Scouts

The more things change.. the more they stay the same

DanielBooneThose of you that have followed the blog for a while know that I am a fan and collector of Scouting literature.  I don’t just collect the books, magazines, and other literature, I love to get into them and see how Scouting was, how Green Bar Bill wrote and what the program looked like over the decades.
A common phrase I hear often from “older” Scouters is how things were “Back when I was a Scout”.  It seems that things were so much better back when we were Scouts.  But then I got to digging in to the literature and what I have found is that the more things change.. the more they really do stay the same.
Yes, before I get hate mail… Scouting has changed a lot over time, but really, it has stayed the same.
In the 1959 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook the Boy Scouts of America talks about YOU, the American Boy.
Before I get into this, I was listening to a podcast the other day.  The host of the podcast was talking about kids today and some of the things that they have lost over time.  Some of the heritage of America has not been adequately passed down to our kids.  I remember when I was a kid that we played like we were on the wild frontier of America.  I was Daniel Boone and some of my friends would play the roles of Davy Crockett and Kit Carson, and Wild Bill Hickok.  We would fight the battle of the Alamo, build rafts and float down the “Missouri”.  We built forts and tried to live the legends of American History.  I once met Daniel Boone at Frontier land in Disneyland.  It was a great day, you would have thought Daniel Boone came back just for me to meet him.
I think everyone I knew could sing every word of Davy Crockett.  You remember.. he was the “King of the wild Frontier”.
I think watching the tv shows, seeing our hero’s at Disneyland, and learning about them in Scouting, School, and out in the woods shaped how we played the game with a purpose then.
Who are the hero’s today?  Who are those Davy Crockett’s that the kids today run through the woods acting like?
The 1959 handbook talks about the American boy…
“Have you ever dreamed of hiking the wilderness trails that were worn down under moccasins hundreds of years ago?  Do you hear in your imagination the almost soundless dip-dip of Indian canoe paddles or the ring of the axe of an early pioneer hewing a home out of the American wilderness?  Have you followed with your mind’s eye the covered wagons on the trek across our continent?  Have you thought of the men and women who built our country by their determination and devotion?  You are the descendant of those people.  You are the guardian of what they built.  You are the American on whom the future of our wonderful country depends.”
Great writing.  It inspired Scouts for years to learn about our heritage and not feel ashamed of being an American boy.  It valued the spirit of the pioneer, the frontiersman, the explorer an encouraged the Scout to seek that adventure and become a part of the American Narrative.
We have lost that kind of writing in our current handbooks.  Now the handbook gets the Scout to the next rank.  But the more they change, the more they are the same. Where we have lost it is in us.  We have stopped teaching them.  We have stopped allowing them to be American boys.
“Today you are an American boy.  Before long you will be an American man.”  The ’59 handbook continues.  “It is important to America that you become a citizen of fine character, physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”  We all agree that there is no change there.  The handbook, as in today’s handbook sets the course for the Scout to begin a life of values and adventure.  “Yes, it’s fun to be a Boy Scout!  It’s fun to go hiking and camping with your best friends… to swim, to dive, to paddle a canoe, to wield and axe…  to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who led the way through the wilderness…to stare into the glowing embers of a campfire and dream of the wonders of the life that is in store for you.”  Do we make that promise to our boys today?  Why not?  Nothing has changed there.  The world is not that much different.
I always tell our new Scouts as we sit around the campfire to watch the older boys as they join us in the circle.  There is a magic in the campfire.  It is a magic that no matter who you are or what your job is in the troop, it plays true every time.  That magic is in the embers.  It forces one to stare and quietly be a part of it.  And sure enough, someone will join us in the circle and their eyes will immediately move to glow of the fire.  Where once a loud noise came is now silent and engaged in the magic of Scouting.  It is for us to not allow things to change.  Scouting is rich in tradition, values, adventure, and spirit.  The more things change, the more that will always stay the same.  If we want it to.
I think that we need to go back and take a look at old handbooks.  Look at the writing of William Hillcourt and how he could draw the imagination of the boys of America.  Look how he engaged them to being a part of the rich heritage and adventurous spirit of Americans before them.
We have lost that spirit and way that pull the boys of America into this great adventure.  It will be gone if we don’t share it.  If we don’t allow them to be American boys.
Building rafts like Huck Finn and standing atop the Alamo defending an ideal.  Hanging out in a tree house and hiking off into the wilderness in search of new land.  We hold them back in the name of protection, we kill their spirit of adventure and call it safety.  I cringe at the thought of not passing on our American spirit to this generation of boys.
They want it.. they just don’t know what it is.
The more things change.. the more the American boy is the same.. Let him be one!
“When you are a Scout, forest and field, rivers and lakes,  are your playground. You are completely at home in God’s great outdoors.  You learn to notice every sound,  to observe every track.  Birds and animals become your friends.  You master the skills of walking noiselessly through the woods, of stalking close to a grazing deer without being noticed, of bringing a bird to you by intimating it’s call.  You learn to find your way cross country by map and compass, to make a meal when you are hungry, to take a safe swim when you are hot, to make yourself comfortable for the night in a tent or under the stars.  You become a true outdoorsman.”  Boy just like when I was a kid acting like Daniel Boone.. the king of the wild frontier.   This was Scouting when I was a boy… and it is Scouting now.  We just need to remember that things really have not changed that much.. it is us that changed.  The wilderness still calls, adventure still yells for our boys to come.  Are you going to let them?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Cooking, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Methods, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, stories, Values | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Just do something…

