By Clayton Johnson
Dec 26, 2013

Scouting Skills Are What Really Count

As a boy in Michigan, I loved Scouting: Cub Scouts, Webelos, and Boy Scouts. Every week, no matter what, as a Boy Scout, we met in the school gym, with about 15 or so young men, plus a dedicated Scoutmaster. He was an Eagle Scout, and he taught us well. We had two patrols, a senior patrol leader, quartermaster, and we did very well. I was a Star scout, and was enjoying my opportunities.

Then one day, our Scoutmaster moved. Our sponsoring organization had never been around. I never knew of a committee, even though my father was awarded the Silver Beaver award. What were we going to do now?

Well, the next Monday, we met at the gym. We had our meeting just like we always did, with the pledge, the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, and the Scout motto. We broke into patrols and worked on skills. We had inter-patrol competitions, just like we always did.

The school either didn’t mind, or didn’t know that we didn’t have an adult leader there.

When it came time for Spring Camporee, we needed to get the paperwork done, and it asked which adult leaders would be attending. We called the dads of scouts and invited them, telling them that if they came, they really didn’t have to do anything, we would take care of it all, and we would feed them well.

That worked for Spring Camporee, Summer Camp, Fall Camporee, and numerous other camping, canoeing and hiking trips. We were an active group and did a lot of activities, but there was nobody new officially joining (though several were attending), and nobody had any advancement. The only merit badges we got were at the large council events.

Everything was going along fine until no adults wanted to join us for the Polar Bear Campout. (Thinking back, my parents knew exactly what was going on, and they went along with it.) So, eight of us went on a seven-mile winter hike to the planned destination, and constructed a shelter from logs, tarps and ropes. We practiced winter skills, cooked the food, had competitions, and had a great time. We also stayed up laughing and talking for hours.

Some people call this horribly irresponsible. How could the parents let their kids do this? What if something went wrong? Well, things did go wrong, but our training paid off. We knew what to do. We treated cuts, abrasions, sicknesses, and even shock during our activities. The skills we learned from our Scoutmaster, from the Council, from the manual, and from each other really worked.

I wouldn’t be the same person today without my Scouting experience, unorthodox as it was. I probably would have earned my Eagle award, though.

Author: Clayton Johnson

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