important part of Scouting that sometimes get overlooked.

As an American, I will do my best to be clean in my outdoor manners, to be careful with fire, to be considerate in the outdoors, and to be conservation minded.

The four c’s of the Outdoor code are great guides for camping anywhere, whether you are in a campground or
a back country wilderness area. Scouting is about keeping our country and campgrounds clean from trash and graffiti. Campfire safety is a priority. Scouts should be considerate of not only other campers but also the wildlife that call the woodlands their home. Scouts and leaders should always be thinking of conserving our natural resources and wilderness areas for future generations.

The Boy Scouts of Troop 68 are very familiar with the Outdoor Code. They sometimes recite it as part of the opening at troop meetings. It is part of their Totin Chip and Fireman Chit training.

In the First Class Rank ceremony found in Woods Wisdom, the First Class Scout is called a Scout Camper. A good Scout Camper should follow the guidelines of the Outdoor Code, so when a Scout comes to me for his First Class scoutmaster conference we will take a few minutes to discuss the code and what it means. Is it a requirement of attaining First Class? No. But I believe it is important enough that a Boy Scout should be familiar with it.

As adult leaders in Scouting we also need to follow the Outdoor Code. If we throw trash on the ground, or do things that are not safe around a campfire, or show disrespect for the outdoors, then we are telling the Scouts that the Outdoor Code is meaningless. Actions DO speak louder then words.

So, going back to the first paragraph of this post… Do you know the Outdoor Code? And more importantly, do you practice its principles?

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?

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.