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It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster.  As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop.  We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered.  Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different.  James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders.  I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything.  We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t.  It comes down to decision-making and common sense.  We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.

When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from.  The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing.  What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired.  In short, they do not have a good time.  We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting.  There are a few arguments for and against.  I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun.  I have also been told to stay the course.  Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers.  Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure.  They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop.  As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will.  We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful.  But we require that they make a choice.  They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn.  That is up to them.  Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class.  I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man.  the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man.  Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class.  But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves.  Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it?  Why have they not made the choice?  Is it a lack of training?  Is it a lack of want to?  Is it something that we have done or failed to do?  We could not put our finger on it.  Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago?  We don’t really know.  They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices.  So what is it?  We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop?  Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out.  Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills.  The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping.  I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out.  I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too.  It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what?  I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk.  I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us.  For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there.  These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter.  I am ok with all of it.
What do you think?  I think that things will be just fine.  I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future.  I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves.  I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble.  Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice.  That’s what I think.  I am curious to see what your thoughts are.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, fitness, gear, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Scouting for all?

Merit Badges or Fun?Allow me to play devils advocate here for a minute.  There has been quite a bit of discussion lately via email and in Scouting circles in which I find myself regarding Scouts in our programs.  One argument is that Scouting is for every young man, the converse is that Scouting is not for everyone.
Boys enter our program with certain expectations and needs.  Those Scouts have parents that also have certain expectations and wants.  What I have seen and heard lately is that some parents and Scouts are not getting what they thought they would out of Scouting.  I have been in discussions in which parents believe that their son is not having fun in the program.  The question that I ask is simply, is Scouting really for everyone?
I submit for the sake of discussion that maybe Scouting is not for every boy.  It may be that what Scouting offers is not what they want or need.  It may be that the boy is not ready for the adventures that Scouting offer and well-intentioned parents do not really understand what Scouting is all about.  It is also true that many Scout leaders do not know what Scouting is all about and therefore have promoted a program that misses the mark when it comes to achieving Scouting’s aims.  This has led to young boys joining troops that quickly disappoint or fail to deliver on the expectations they and their parents had on the join night.
Scouting at its core is about adventure and when a boy joins a unit that is full of adventure he may not be ready or willing to participate.  Now, some would argue that participation is really not something that is of real importance in Scouting, but it is through participating fully in the program that the Scout gets the most out of Scouting.  I had a mother say to me the other night that her son does not attend winter camp outs because he did not have a good experience during last years winter camping season.  Why?  Well, maybe he does not like camping in the winter.. I am ok with that.  But does that paint the whole program as a negative thing?  No, but maybe the Scout is not ready or willing.  Once a boy starts down the road of picking and choosing those activities that he does not wish to participate in he will find it easier to reduce the level of activity he does.  This is not true in all cases, remember that I am not suggesting anything here other that this is a question that we should ask.  Maybe Scouting is not for everyone.  Here is what I am saying…
