Month: December 2010

I Blame the Boy Scouts

Picked this up from National Geographic Traveler
I hope they don’t mind me reposting it… I give them all the credit.. good story, one worth sharing with your Scouts.

By Boyd Matson

I’m not what you’d call a plant guy. Don’t get me wrong. I like looking at them; I want them in my yard; I appreciate what they do for the environment. But I’ve never been interested enough to learn their official Latin names. A simple, “Hello, fern; what’s up, rose?” have been sufficient—until today. We’re 30 hours and 12,000 feet into our climb up Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak at 19,340 feet, and every five minutes I’m stopping our guide Wilson to ask, “What’s that plant? What’s that flower called? How about that tree?” He replies, “paper flower,” “everlasting flower,” or whatever common name applies. Not satisfied, I ask for the Latin names and then the spellings. I’m finding any excuse to get him to stop to talk, so I can catch my breath.
On this, my third climb up Kilimanjaro, I already know what to expect: six nights sleeping on the ground, no bath for a week, cold wind, thin air, and maybe mild altitude sickness. I keep asking myself, “Why am I doing this, again?” Finally I come up with an answer. I blame the Boy Scouts of America. That organization stole my soul when I was a kid and planted it in the wilderness. I was too young to resist their clever sales pitch built around hiking and camping trips. And their system of rewarding accomplishments with higher ranks and colorful merit badges meant, in effect, there was always one more goal to reach, one more mountain to climb.
Fifty years ago, as a Boy Scout, I climbed my first mountain, or rather what passes for a mountain in West Texas. Our troop was camping at Moss Creek Lake near Big Spring, Texas. Off in the distance, rising above the remnants of the Edwards Plateau, stood Signal Peak, a solitary, pyramid-shaped formation squared off at the top by what looked, to us kids, like a hundred-foot-tall limestone cap. Growing up 80 miles away in Midland, we were surrounded by a flat, featureless landscape. Seeing this monolith looming on the horizon 2,667 feet above sea level proved an irresistible temptation to us 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old boys out for a weekend of adventure and exploration.
Signal Peak was three hours of trekking, thousands of prickly pear cactus, several dry creek beds, a few barbed wire fences, and a couple of rattlesnakes away. When we reached the distinctive crown of the peak, we squirreled through slits, cracks, and passageways to reach the top. From there, we viewed the world below for miles in all directions.
For years I’ve talked about reliving my Signal Peak climb, and my need for a training hike to prepare for Kilimanjaro was the perfect excuse. My brother agrees to ride with me to Big Spring but has no interest in making the climb himself. Instead, book in hand, he says, “I’ll just read in the car while you go off looking for your childhood.” Remembering the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared,” I bring water for thirst, snacks for hunger, a headlamp for darkness, a fleece for the cold, a shell for wind or rain, and my cell phone in case of accident. I plan to drive to Big Spring, check into a motel, get a good night’s sleep, and then get up early and climb. I feel more prepared than back when I had my Eagle Scout badge stitched on my khaki uniform.
About two hours outside of Big Spring, my plan goes out the window. Dark thunderheads chase us down Interstate 20. The storm, say radio reports, will bring lightning and possibly tornadoes. That’s when I decide to drive straight to the mountain and climb it before dark. A few dirt roads, wrong turns, locked gates, and no trespassing signs later, I park the car at 5 p.m., throw my cameras and cell phone in my backpack, climb over a barbed wire fence, and head for Signal Peak.
In my haste, I inadvertently leave most of my “Be Prepared” items—water, jacket, headlamp—in the trunk of the car. Two hours later, I reach the base of the mountain with no time left to find the best route up, so I just start climbing. My route is steep in places with loose scree making the footing iffy. I have to carefully navigate several vertical rock outcroppings. Instead of adult eyes diminishing my childhood memories, I’m thinking: “We did this as kids?” As I near the base of the big rocky cap, the sun is setting, and I remember another lesson learned as a Boy Scout: “All successful adventures are round trips.” I use the last rays of sunlight to safely descend the mountain, missing the summit.
The next morning, the storm having blown through, I try again, this time finding a better way up. Standing on the top, I think back over the past 50 years and reflect on how the Boy Scouts taught us to embrace the unknown, to test our limits, to push beyond the easy. The lessons went beyond climbing mountains, digging latrines, cooking over a campfire, or securing a tent in howling sandstorms or pouring rain, all of which we did. Instead, the outdoors was our classroom for life lessons about facing challenges and learning that the best rewards sometimes require a little pain and suffering.
Kids spending their lives in front of computer screens may be missing those lessons. Does a virtual world prepare them to handle adversity that has real life consequences? That’s another reason I’m back on Kilimanjaro. I’m climbing with my 20-year-old son, Taylor. At 15,100 feet in our final camp before the summit push, he’s feeling ill and questioning why I brought him. I answer, “For a father-son bonding experience.” He says, “Next time invite me to the movies.” What I don’t say is that I want him to experience the thrill of accomplishing something difficult. The final eight hours and 4,000 feet to the summit are just that kind of test for Taylor. Headache and nausea make the slog extra slow and torturous for him. I’m sure he’s contemplating turning back with every step, thinking: “This is something my dad likes. Who cares if I quit?”
But near the top I sense a change in attitude, a quickened pace, a new determination to finish no matter what. And when we are finally standing on the roof of Africa, I see in his smile that he is proud of his accomplishment. In fact, he’s so hyped about what he’s just done that he literally runs all the way, all 19 miles, back down the mountain. Although I’m equally elated, my own return, on old worn-out knees, is considerably slower. I use the time to again reflect on how I got here and thank the Boy Scouts for getting me up that first hill in Texas 50 years ago.

