Re: Changing Times was Scouts and Guns
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Wed, 28 May 1997 01:28:00 -0400
On my first Scout campout, our patrol shoved off from the patrol leader's
house under the watchful eye of the wonderful lady who'd been a Den
Mother only a year or two before. She smiled choking her emotions with a
tear gliding down her cheek, so proud was she of her boy. We hiked about
half a mile away from the scattering of houses that was considered a suburb
back then, though it probably would be viewed as rural now, and gained
the treeline of a nearby woods. There we were eight of us on the edge of
adventure, our parents left behind with the patrol leader in sole charge.
Well we entered the woods and for most of us, it held no special fears
and was as natural as going to school. Most of us had been out in the
same woods before with our fathers squirrel or rabbit hunting at one time
or another. We kept a good pace with the slowest and stoutest fellow in
front (that would be me) and the fastest fellow to the rear. Our patrol
leader was going to be danged if anyone got lost on him.
After about five miles or so we found a clearing near an area known to be
rich with raspberry bushes, which we hoped would be ripe enough to mix
with pancakes the following morning. Camp was set quickly and without
much trouble, 'cept for a few green hands that had to sit down and learn
knots under the watchful eye of the Assistant Patrol Leader in order to
get a tent up - and the handbooks were duly signed for knots later. And
these tents were nothing like the kind that just seem to pop up
effortlessly today - these were heavy canvas cut from a tarp that had
been at one time used on a railroad car and resewn to serve as tents. We
didn't have niceties like gromets, no we had to wrap the corner around a
rock and put the rope around that.
It was terribly humid and hot, so it seemed the best thing to do was go
for a splash in Wildcat Creek, which we did. We each took turns sitting
on the beach acting as lookout/lifeguard - mostly lookout and mostly
looking upstream to make sure nobody in a canoe might take offense at our
"country bathing suits" as in none.
After an hour or so of splashing about and getting relief from the heat,
we were formed up and assigned various tasks to improve the camp -
digging a latrine with a folding shovel, gathering firewood, etc.
Hunger set in and we started our cooking fire. A few minutes later we
heard a single loud crack out in the woods. A few more minutes and the
Patrol Leader emerged from the woods with the hind legs of an unlucky
rabbit in his fist and a big grin. He had been a dead shot with his 22,
the kind they advertised back then in Boys Life.
Surprisingly we even said grace before eating everything in sight as
though we'd never seen food before.
Along about ten after many bad jokes and stories, it was determined that
three tenderfeet needed to go learn some nature and take a turn at
catching snipes. Of course we tenderfeet learned that snipes ate poison
ivy and hid among nettles. We had been told to have our long-sleeve Scout
shirts, jeans, and boots. Unfortunately one of the three hadn't listened
too well and suffered for it, but never forgot to bring what was on the
packing list after that.
The next morning was to be pancakes and berries. And each of us was to
use his personal mess kit to prepare the pancakes. Collecting the
berries brought a chorus of words inappropriate for Sunday school as one
after another we learned about briars. The berries collected, it was
time for the newbies to learn some cooking. The Patrol Leader and his
assistant demonstrated what was too be done, emphasizing the importance
of warming the pan just a bit before putting in the batter, we'd mixed in
an old number ten can that had served to heat dishwater the night before.
Well I put my kit on the fire and turned around to get some batter. A
loud roar of laughter soon ensued and I turned around to see my cooking
pan on fire. I learned right then and there that cardboard covered with
aluminum foil wasn't much good for cooking - I hadn't had time to earn
the money doing chores to buy a proper mess kit and had tried to make one
of my own that at least looked to an 11 year old like the real article.
So berries for breakfast would have to do with hunger as the teacher.
We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon doing some tracking,
stalking, and tree identification. With our sandwiches gone and
provisions low, we packed up and returned to the Patrol Leader's house
and treated to some homemade pizza and sassafras tea before heading home.
I suspect that today such an outing would raise all manner of inquiries,
concerns, and challenges. If we measure it by the rules and customs of
the time, it seemed normal enough and nobody thought twice about it.
Today, the same would not be true.
The hazing would be a definite no-no. The gun would not be appropriate.
Swimming without proper supervision and without a Safe Swim Defense plan
would be unthinkable. And skinny-dipping - absolutely not. Many of the same
things could be accomplished without the dangers we created. And looking
back it probably would have been better without them. But then in those
times in 1960 we didn't know any different.
Because we were trusted and well taught by our Scoutmaster, we did well
in Scouting. He used the patrol method and believed in it. We lived it.
And in spite of some of the different things we did then, that patrol
ended up producing seven Eagle Scouts from the eight that went on that
campout. Troop 13 it turns out was a lucky Troop, because it had good
leadership and several Scoutmasters that did a good job of teaching boy
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
Dep.Dist.Commissioner-Training, G.W.Dist., NCAC, BSA (Virginia)
U. S. Scouting Service Project FTP Site Administrator (PC Area)
ftp1 or ftp2.scouter.com/usscouts E-mail: email@example.com
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City