Scouting is not for everyone.  Scouting should not change to meet the Scouts needs.  Scouting needs to stay the course on being an organization that has values, ideals, and adventure.  Scouting should not “dumb down” to allow for boys to have a club to join.  There are plenty of clubs out there that he can find a place in.  Now, before you all jump on me let me say this here and make it very clear that I am not talking at all about Scouts or I should say boys with disabilities.  This discussion has nothing… I repeat nothing to do with disabilities.  That is another discussion and I think that needs to be addressed another time.  I will say that there are ample opportunities for boys with disabilities to participate in Scouting and I encourage every young man who shows interest to try Scouting no matter the “ability”.  I will also say that no.. I do not consider ADD, ADHD, Autism, and a lack of focus a disability.  Not when it comes to Scouting and the Scouting program.  We prove over and over again that Scouts that have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD and Autism can participate in Scouting and high adventure activities.  My Troop is proof of this.  Moving on…
Scouting should not promote that everyone will be an Eagle Scout just because he joins and has a pulse.  Scouting should continue to push the Scout to discover his world and find his limits.. then push them outside of his comfort zone.  If Scouting decides to become the YMCA or Boys Club it will no longer deliver the promise.  It will just become another after school club and that is not Scouting.  That is not what Baden Powell, William Hillcourt, James E West, and the rest of the men that founded and established the direction for Scouting had in mind.  We can met Scouts where they are, but we can never get away from the intent of the Scouting movement.  We can not stray from the methods that lead us to achieving the aims and we can never allow Scouting to just be another club.
Not everyone wants what Scouting offers.  Numbers, while they drive much of what the professional Scouters track are not the program.  A great program that stays the course will bring in the numbers of boys that seek adventure, values, and ideals that are the hallmark of the Scouting program.  Numbers for the sake of numbers will be just that and we see this play out each year with amount of boys that leave our units.  They don’t want to play the game with a purpose and we should not make them.  A football player is not allowed to join a team and then make up the rules of the game or change the team uniform.  He joins and plays the game that has been established.  Not everyone can or wants to play football, not everyone can or wants to be a Scout.  I recently sat with a group of Scouts and asks a few simple questions.  The first I asked was if they thought Scouting was nerdy.  They all said that they did not think so, but their friends at School did.  I asked what they thought the ‘nerdy’ part of Scouting was.. aside from wearing the uniform.  I figured I would take away the obvious answer.  They all said that their friends really didn’t know what we do.  I asked them if they ever tell them what we do.  They all pretty much said, no.  They did not want to bring it up so they could talk about something else.  Then I asked why not?  Why not tell their friends that we rock climb at Smith Rock, that we snowshoe and build snow caves.  That we have hiked the Oregon Coast trail, shoot shotguns and paddle the Deschutes river.  That we backpack miles of the PCT and go caving in some cool volcanic caves.  That we spent a week hiking in the Canyon country of New Mexico and that we have gone across the country to tour our Nations Capital and camp with 70,000 other Scouts.  I asked why all of that sounds ‘nerdy’.  They couldn’t tell me.  But these are the guys that want to do all of that.  These are Scouts and they want to be Scouts.  Their friends could not nor would they be willing to do all of that, even given the chance.  One of the Scouts spoke up and said that his friends thought Scouting was all about doing good deeds and being in Flag ceremonies.  His friend said he didn’t want to be in a club that did crafts and sang songs.  So I asked this young man what he told his friend.  He had a great answer, he told me that he said to his friend that “yeah, we sing songs, but it’s out in the middle of the woods at our campfire at the end of a day that was full of fun”.  But then again, that’s a kid that wants what Scouting has to offer.
Ok so what’s the point here.  The point is simply this.  We beat ourselves up to make sure that every boy joins Scouting.  Why?  If they join great, but if they quit, did we fail?  Did Scouting fail?  No.. they just did not fit in our program.  I have seen many Scouts come and go from our Troop and I can honestly say that the ones that left did not want to be there.  It was nothing we did to chase them away, they just did not want to be in Scouts.
I have said it many times, I would rather have a Troop of 10 motivated boys that want to be there than have a Troop with 50 that don’t.
Am I not supporting Scouting by saying this?   Nope I am delivering the promise of Scouting to those that want it.
Once again, I am a fan of the writing of William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt.  I have a copy of something he wrote way back when regarding the 10 Essentials of Scoutmastership.  It goes like this.