Contributing editor Boyd Matson hosts National Geographic Weekend on radio.

This weeks message..

As we enter this busy time of the year, don’t let the hustle and bustle of the season lead you away from the Oath and Law. Now is the time to be Cheerful, Reverent, and Helpful.
Every day renew the promise to do your duty to God and your Country and live the promise you make to yourself.. To keep yourself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Have a Great Scouting day!

this message was sent from my phone to test the blogger SMS posting system.. looks like it works.

Local Scout property making National News

Got this from the Scouting News Blog

Partnership Will Protect Boy Scouts Land in Happy Valley
Posted on 11 December 2010 by Press Release

A beloved Boy Scouts property overlooking Happy Valley will be protected as a public natural area with new trails, picnic tables and restrooms, thanks to a partnership including Metro, the City of Happy Valley and the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District.
Metro is under contract to purchase 70 acres from the Boy Scouts of America’s Cascade Pacific Council, investing funds from the region’s voter-approved 2006 natural areas bond measure.
Under an agreement approved this month by all the parties, Metro will oversee restoration and improvements at the forested property. Happy Valley will pay for the upgrades with its remaining $380,000 of local allocation from the bond. And the parks district will manage the future Scouter Mountain Natural Area, which could open as early as summer 2012.
“This partnership will ensure that future generations connect with nature in a fast-growing part of the region,” said Metro Councilor Rod Park, who represents the eastern suburbs in District 1. “Voters were thinking of places like Scouter Mountain when they asked Metro to protect our best remaining land in the Portland metropolitan area.”
Rising more than 700 feet above the valley floor, Scouter Mountain is part of the Boring Lava Field. The future natural area is part of a larger property owned by the Boy Scouts, who will retain about 110 acres.
Scouter Mountain Natural Area will honor the Boy Scouts’ legacy on the site – not only by promoting outdoor exploration, but also by salvaging pieces of a deteriorating lodge to incorporate in the new picnic shelter. An independent study determined that it would cost more than $8 million to restore Chief Obie Lodge, which has been closed since 2004 due to fire safety issues. The Scouts will deconstruct the 22,000-square-foot building prior to the property sale, which is expected to be finalized this spring.
“Like so many others, I have very fond memories of camping and other activities on Scouter Mountain with my children and as a young Scoutmaster,” said the Scouts’ council president, Gene Grant, a former mayor of Happy Valley. “While we all were disappointed to find the cost of preserving the lodge was too high, the new trails, restrooms and picnic shelter that will replace and reuse the lodge materials will be a welcome amenity we will all put to good use. I am truly excited to help create the Scouter Mountain nature park with these new facilities.”
The Scouts plan to invest proceeds from the sale at their 17 camping properties in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington. More than 15,000 youth and volunteers attend overnight or day-camping programs every summer, and another 30,000 Scouts camp independently throughout the year.
At the Scouter Mountain site surrounding the future natural area, for example, the Scouts host more than 2,000 campers every summer. Now, those campers will share part of the mountain with fellow nature-lovers.
“The City of Happy Valley is thrilled to have access to another 70 acres of natural area to enhance our city’s green spaces,” said Happy Valley Mayor Rob Wheeler. “As a result of this outstanding acquisition, our residents will have direct access to trails for recreation and education within our natural environment. This is a great asset for the city and the region.”
Happy Valley citizens voted to join the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District in 2006. The district covers 36 square miles, stretching from Happy Valley west to the Willamette River, south to the Clackamas River and north to the Multnomah County line. The new natural area on Scouter Mountain – which was identified as a long-term priority for the district – will be added to a roster of 60 parks and facilities.
“It’s a wonderful resource, which we’re happy to see preserved for people to use,” said Michelle Healy, parks district manager. “It fits well into what we’re trying to do.”
Scouter Mountain Natural Area showcases Metro’s natural areas bond measure at its best, said Metro Council President Carlotta Collette.
“Voters have allowed us to leverage this region’s passion for the outdoors,” she said. “No one party in this collaboration could have done it alone. But working together, a community group, a city, a park district and the regional government are protecting Scouter Mountain for future generations.”
Metro’s voter-approved Natural Areas Program protects land in 27 key areas across the region. To learn more, visit
Source: Oregon Metro News Release

