scouts-l Mail Archive for February of 2000: Soap, bad soap
dave beaver (xl23795@SWBELL.NET
Mon Feb 28 2000 - 11:48:37 CST
Tom Sullivan posted regarding the origin of "pan soaping." While I want
to think the first "pan soaper" was an anonymous Scout who tired of "the
clean," I am aware of no facts in support of this notion.
Most often, a Scout's natural instincts lead him and his Patrol down the
correct path. All Scouts know that soap is a surefire way to ruin the
"fun" of water. In this respect, they do a far better job of following
the Oath and Law than a lot of us adults. We need to follow their
At OA events or the first day of summer camp, I like to wander the rows
of Troop trailers with another leader or Dad. It's a nice way to see
old friends and I convince myself that I'm getting another overzealous
adult out of my SPL's hair. My SPL is relieved that "I" am getting out
of his hair and that he will not have to endure another boring "what
would you do different" conference with me. Actually, my wandering has
a lot more to do with morbid curiousity.
Each troop trailer houses a cornucopia of engineering efficency. Gear
neatly stowed. Everything has a place and everything in its place.
These trailers are marvels of modern Scouting. You can learn a lot
about a Troop and its resources by looking in its trailer.
Some trailers have "the pots." Gleaming, shiny, metal pots. They're
always neatly stowed on a top shelf, right above the stoves and water
jugs. The Scouts in these Troops have to possess an innate sense of
drill-like efficiency to maintain the shine on these pots. I don't know
whether they "soap" them or not, but whatever they do sure works. I am
in awe of their Scoutmasters' quiet and insightful teaching abilities.
They surely possess a "secret" Junior Leader Training syllabus that I
have yet to find. Perhaps I will find it with a little more experience.
I gave up long ago on the practice of teaching clean at Troop meetings
or outings. I am a failure at clean. I haven't even "suited up" when
it comes to "shiny." More out of desperation than anything else, I've
started teaching safe, lazy and reverent. I'm pretty good at safe. I
try real hard to be reverent. I possess a doctorate in lazy.
I had to find a way to rationalize my shortcomings as a leader of men.
Here's what I came up with:
1. A blackened pot will absorb heat and cook a lot faster than a shiny
one. I clipped out some ads and articles regarding "pre-blackened"
cookware and showed that such cookware costs a lot more than shiny
cookware. The Scouts volunteered that "A Scout is thrifty" and that
they should learn to blacken their own pots to save money. I wish I
would have thought of this twist.
2. It is tough sometimes to remember the exact order of all
techniques. I taught them the horrifying consequences of "soaping" the
inside of a pot. Once, an older experienced Scout interjected, "Who
would be stupid enough to soap the inside of a pot?" Before I could say
anthing, another Scout chimed in, "the little kids." Everybody nodded
in agreement. Blackened pots are one thing. Blackened shorts another.
3. I teach the dangers of soap in the environment. I ask them to put
themselves in the place of a fish. They like fish. Would fish like
soap in their bathtub?
4. I ask them what they'd "rather" be doing, cleaning and shining pans
or spending more time having fun? I am unique in that not one of my
Scouts likes to clean and shine.
5. I've taught them that soap is a "smellable" which attrats wild
animals. This wasn't too much of a stretch because there is actually
some authority which supports this view. I stretched a little further
and even told them that animals actually like to eat soap. They didn't
believe me on this one. (It seems that a couple of my Scouts were the
victims of a forced experiment at home regarding the taste of soap) One
Patrol decided to perform an experiment on a campout by leaving a bar on
the ground at some distance from their campsite. I tried to sneak out
and put finger nail bites on it but I couldn't find where they'd hidden
it. Much to my amazement, they presented the one-third gnawed bar to me
the next morning. Inspired, another Patrol decided to conduct an
independent taste test and determine which brand of soap was "best
liked." Except for one especially good smelling bar, it seems all of
them were well liked by at least one species of nocturnal animal. The
real smelly bar was uneaten but did have a number of mysterious
droppings on it. One Scout vowed that he would only use the brand that
was uneaten. Another chimed, "Good idea, if you like being "@#$% on."
6. I took the example of contemporary historians and decided to become
a revisionist. I told them that some old letters of Baden-Powell's
discussed our founder's anger over folks implying "clean" meant "soap"
in the context of the Scout law. I rationalized this lie by weighing
the greater good, Scoutmaster says v. Ten Commandents. I did share John
Wayne's interpretation of the Scout law. No red-blooded American male
would dare dispute the Duke. This worked.
7. I clipped out a bunch of ads from hunting and outdoor magazines
which touted the amazing qualities of "anti-scent" formulas for
hunters. I taught them that their "body odor" is a natural repellent.
It's God's way of warning animals that "man" is in the forest. A few of
them remembered scenes from "Bambi." Some Scouts opined that body odor
hinders Patrol unity and spirit. I advised that this is simply a case
of mind over matter. I told them that when someone says, "You stink!",
the courteous Scout replies, "Thank you." For indeed the smelly Scout
is the "safest" Scout when it comes to most wild animals. Why would
hunters pay good money to hide their "smell?" Now, we just wash
everything (including ourselves) with clean water sans soap. We get
along fine. The Troops that sit next to us in the dining hall at summer
camp are not quite getting along fine. Maybe we'll grow on them.
8. As Scouts, it is our duty to conserve water. If we just wash the
inside of the pan, we've saved a lot of water.
9. Soap doesn't kill germs. We learn how to kill germs or keep them
from getting in our systems.
As time goes by, I'm sure I'll become more experienced with "not" using
soap and living without the shiny. In the meantime, I want my Scouts to
be like a good, well used pot. Clean on the inside and blackened on the
outside. I know they're having fun when grimy on the outside. I know
they're Scouts by what they do from the heart.
Maybe I'll see you wondering trailer row some day.
Mud Dogs 54