A belief in boys that will make you want to invest yourself and your time on their behalf.
A zeal focused upon one point-the boy’s happiness through his formative years- “A happy boy is a good boy, a good boy is a good citizen.
An immense faith in Scouting as the program that will best serve to mould our youth into fine men.
A realization that to the boys Scouting is a game – to you, a game with a purpose:  Character, building citizenship training and physical fitness.
A knowledge that to your boys you are Scouting.  “What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say”.
A steadfastness of purpose to carry out a planned program with energy and perseverance, patience and good humor.
A willingness to submerge yourself and make boy leaders lead and grow through and effective application of the Patrol Method.
A desire to advance in Scoutmastership by making use of training offered and material available on the subject.
A readiness to work hand in hand with home, church, sponsored institution, school, Local Council, National Council for the good of the individual boy and the community as a whole.
A love of the outdoors in all its phases and a vision of the hand that created it.

With an effective program that offers the “want to” so a boy joins, stays, and grows in Scouting we can see that Scouting is a great program.  But that is not for everyone.  If you as a Scouter can honestly read the 10 essentials of Scoutmastership and apply it to your unit you will create that environment.  If you do not feel that you can do that, well then you prove the argument, that nope, Scouting is not for everyone, to include adults.
Before I get lots of hate mail… I am playing devils advocate here, but the point for me is taken well.  I do not think that everyone needs to be in Scouting.  I think those boys that want to be in should and once in we will do everything in our power to deliver to them the very best program.
Now, I do want to hear what you think.  Please leave your comments, I would not ask if I didn’t want to know.
Thank you all for all you do in Scouting!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

Are we still Delivering?

all togetherThere has been much said, yeah.. even here on this blog, about how Scouting has changed to meet the needs of the lowest common denominator.  A greater emphasis on merit badge work shops and staying within an arms reach of a cell phone.  Sometimes I wonder if we in Scouting are still delivering the promise.. you know the promise of Scouting.
I find it interesting that when we look back in the not to distant past that Scouting was much different.  Even as far back as when I was a Scout there were not the concerns of life as we know it in today’s Scouting world.
Now I am a believer that we do need to bring Scouting to where the boys are.. but sometimes we should take the boys back to where we came from.
Baden Powell once said “By the term Scouting…is meant the work and attributes of backwoodsmen, explorers, hunters, seamen, airmen, pioneers, and frontiersmen.”
The 1947 Handbook for Scoutmasters goes on to add, “The word ‘Scout’ opens up to the boy the picture of open spaces, woods, rivers, and lakes, mountains which are to be his playground and where he will have his fun.”  It goes on to say, “It is this promise of adventure, of camping and life in the outdoors that lures the boy into Scouting.  We MUST keep faith with him by giving him that adventure – not just to satisfy him, but because it is the best way we have of holding him.”
There is more written in the Handbook for Scoutmasters that reinforces this idea of adventure and the promise of Scouting, I wonder when we stopped talking about that.  There is no mention of it in the current Scoutmaster Handbook.
We have allowed lawyers to dictate that adventure.  We have allowed video games and laziness to dictate our levels of activity and we worry about Scouts leaving the program because we need the numbers.
I believe that every boy should be in Scouting… but not for merit badges or bobbles and beads.  I think they should be seeking adventure!  Like we did when I was a boy.  Adventure!  Parents need to allow this to happen.. that’s where it starts.
You know, there were just as many creeps in the world in the 70’s and 80’s as there are today.  The world really is not more creepy.. the difference… we have 24 hour news now and this wonderful thing called the internet.
We rode our bikes to and from Scout troop meetings.  Heck, we rode our bikes everywhere.  We were told not to talk to strangers and never to take candy from them.. and you know, we came out alright.  Every day in the summer we left in the morning and came home in time for dinner.  Looking for adventure.
In Scouts we found adventure.  We camped with our Patrols, we did not need… nor did we want, all the adults hanging around.  The fewer of them the better.   Our parents were concerned about us, but knew that we would be ok.  We trusted our Scoutmaster and the skills we were taught and we looked for adventure at every turn.
Not every Patrol got a ribbon at Camporee.. but then again, they were not all about competing either.. they were about skills and discovering new things.
Our PLC had a blank check to plan the next big adventure.  I remember when I was a Tenderfoot Scout we had the biggest adventure ever.  Our Troop was dropped off in Belgium to take a ferry across the English channel.  Once we arrived in England we took a bus to the Baden Powell house and stayed there for a few days.  We explored the local area and got to camp at Gilwell Park.  2 weeks from when we left home, we boarded the ferry and back we went.  We only had 2 adults with us the whole trip and it was an adventure of a life time.
The old Handbook for Scoutmasters suggests that we can retain Scouts because “it [adventure] is the best way we have of holding him.”  The best way!  I firmly believe that if we just allowed it, we can get back there.  I don’t think that boys have changed much… it is the parents that did the changing.   You know.. I can’t remember one kid when I was growing up that had peanut allergies.. now you can’t even say the word peanut without some Mom yelling that her son is allergic.  I think it’s time we give our boys their adventure back.  I think it’s time that we go back to actually delivering the promise and not just Eagle Awards.  I think it is time that all of us Scouters ask the simple question.. are we still delivering the promise?
Just my buck and half.. curious to hear you thoughts.  Weigh in.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, planning, Risk Management, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, stories, Values | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