OK.. Now my opinion.
I love Chief Obie Lodge and wish we still had access to it, but as the article said.. we have not been in it for a very long time and have done fine without it.  The way I see it, the CPC and the Scout units therein are loosing nothing and gaining much needed funds to improve the 17 other camps that we use on a regular basis.
I know in our area that this issue has tugged at the heart strings of many scouters (the scouts can really care less).  But I personally think the council has done the right thing here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!


Without getting to wrapped up in politics, flag waving, and humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic while draped in a flag, I want to talk a bit about citizenship in Scouting.
Today, I sat in the back of our meeting place while 8 of our Scouts took advantage of a merit badge counselor’s day of instruction.  Three of the Scouts of our Troop wanted to work on the Citizenship merit badges, they contacted the counselor and set up a day that the three of them would meet with him.  Well, word got out and then a few more guys wanted to work on the merit badges, so they contacted me and asked if they could all meet in the Knights Hall where the Troop meets.  I agreed to open it up, get the heat on, and make the room available for the group to work with the counselor.
Eight Scouts showed up today to work the Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World merit badges, what I got was a civics lesson unlike I have seen or heard since I was in the sixth grade.
The counselor taught these young men what it means to be a Scout and a citizen.  I was so impressed with the class, the scouts, and happy that we, in the Scouting movement provide this opportunity.
Baden Powell’s goal for Scouting was to produce good citizens.  In the book Aids to Scoutmastership, BP says; “…the Scout and Guide movement has the following possibilities;- the making of the individual into an efficient and happy citizen.  The harnessing of the individual to work for the community… the promotion of the International goodwill, and through its brotherhood, as a practical step towards permant peace.”
These merit badges do just that, especially when they are not just rushed through.  In 4 hours, eight Scouts learned more about being a citizen than most kids will learn throughout their years of schooling.  In this game with a purpose, these Scouts will serve their communities through food drives, flag placements, bike rodeos, Good will ~ Good Turn events and countless other service opportunities.  They will grow up with the knowledge of responsible citizenship, understanding the weighty task of voting and staying active within their communities.
I sat quietly for four hours today.. a remarkable feat in and of itself and watched Scouts learn and grow in a fun and interactive program.  I am sure the word will get out and more and more of the Scouts of our troop will jump into this.  Regardless, I had a remarkable time today watching this part of the Scouting game.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Lucky ones

Saturday morning started out like many other Saturdays in our sleepy little town.. wake up, shave, shower, put on Scout uniform…
But this last Saturday was special, it was our annual Scouting for Food Saturday, a day that the Scouts not only provide a service to the community, but a day that they really see the impact of their good turn.
Our Troop has assisted the St. Vincent DePaul food Pantry for the past 5 years now.  We collect our food, just like every other Scouting unit, but rather than just drop it off at the collection point, we are there to collect the food as units drop it off.  We help weigh it, sort it, box it, and put it away.  The whole process is witnessed as the scouts take action to help feed the most in need of our community.
Each year we take a minute to reflect on just how good we have it.  You see, as we are collecting the food and getting it all into the St. Vincent DePaul food pipe line, there are folks at the back door where the food is distributed.  They are not Scouts or volunteers, they are there to receive the gifts of the community.  They are men and women, families with their children, they come with bags and carts and cars that barely run, they are humble and embarrassed, and grateful.  Our Scouts greet them with smiles and a comforting hand and watch as they disappear into the cold morning.
There is an amazing transformation, for that moment in time our young men get it.  They understand that they are lucky to have parents, scout leaders, teachers, pastors, family that care for them and make sure that they have everything for a blessed life.  They are the lucky ones that have never spent a night in a cold house with an empty belly.  They are the lucky ones that have never spent a night in darkness wondering if tomorrow will be better.
Our Scouts come from every social, economic, and religious background our community has to offer, they are not rich, they are not poor, they are not abused, they are not unhappy.  This weekend they realized that they are the lucky ones.
I wish we never had to do another Scouting for Food drive or hand out food, clothing, and basic needs to those less fortunate, but that is not the world we live in.  Thank God for the Boy Scouts and the great work they do.
It was Will Rogers that once said “The only problem with the Boy Scouts…there’s not enough of them!”
Thank you Troop 664.. and Packs, Troops, and Crews everywhere that are the lucky ones and share it through your Good Turns every day.. especially when it comes to Scouting for Food!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Follow up on "The Leadership Challenge"

