Settummanque, the blackeagle (waltoml@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)
Wed, 28 Dec 1994 01:55:19 CST
Scott's posting asking about advice about being a Chaplain Aide
(the following was extracted from the novel "Patches and Pins" (c)
1988, Mike L. Walton)
One of my most cherished personal possessions was a silver-plated
whistle, with the BSA universal emblem stamped on one side and my
initials and the year on the other. It was suspended from a red,
white, blue, and purple lanyard.
When I wore it, I felt like the Scout in one of Norman Rockwell's
paintings...the Scout, with his compass (in my case, my whistle) in
hand, looking over the valley below. His face, stern and confident.
His uniform, crisp and complete.
The whistle was our "graduation present", along with a deep purple
neckerchief, a training certificate and the knowledge that came from a
weekend at my Council's summer camp in the middle of the springtime.
Camp looked much different than it does during the times I went there.
It was cleaner, warmer. It *felt* like the great outdoors.
In 1972, the Boy Scouts of America wanted to do an image change. They
announced that they wanted America to know them as "Scouting/USA".
The idea was that "Boy Scouts" were, well, old. They wanted a
fresher, cleaner, "hipper" statement about the program and about its
participants. So, we became "Scouts". The program added some belt
loops and added some merit badges in "hip" areas as Emergency
Prepardness, Sports and Environmental Science; took away some badges
that dealt with farming and combined others; and created some new
options for the older boy and the "boy in the city".
Another new thing was the creation of two new youth leadership positions.
Before the BSA undertake a national program, they "test market" the
program in specially selected local Councils. In order to become a "test
Council", your Council must have a clear and sharp record of youth
membership increases, unit increases, and money increases as opposed to
other Councils its same size. The Louisville-based Old Kentucky Home
Council became one of America's top 25 local Councils in 1972, and
therefore was selected to be one of six sites to test something called
[* personal note: the Old Kentucky Home Council is presently the
Lincoln Heritage Council *]
My Scoutmaster placed my name as a candidate at his District's
Roundtable meeting two months prior, and I received an invitation
signed by Hal Cory, the Scout Executive. "An invitation to become a
Scout Chaplain for your Troop or Post and to help us kick off a new
program in Scouting."
I found out that Sammy Coy was also selected, but he was not there
when my parents dropped me off at Camp Covered Bridge, the Council's
camp on the Friday of the weekend. Sammy was in the other Troop that
drew boys from Rose Terrace, my hometown on the Fort Knox military base.
I was looking around for him, when my mother asked me "Now what is this
about again, now, Micheal (I hate it when she called me that)?"
"I was selected to serve as Scout Chaplain for my Troop, Mom. They
are going to show us what we need to learn from the Bible and how to
lead songs". I didn't know what it was all about...so I made it up
as I went. I KNEW what the next question would be, as I grabbed my
military-issue backpack and sleeping bag from the uplifted trunk
"Where are all of the *other* Black Scouts at?" I smiled, closed the
trunk and replied "I don't know. I'll see you on Sunday afternoon
after lunchtime". Then, without even looking back, I hiked up the
hill past the Order of the Arrow Lodge building, past the parade
grounds, and down to the arena where the other Scouts were waiting.
Even without looking back, I can see my mother's expression and hear
her "hhrummp!" as she watched me walk down the dirt and gravel path.
Hal Cory was there. It was the first time that I've ever seen our
Scout Executive in a Boy Scout uniform. He was accompanied by another
man, whom later I got to know as Chuck McSpadden. I signed in, picked
up my nametag and placed my backpack against someone else's pack, as I
headed to a part of a telephone pole, sunk halfway lenghtwise into the
dirt. Our seats.
"Hey Scouts!", a man finally exclaimed. "Hi!", we all responded, some
forgetting the standard camp greeting, chiming in late.
