Mike Walton ("settummanque,)
Sun, 12 Oct 1997 09:43:52 -0500
(I've crossposted this from Arrow-L this morning; thought that it would be
appropriate as we've discussed several aspects of recognition recently:)
Ken Spiegel wrote:
>My lodge went back to having ordeal members make their own arrows.
>Personaly I like the idea of them bring home the arrow as a rememberance.
As long as our new Ordeal members don't hack off their fingers nor bows to
the Vigil Honor members, Ken....
The following was extracted from "Patches and Pins" (or "The Quest for the
Silver Beaver...."), by Mike Walton (c) 1988)
The Order of the Arrow is Scouting's national brotherhood of honor campers
and Scouts. It was formed by two senior camp directors many years ago. The
Order is an attempt to influnce and strenghten good behavior by those Scouts
and Scout leaders that emphasize what Boy Scouts is all about: camping and
being of service to others.
It is the mystery behind what the OA does, however, that "packs in" hundreds
of Scouts each year to local Order of the Arrow Lodges, a part of the Boy
Scouting operation in each local Council. If you passed by here and
expected to read about what "really happens" there, forget it. While the
ceremonies are not "secret" (there's very few of them in the BSA -- should
be none at all!), they are "guarded" so that the mystery continues for the
young man and his adult Scouter leader or coach that wishes to
become an Arrowman.
One does not "earn" the Order of the Arrow. It is, as I mentioned in the
opening paragraph, an honor. Other Scouts or Scouters, those outside the
Order, "votes you in". Once you are elected (the election results are
seldom announced before a spring District or Council camporee), you are
invited (and can decline, which I did the first time around, because I felt
that those that elected me "voted for me because I was the oldest boy there
in the troop and because they all liked me...I was only in the troop for two
months before the election, so they really didn't *know me*") to attend
something called an "Ordeal".
The Ordeal is usually conducted at the Council's summer camp facility...in
my case, at Camp Covered Bridge, which was just outside the Jefferson County
line in northcentral Kentucky. It is a period of 24 hours whereby I was to
work hard, eat little and not talk. The working hard, I can deal with. It
was the other two, and in my particular case, the not talking part, that
would be hard for me to cope with.
I have NEVER been quiet for longer than 6 hours at a time. I even talk in
my sleep, so others have told me!
After we checked in, we received a small booklet which explained the Order
of the Arrow to us in rather simple terms, and a small tree limb. "Make an
arrow with this", the boy wearing the white sash with the red arrow in the
center, surrounded by a large red bar at the top and bottom of the arrow,
explained to the group. "This is to make the time pass until everyone is
here and we can proceed with the Ordeal."
We pulled out our pocketknives....some of us had to share knives and somehow
explain in a crude sign language "May I borrow your pocket knife?", "You've
cut your finger", "You've cut your pant leg (or leg)", or my favorite, "That
arrow looks good". Somehow that Boy Scout Handbook that we were all
instructed to bring with us did not prepare us for the "gestural body talk"
that we had to perform as part of the "Ordeal".
There were also hand signs for "using the kybo" (the bathroom), for "getting
something to drink", and for "no way, you can''t make an arrow from a green
After "lunch" (a single peanut butter sandwich, a pint of milk and two Girl
Scout cookies....Girl Scout cookies!! What were THEY doing at a Boy Scout
camp??), we were invited to complete our arrow and to place the date and
sign them. "These will go on the ceiling alongside all of your brothers
that have passed this way," it was explained, "inside Cardinal Point".
Cardinal Point was the name of the Order of the Arrow Lodge building, and
the first building you saw as you made the top of the hill and entered the
We were all proud of the fact that our arrow would "live on" after we've
finished cutting it and ourselves trying to "make an arrow". We patterned
our arrows after the ones that we saw other boys and adults wear as an
outward emblem of this brotherhood we were about to enter. Some of the
candidates re-made their arrow because "I just thought it was something to
waste our time with ---like they didn't know what to do with us, so "let's
have them to make an Arrow". I didn't realize that it too, was a *part* of
I proudly placed my name and date -- May 22nd, 1976 -- onto my Arrow and
handed it to another boy, this time wearing a sash with that same red arrow,
but this time with what looked like a triangle in the center of it and with
those same red bars on top and bottom of the arrow. "Guess he must be the
person in charge....the Chief", I thought as I handed the arrow to him. I
bowed too...I didn't know how to show respect to an Indian....and I'd
stopped smoking in the eighth grade so I couldn't offer a pipe to smoke...so
"You don't have to bow....I'm just a Scout like you, "he corrected me. Then,
he turned to the Scout holding the ladder and snidely spoke "Where are we
getting these candidates from, anyways??" I thought I was giving the guy a
complement, and I left the room and went back out to the porch with the rest
of the candidates.
I wanted to let him know that I was offering him a compliment in the best
way I knew how and yes, I've watched a LOT of "cowboy and indian flicks".
In several of those movies, the leading man always would ride up to the
Chief of the indians (or his representative), give a high sign, and say
something to the effect of "I come in peace...take me to your leader" even
though inside he's saying "I've come to kill every single one of y'all....so
let's get it on!"
I couldn't talk --weren't supposed to during the entire Ordeal process
unless it was a true emergency (like the day before, when some kid almost
cut his finger in two, not paying attention to what he was cutting...the
wooden arrow or his fingers). So I couldn't "high sign" him and say "I
respect your bars and things.....I am proud to be a part of your Lodge, sir".
So, I bowed. I never did see that Scout -- a Vigil Honor member, I later
found out -- again, either during my time undergoing and completing the
Ordeal or at no other time while I was a member of the Zit-Kala-Sha Lodge
number 123. I later found out that many Order of the Arrow members from
other lodges would come and assist with Ordeal ceremonies, so he could have
come from any number of other locations.
(c) 1997 Mike Walton ("no such thing as strong coffee,...") (502) 827-9201
(settummanque, the blackeagle) http://dynasty.net/users/blkeagle
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