There is a Scouter out there named Larry, he is insightful and knows his stuff.  I love to hear from him and see what his point of view is on various topics.  Larry frequents Clarke Green’s Blog and Podcast also, so I get to hear a lot of what Larry thinks.
Larry recently sent a comment about the “Leadership challenge” post.
Unfortunately, it is hard to “thread” comments and so I wanted to post his comment (again) and make an attempt at maybe shedding some more light regarding the post from my point of view.
Again, I do not proclaim to be the end all be all authority on Scouting.  Green Bar Bill I certainly an not.  All I can and will ever do is try to help.  Use the the tools that I know work and share them.  The goal is to help deliver the promise of Scouting.. we all have our ways.. this blog and my podcast are just my way of sharing what I know… and believe me, I’m still learning.
So here is Larry’s comment.. the text in ‘Blue’ are my comments or counter points.
Thanks Larry.. and keep the comments coming.

That’s nice. Sounds good. It is a good analogy in some cases.

However. Hah, you knew that was coming 🙂
It’s a little bit hard, difficult, almost impossible to bring the immediacy of a raging, hormonal, 17 year old in full pads running full tilt right at you and fully prepared to TAKE YOU DOWN! For instance, half way through a rapidly failing Troop meeting there are no crowds cheering, no scholarships and NFL salaries to be inspired by and lots of people trying to chase you down.
Thats right.. like I always tell our parents, leadership at the Scouts level is often an ugly process.  The better part of a Troop meeting though is the coaching, mentoring and teaching that Senior Scouts, Assistant Scoutmasters, and a Scoutmaster offer.  Rapidly failing Troop meetings are the result in part to failing to plan.  The Patrol leaders Council can help in that regard.  I understand what you are saying, but that is when the friendly voice of the Scoutmaster in teaching mode gently taps the SPL on the shoulder and asks him those leading questions on how he thinks things are going.  That conversation then typically transfers to a Patrol leaders huddle and an attempt to get the meeting back on track.
I have seen this go the other way too, where the SPL, just calls the PL’s together and says “that’s it.. we’re done”… circles the troop up for vespers and calls it a night.
“Giving up is never the answer and failure is never an option.” Nice thought. Last week the SPL resigned. Said he was tired of the older guys not helping out and the younger guys are driving him crazy (along with the rest of us!). The motivation to make something happen has dissipated. The younger guys like to get down on the floor and play like a box full of puppies. (we call that “Poodling” in my Troop)Throw stuff. Call each other names. Slap and punch. Sort of like a bunch of pre-schoolers.  This happens to all of us.  That is exactly when the Troop Guides need to be at their best.  Now, I know they don’t want to play baby sitter and yes that behavior gets old real quick, but… and you always know that is coming… BUT.. it is what they do at that age.  Again, that is the leadership challenge and I would ask your SPL (as he is walking out the door).. what was the plan and how can we get back on track.  I have found that when they are bored they get in trouble, act up, and generally Poodle.  So the leadership challenge is to keep the meeting moving.. keep the young guys engaged in a task.. and not drag the meeting out forever.  Do the business and be done.
There is no rule on the length of a Troop meeting.. and if you have parents that gripe about them being done early… well remind them that BSA does not stand for Baby Sitters of America.
Right now it’s a mess. The older, leadership Scouts were doing fine until this group of Webelos came along. They have been good instructors and motivators. There is a small cadre of medium aged guys that get it and have learned well. The lower end!?!? What a mess. The lower end will follow the upper end… that is leadership.  So what happens when the quarterback just walks off the field, hands his helmet to the coach and plops down on the bench? Put in the Second string.. then the third string.. then … you get the point.  Its all in the coaching and mentoring.  The Scoutmasters job is to train the Senior Patrol Leader.  Provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation to the young man and help him understand that this is all just a challenge for him to over come.  Then all the rest of the players head over to the concession stand for some goodies. The band plays one last tune and heads off to Dairy Queen. Nobody left but the other team and some coaches standing on the side of the field, scratching their heads. (Hint, I’m standing here scratching my head right now 🙂 ) Head to DQ and get a blizzard (M&M is my favorite) and start over…  Again, Failure is not an option.. its an opportunity to learn, grow, and do better.

Thanks again Larry, I appreciate your comments and the comments of everyone that writes in to the Scoutmaster Minute!  Keep ’em coming, I enjoy reading them.

Have a Great Scouting Day!