"I'm Chaplain Dennis Parker. I'm serving as Director for this great
weekend. During this weekend, you will find out some things about
yourself and your relationship with your Maker...and you will find out
some things about the others here as well and the way in which they
believe. We have three simple rules this entire weekend. First, the
Scout Oath and Law. Second, you can share as little or as much of
your faith with us all. Finally, when you hear this whistle blow
three times like this:", and to demonstrate, he took out this shiny
silver whistle and blew three times. After the third blow, even the
birds were holding their hands over their ears as they flew away from
the arena site. "That's the same thing as giving the Scout Sign for
attention. That is the ONLY signal you will receive to move to the
next session, or to come to dinner or come back here. Because we are
Scouts, we won't yell for you. Because you are Scouts, we hope you
will follow the instructions."
I thought it was really neat. No "Ally Ally in come Free". No "Come
on, Mike!" Just a whistle.
"The first thing we are going to do, however, is to pass out some
materials to you, so you have an idea of what we'll be doing this
weekend, and then we'll give you some time to set up your bunks.
You'll be staying in the Treehouses this weekend."
The Treehouses!! The BEST campsite in the camp. As other Scouts
around me confirmed verbally, this was a good thing. No. This was a
FANTASTIC thing! The Treehouses were ALWAYS reserved by the "rich
kids" Troops in the Council. They were actual treehouses, built six
to eight feet, depending on tree, above ground in the trees. Each
Treehouse had four metal bunks and two small "flaps" for venting air
through the structure. And that climb. Just like with a real treehouse,
the steps were made from wood - nailed to the trees- , in this case, nine
inches thick so that even the youngest Scouts could make it up their
The Treehouses were the closest to all of the program areas, closest
to the Adminstration building, closest to the showers, and had a view
of the parade field with the American, state and Council flags flowing
in the breeze every day.
My "roomies" were Brian Miller, a Catholic. Alfred Moore, a Baptist.
Another Catholic, Paul Nix. And a couple of finches and a cardinal
that thought that *they* were the primary owners of the Treehouse and we
were just vistors. That was perhaps true, but we managed to keep them
from using the bathroom or setting up a nest or two in the treehouse.
During the weekend, the 42 of us (Sammy Coy and other Mormons did not
attend) learned how to lead songs. We learned how to give thanks,
using a small booklet called "As We Pray" and the _Scout_Songbook_.
We shared how we felt about God, about the outdoors and about
ourselves. We had some rather lengthy conversations at dinnertime and
again at breakfast about religion, girls, TV, and school (and NOT in
that order, either). I learned that Karen Becvar was not too far off
in teaching me how to "talk with God" and not just saying things that
I think He would like to hear from me. I also learned how come every
time a Catholic start or finish a prayer, they make funny "Xs" on
their chests. I learned the significance of the "Jewish Beanie", of
the Pope, and the differences between a Southern Baptist and a
I also learned how to create a four-strand lanyard, for as part of our
"instruction", we shared our church upbringings as we created a
lanyard using plastic leather in red, white, blue and purple. The
hardest part was making the "inverted T".
I learned that I HATE WHISTLES. That guy, later I found that he was a
Methodist minister, had a LOVE for that whistle!! We found ourselves
listening for the whistle and moved onward to the next "program" even
before it was shrillly used again.
"Why a whistle?", we kept asking our staff. "You'll understand", was
all we were told in response.
We learned much about how to be a Scout Chaplain, but we all agreed
that we were NOT ready to be Chaplains. Someone suggested that we be
called "Chaplain Aides", because we would helping the Chaplain of our
Troops. I asked "What if we don't have a Chaplain? Can we still serve
in our Troops?" The answer was "Yes, the BSA is using this weekend
and other weekends like it to find out if the program works."
On Sunday morning, the significance of the whistle was explained.
Father Ron, the senior Catholic Chaplain and the Program Director of
the weekend, explained it.