LNT for Everyone

I was up at my local Ranger station up in Sandy to buy new maps of the Mt. Hood area.  While I was up there I got into a great discussion with one of the Rangers about Scouts, nope it JeffPionnerdidn’t have anything to do with policy changes it was about Leave No Trace.
The Ranger asked how much camping our Troop does up on Mt. Hood and in the wilderness areas up there.  I shared with him some of the great treks we have taken and all of the places that we frequent up on the mountain and the surrounding wilderness.  He told me that was great, but he was concerned.
I asked him what his concerns were and he quickly stated that “Typically he has trouble with Scout Troops camping up on Hood”.  I asked him how so.  The Ranger went on to explain the noise, the trash left, and the fact that they don’t practice leave no trace.  I told him that I was sorry to hear that and assured him that our Troop was not like that at all.  He went on to explain that it was not backpackers he was concerned about.. it was the car campers.  Troops that go up to the big camp grounds and pull in and camp.  “They are terrible in most cases” he said.
Now, I am not sharing this to promote backpacking, nor am I pointing the finger at those of you that do the car camping thing… I am sharing this because when we as Scouts do not practice Leave no trace.. it hurts all of us.  To this Ranger, pretty much all Scout units are the same.  And we have a bad reputation within their office.
Leave no trace is for all of us.  There are Front Country methods for those of you that car camp and there are back country methods for those of us that backpack.  USE THEM.  They need to be taught and practiced in every unit or we will no longer be welcomed in the areas we like to camp.
I am sure that this is not an isolated issue here.  I have seen units at Summer camp that drive me nuts the way they act and treat our out doors.  I blame the adults that allow it and fail to teach Leave no trace to their Scouts.  Yep.. I said blame.  If the shoe fits.. slip it on.. but remember that Leave no trace is for everyone.
Teach it.. Practice it… don’t screw it up for the rest of us.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Leave no trace, respect, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, Winter Camping | 5 Comments

