Rediscovering the Scout Staff
When Baden-Powell first conceived the idea of the Boy Scout, part of the uniform that he designed included the hiking staff. Yes, indeed, he considered the hiking staff or ‘Scout staff’ to be an indispensable part of Scout equipment. This was for good reason, for the Scout staff has been and always will be a very useful and versatile piece of gear.
I would like to encourage every Scout to own and use a hiking staff. You can buy one, or, which is better, you can cut and make one yourself. A general rule of thumb is it should be high enough to be level with your eyes. For Patrol Leaders, it should be 18 inches above your head so you can fix the Patrol flag to it on hikes.
To introduce you to the importance and many uses of the Scout staff, I would like to share some quotes and pictures that I have collected from various sources on the Internet. Credit for some of the images goes to http://inquiry.net/.
I hope you enjoy these resources and get yourself a staff of your own if you don’t yet have one. What are some creative uses you can think of for the Scout staff? As always, I love hearing any questions or comments that you might have. Also, feel free to pass this article along if you found it interesting.
I HAVE noticed a slackness in one or two centers lately in the matter of Scouts being allowed to parade without their staffs, which for several reasons is regrettable.
The Scout’s staff is a distinctive feature about his equipment, and it has its moral as well as its practical uses.
The essential point is that this should be realized and appreciated by the Scoutmaster and Commissioner.
I remember when, in pre-war days, I was attending a review of the German cavalry, the Emperor asked me what I thought of their lances. I ventured to express the opinion that they were too long to be effective in war, and that a shorter lance, such as we use for pigsticking in India, would be more practical. He smiled and explained, “That is true — but in peace time we are breeding the spirit in our men. I find that with every inch that you put on to a man’s lance you give him an extra foot of self-esteem.”
Well, although the idea is “made in Germany,” there is something in it. The Scout’s staff had, as a matter of fact, been in the hands of the Scouts before that conversation, and I had already realized its value in the direction of giving smartness to a body of Scouts and a completeness to the individual which distinguished him from other boys and gave him the esprit de corps which is so effective a step to efficiency.
There are historical associations connected with it which give the staff a sentimental value if we look back to the first British Boy Scouts of a Cuhulain armed with staffs, the pilgrims or “good turn trampers,” with their cockle-shells and staffs, the ‘prentice bands of London with their cloth yards and their staffs, the merry men of Robin Hood with bows and quarter staffs, down to the present-day mountaineers, war-scouts, and explorers; these all afford a precedent which should have its romance and meaning to the boy if properly applied.
The ceremony of enrollment of the Scout can and should be made a moment of impressive feeling for the boy when he is invested with the hat and staff that mark the Scout, and which equip him for his pilgrimage on that path where he “turns up right and keeps straight on.” The officer who fails to use such opportunity is missing one of the most important chances in the Scout life of his boy.
He should expect of the boy a reverence and affection for his staff — such as the swordsman has for his sword, or the hunter for his rifle. Let the Scout individualize his own staff, even to decorate it in his own way if he likes, but let him keep to his staff. To jumble all staffs into a bundle and put them away in a corner after parade, or, worse, to let them get lost and thus excuse their appearance on parade, is to neglect a valuable help to the moral training of the lad.
All this, of course, is quite apart from the actual practical uses of the staff. ~ Baden Powell, 1917