"In many religions, when someone is born or when they pass onward, it
is customary to ring a bell or to sing a joyful song. Our attention
is drawn to loud, sudden noises. We hoped that you have listened for
the whistle instead of letting it merely mark the time. That is the
key to your new roles in your Troops: listening for the whistle."
He told us that for many Scouts, talking about religion is not easy
nor confortable. We experienced talking with each other, and as time
went on, we became more confortable and we shared, but we knew when to
stop. We knew when sharing becomes "ministering". We listened for
the whistle...to tell us to stop.
He said that "As a Scout Chaplain, your Scouts will expect you to know
your Bible, your Koran, your Book of Prayers. You don't need to.
What you need to do, what we hoped we have taught you, are in the
songs, the backgrounds, and in those wonderful books which inside lie
the answers they ask. More than anything, however, we hoped that we
have taught you how to listen, for that is the key to understanding."
"As a symbol of your new role in Scouting, I would like each of you to
take off your neckerchiefs and place your lanyards around your necks.
Then, when we call your name, to please come forward to receive your
certificate." As almost in quene, the speakers started playing "Kum
Bi Yah", and our names were called one by one by Treehouse number.
Hal Cory presented the certificate and shook hands with each of us,
his old grey hands gripping tightly my little hand as he gave us the
slate grey and black certificate. Another Scouter took a deep maroon
neckerchief with a Chaplain patch sewn over the BSA universal symbol
in the center. The white patch stood out from the rest of the deep
red neckerchief. He flipped it over a couple of times and then draped
it over my collar and used a BSA neckerchief slide to tie it with.
Father Ron found a whistle from the box of whistles, affixed it to my
lanyard, and shook hands with me and each other Scout as we took our
turn in line. We stood as we waited for each of our fellow Scout
Chaplains to receive his whistle, neckerchief and certificate.
The last thing we did was to read the bottom of the certificate
together in an responsive reading after Chaplain Tracy's deep,
emotional prayer. I used this same "prayer" when I had to give one
during a Scouting event:
"May the Great Scout Leader travel alongside you always. May He move
the brushes back away from you. May He lead you onward and upward on
your chosen path, over the slippery rocks and the swift streams. And
when your journey is over, may He provide you warmth, shelter and
confort in His home."
The following year, the Scout Chaplain program was renamed Chaplain Aide
and it, along with Troop Historian, became the two newest positions
which could be appointed by the Troop's Senior Patrol Leader. I
stayed as Chaplain Aide in my Troop for one more year, before it died.
Chaplain Aides assist in publizing the religious emblem program and
may lead some small devotionals, although the BSA don't promote that
part of the job.
I was so proud of my whistle that I took it to the engraving shop on
Brave Rifles Avenue and had it engraved with my initials and "1973".
My mother heard my whistle one too many times in the house, and took it
away from from me. She said that she "had it put away somewheres", but
I never saw it again. The certificate, along with much of my youth Boy
Scouting things, my toys and a couple of my Boy Scouting handbooks, went
the way of the "dipsey dumpster" when my parents moved from Rose Terrace
to their home in Radcliff.
The neckerchief survived only because it was kept at the Explorer Post
meeting place and I forgot about it for some time. When the Advisor
of the Post asked me later if I knew whom it belonged to, I told him it
was mine and that I would right there to collect it. Since then, it's
been sitting in one of my boxes labled "throw this away and you die!",
ready to be worn again some day.
The Scout Chaplain idea, like the BSA trying to change their name to
Scouting/USA, did not work. Kids want to be Boy Scouts, not Scouts.
Likewise, kids are not looking to become preachers; they just want to
be able to explain to other kids the importance of religion.
I guess instead of trying to become more "hipper", perhaps we need to
just let some things stay "old". Maybe we need to give the entire world
whistles and teach them how to listen to each other.
Settummanque, the blackeagle... (MAJ) Mike L. Walton (
co-Owner, Blackeagle Services ___)_
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