Couple more thoughts on gear

ulaohmYeah.. so I like to talk about gear… it’s what I do…
Hi, my name is Jerry… and I am a gear junky..
Hiiiiii Jerrrrryyy
Hey folks, ever since I was a young Scout I was told to take care of your gear and it will take care of you.. I think that is very true and with that comes messin’ with your gear.  Always looking for the ‘next best thing’ or a simple way or cooler way to do this or that.
Sometimes I am a bit apprehensive about showing gear or a way I do something because give it a week.. it may change.
As you know I am a hammock camper and use a tarp over the hammock.  Real hard to get a hammock in a tent.. although I have seen it done.  But I have not always been a hammock camper and enjoyed camping none the less.  Hammock camping was introduced to me at the 2010 National Jamboree and I have been hooked since.  I find it an extremely comfortable way to sleep and it gives me new opportunities to tweak gear.  It seems that with hammock camping came a whole new way of camping.  I started getting my gear lighter.  I started to look at new ways to set up gear and find it challenging in the way modifications can be made and gear can be set up.
I am in no way shape or form trying to get anyone to convert to hammock camping.  I could really care less how you camp… as long as you camp.  You gotta get out there in the woods and enjoy nature.  It is a must.  I encourage… nay demand that you camp!
But yes I talk a bunch about hammock camping and show that style in my videos and gear tips and tricks.. why?  Because it is what I do.  What I know for sure is that I just like to talk gear and I like to share.  The other thing that I know for sure is that I am not the ultimate authority on camping and everything associated with it.. but I do know a bunch, I have ideas, thoughts, and certainly opinions and once again… I like to share.
If hammock camping is not your thing than I can deal with that.  Maybe you can find a tip here and there that you can work into tent camping or on the ground tarp camping.  Maybe there is a tip out there that you can share with your Scouts to make their outdoor experience better.  Maybe, just maybe, you will be intrigued enough to try something new or motivated just a bit to step outside of your comfort zone, what ever that looks like.
So here’s the deal.  I’ll keep talking gear and changing my stuff every time the wind blows and I’ll keep sharing with you, my trusty reader.  You know I love ya… right?
So here’s a couple of thoughts on gear.. lessons learned you might say.
***NOTE*** What I am about to write does not comply with the Guide to Safe Scouting!
Fuel.  On the last camp out I noticed that my Denatured Alcohol took some time to warm up and light.  It was nothing that would cause alarm and after a few minutes under my arm pit, the fuel was warm enough to light and get some water boiling.  The fix.  Today I went out and purchased a little 3 oz. squeeze bottle.  It is a bottle recommended to carry fluids on an airplane, essentially to get through TSA.  I wrote in RED Sharpie all over it FUEL!  The plan (and I am going to test it tonight) is to keep it in my sleeping bag with me at night.  Then in the morning, it will be warm and ready to use.
Now some of you are going to say.. well that is not setting a good example.  Ok.. but then again, I am not afraid of teaching Scouts how to do things right and even if Denatured Alcohol leaked in their sleeping bag, there would be no harm.  Fact is 3 ounces of alcohol would probably evaporate before they woke up.  As long as they are not sleeping with a lit torch in their pants I am sure they would be just fine.
I am not going to rehash the comments I made about teaching Scouts and allowing them to act their age and skill level.  Is that not setting a good example… well to some.  One day the BSA will again allow skills to be tested.  That day will come when we don’t teach to the lowest common denominator and lawyers leave us alone.
I have often said that I will never compromise Safety and Propriety.. A 3 ounce bottle of Denatured Alcohol does not compromise either… besides, what does it matter to some of the car campers out there?  Enough said on that.
(Please know that part of me is joking here.. the other part of me is really pissed)
Next.  Gear needs to be tested.  This goes for Scouts and Scouters.  You need to know your gear.  You need to know the limits of the gear, the capabilities of the gear, and how to use it.  There is no better place to do this that your backyard.
Tonight, I am testing some gear out in the backyard.
Hammock-Gear-store-icon1.  My new under quilt from Hammock gear.  Hammockgear.com  I got this for Christmas, but since they make to order, I just got it on Friday.  Tonight I will be in it and my Big Agnes Encampment 15* bag.  It’s supposed to get chilly tonight, so we will see how that goes.  The best part is that if I get to cold.. my bed is about 50 feet away inside the house.
2.  Dutch Clip on Tarp pull outs.  They pull the walls of the tarp out to give you more room as well as keep the tarp off of you in the snow and heavy rain.  I have them on the tarp tonight.  Mainly because I wanted to see how easy they are to put on and take off… really easy as a matter of fact.
3.  I am testing.. or more to the point playing with a stove that a fellow Youtuber sent me.   It is an alcohol stove… looks a lot like the white box stove.  I’m gonna fire it up and have some hot chocolate tonight and my coffee in the morning.
I also did some more tweaking on the tarp.  I found that if I tied a bowline at the end of the guy line, then synched up the line using the prusik it was super easy especially with gloves on.  There will be no need to until the bowline and will help in take down also.
So the tarp and hammock are up in the backyard and ready to be tested… now that’s the kind of testing I can get behind.
Today I took another look at my first aid kit and got it all in a small LOCSAK.  This will make packing just a tad bit easier and I still have everything I need.  Reworked my ‘toilet kit’ too.  Added Wet Ones single packs to it.  Feels nice on the tush when cleaning up in the woods.
Ok… so did you all get that I like to talk about gear?
That’s it for now.. should have a video out tomorrow.  The Sunday Morning coffee will be built into the tweaking of the gear.
As always, I am curious to know what you think.  Keep in my that the tag line of this blog is “Helping to Deliver the Promise of Scouting.”  Do not forget what that promise is.. a large part of that promise is fun and adventure.  I’m just sayin’.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Scouts | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Merit Badges…

mb_sashThis has been discussed before, but I received an email the other day from a Scouter in our area.  This Scouter does not know me very well, nor does this Scouter know how our Troop runs, but none the less, this Scouter sent a nice email suggesting that we do not encourage the merit badge program in our Troop BECAUSE our Troop is a “Backpacking Troop”.
Well, hmmm…  Let’s see… How do I respond to that?
There are what? 130 or so merit badges that I Scout can choose from right?  And the Scout must have at least 21 to earn his Eagle Award, right?  So there are lots of choices for the Scout to make when it comes to earning merit badges.  At some point the Scout must come to the unit leader.. that’s me… and get the blue card signed to start working the merit badge, which ever merit badge that may be.  When the Scout comes to me to get that blue card signed I sign it.
Now when it comes to encouraging.  I encourage the Scout to earn merit badges.  I have told the Scouts that while at Summer Camp, merit badges are not the reason to be there.  Merit badges are a product of Summer camp and a means to and an opportunity to earn, learn, and have fun while at camp.  So yeah, that may sound I like I don’t “encourage” the working of merit badges, but that’s really not the case at all.
I am a firm believer that advancement and merit badges are the Scouts responsibility to work.  They need our help that’s true and at times they need some poking and prodding to get going on badges and rank.  In that regard, we encourage and promote the merit badges that will get the Scout advanced.
The merit badge program is designed to do a couple of things.
1.  Introduce the Scout to many subject areas that will open his eyes to his world, skills, hobbies and activities, and career fields.
2.  Work the adult interaction method.
3.  Spark interest in the Scout while working toward a goal (advancement).
When the Scout, and leaders understand why we have merit badges, it is easier to understand that they are not the end all, be all of the Scouting program.
When I am told that I do not encourage merit badges because we are a “Backpacking Troop”  I look at the Scouter and ask if they know the methods of Scouting.  Backpacking, Front Country car camping, or Troop’s that never leave the confines of a cabin all work the methods of Scouting.  Advancement is one method and the Scout finds his pace and path to achieve his goals and work his way to Eagle.
We encourage the merit badge program but we do not spend valuable Troop time to work on them, with the exception of Camping, First Aid, and Cooking.  Those merit badges, for a troop that camps 11 times a year are all being worked over the course of the program year and are tracked at the unit level.
If the fact that we are not a merit badge mill is not a way of encouraging… well, than guilty as charged.
Now, I am going to be totally honest with you… many of our Scouts only work the merit badges that they need to advance.  That is not because we are a backpacking troop, nor is it because we do not encourage the merit badge program.  Simply put, our Scouts are having fun.  They spend time having fun at summer camp.  You will always find our Scouts extremely active at camp.  They love to compete and play games.  They spend lots of time at the water front and the shooting ranges.  If they don’t get the fingerprinting merit badge.. it’s no big deal.
We encourage every Scout to earn an Eagle required Merit Badge at summer camp.. don’t care which one… but at least one from the Eagle required list.  Most Scouts work the Environmental Science Merit Badge at summer camp.  That and First Aid seem to be the two most popular.
I don’t make a pitch for some of the merit badges that while for some Scouts are super interesting, knowing the boys of my troop are just ‘filler badges’.  Like the afore mentioned Finger printing.  Let’s face it.. that’s a 10 minute merit badge and the Scout really doesn’t learn much.  A great one for the sash, but not getting him that much closer to Eagle Scout and life skills.
I would much rather see them earn Canoeing, Sailing, Emergency Prep or Wilderness survival while at Summer camp or pretty much any other time of the year.  But that’s just me, I don’t get to force a Scout to earn a certain merit badge, nor do I get to forbid him from working one.  Finger printing, Dog care, Painting, Skating, and Reading, while all great subjects and have a purpose in teaching responsibility on some level and encouraging an interest, I can do without them in the context of Scouting.  I know that I will hear some opposing views on this and I suppose that’s why there are 100 + merit badges so there is something for everyone.  I don’t discourage any Scout from earning any merit badge that he wants to earn.  But when it comes to encouraging Scouts to earn merit badges, well, I just sign the blue card and let them go to work.
I don’t think we need to high-five every Scout that earns the Chess merit badge or the Backpacking merit badge for that matter.  They work it, they earn it, they are presented the badge and they get a handshake and a “job well done”.  We don’t have contests to see who can earn the most and we don’t look down on the Scout that earns the obligatory 21.
I am still not sure what being a “Backpacking Troop” has to do with anything.  This Scouter said that this was “The Reason” we do not encourage the merit badge program.
In closing.  The average number of merit badges that Scouts  have earned at the time they were awarded their Eagle award is 35.  Enough said.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, Cooking, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, technology | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Election 2012

I have no comment on the results of the election.  I hope that everyone voted and did their civic duty.
What I do think about the election and our election process is this.  No matter who won there was a process that we the people agree is the best way to elect our leadership.  It may not be perfect but it works for us.  Not everyone is happy about the results.. about 49% of America is not to jazzed about the outcome, but that is how it works.  If we want to change the way it works, we have the ability to do so through the process.
This is a great teaching opportunity for our Scouts, who I am sure have also had their collective fill of TV commercials, junk mail, and dinner table conversations about the election.  Now is the time to answer those questions that they may not understand, encourage them to be a part of the process starting with their student government, but most importantly the fact that whether it is a school election or a national election, they must get out and vote and let their voice be heard.  Even if that voice is a small oval on a ballot.
I am trying real hard to keep my political opinion to myself here.  As we should when talking with our Scouts, but this is my blog and I suppose I can say what I want, but in the interest of being Loyal, Courteous, and kind… I will reserve comment on how I feel about the bad choice we American’s made… Again.
Have a Great Scouting Day

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law, Patriotism, Scout Law, Scouts, Values | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Methods- Patrols

The Patrol is, like the ideals, the foundation of the Troop.  The Patrol is where the Scout learns citizenship, it is where they practice democracy, leadership,  and teamwork.  It is where they find companionship, life long friendships, and a place where they belong.  The Patrol is unit of Scouting.  Whether for work or play, the Patrol is where Scouting happens!
In the Patrol you have democracy on the small-scale.  The boys choose the leader they would like to follow, they plan their own activities and take part in activities planned at the Troop level.  When they plan, they execute those activities together.
In a good Patrol, Scout spirit is steadily at work, prompting the participation of each Scout.  The 1947 Handbook for Scoutmasters says, “The life in the Patrol creates in its Scouts a strong feeling of comradeship, of obedience to a common cause, and the willingness to help and share so necessary in life.”
The Patrol eats together, camps together, cheers together, and pulls together when the going gets tough.  They share the joy of accomplishment, and put their heads together when they fail.  They learn together and assist one another in their Scoutcraft and other skills.
The Patrol elects its own leadership.  This is an important part of Patrol life.  The decisions the Patrol makes in choosing its leadership is up to them and should not be influenced.  The Patrol Leader grows as a leader and the rest of the Patrol develops strong skills at being good followers.  Soon ever Scout gets his turn, and he will reap the benefits of good followers when he steps up to lead.
The Patrol leader is part of the Patrol Leaders Council (PLC).  They run the Troop.  Using the Patrol Method, the Patrol Leaders Council will make decisions that have the best interest in the Troop in mind.  They will push the Patrols in directions of adventure, service, and committment to the Troop.  The PLC along with help from the Scoutmaster is heart of the Patrol Method.  When Baden Powell spoke of the Patrol Leaders Council he said, “… is not so much to save trouble for the Scoutmaster as to give responsibility to the boy- since this is the very best way of all means of developing character.”
I am a firm believer that the Patrol is the heart beat of the Troop.  Patrols that demonstrate spirit and enthusiasm tend to be great Patrols and have a lot of fun getting the most out of Scouting.
A note on the Patrol method.  There are NO ADULTS in Patrols.  Adults do not participate with Patrols and aside from the Scoutmaster have no say in the Patrol Leaders Council.  The Patrol method is not always pretty.  It takes on many shapes and sizes and the level of struggle will vary from Patrol to Patrol.  It is important for the Senior Patrol Leader to tackle as many of those struggles as possible.  He, after all is the leader that Patrol Leaders look to for the answer.
I have a pet peeve about adults calling themselves a Patrol in the Troop setting (outside of Wood Badge of course).  The Patrol method is to be led, practiced, and perfected by young men.
Give them a chance to run their Troop.  This is an important method, with out the Patrol method you do not have Scouting.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Citizenship, comments, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, Values | Leave a comment

Founders Day 2012

When we teach our Scouts about setting goals and accomplishing tasks, we always start with their vision.  We ask them to take the time in their mind’s eye and see what the outcome is going to look like.   What do they want to see in the end.
Imagine with me for a moment what the vision in Lord Baden Powell’s minds eye looked like for Scouting.
What a wonderful program BP founded.  What an awesome movement, one unlike anything the world had seen, and one that stands the test of time, governments, wars, economic hardship, and prosperity.
Happy Founders Day to all of my Brothers and Sisters in Scouting!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Leadership, Scouting, Scouts, Values | Leave a comment

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