[N.B. – Sorry for being a little scarce for the past couple of weeks! I’ve been working on a really cool project with Clarke Green of ScoutmasterCG.com. I’ll be announcing more about that soon! I will now be continuing my regular posting schedule of roughly once a week. Thank you all so much for your support!]
It was a bright and cool day: the first morning of the camp-out. The young Scoutmaster had just polished off the last bit of sausage and eggs which was his breakfast. There weren't many Scouts under his charge, just the younger Scout Patrol. The head Scoutmaster had taken the rest of the Troop to a special, high-adventure winter camp.
The young man's name was Scott. He was a distinguished Eagle Scout of his Troop, and even though he had only been an Assistant Scoutmaster for a couple of years, he was chosen to be in charge of the younger Scouts at a smaller, local winter camp. This was his first time being in charge as a Scoutmaster!
It was great spot for camping. The campground was thick with tall pines which formed a dense, green roof above them. Consequently, there wasn't much annoying undergrowth that had to be avoided. Here and there, where clearings made it possible to look up and around, one could see they were in a valley area that was surrounded by domed, forested mountains on all sides. He took a deep breath of the crisp, fresh air!
Hank, the other volunteer/parent who accompanied him, was stretched out in a camp chair with his broad-brimmed hat pulled down over his eyes. Even though it was a warmer winter, it still got pretty chilly at night, and the little burnt-down campfire was closely encircled by empty camp chairs.
Most of the owners of these chairs had already finished their breakfast and were enthusiastically talking in a group with a handful of Scouts from the Troop in the next campsite. Scott grinned as the sound of animated sound effects and exclamations issued from the company.
Looking over, he saw the other Troop's Scoutmaster busying himself with something on a folding table in the other camp. He decided it would be a good idea to go over and introduce himself. As he approached, he saw that the other Scoutmaster was a 30-something, energetic little man with a short, reddish goatee.
Entering into conversation with the Scouter, Scott discovered that he was quite a talker! It wasn't long before they were both engaged in discussion on the merits of different backpacking stoves. The one on the table which the Scouter had been cleaning was an older model which belonged to one of the Scouts. He explained and carefully pointed out several of the design flaws of the brand.
Soon, it came up in conversation that there was an unofficial Scoutmaster roundtable going to happen up at the dining hall in about an hour. The Scouter invited Scott to join them and he would introduce him to several of the more influential Scouters in the district. Scott was elated at this opportunity and gladly accepted the offer.
It was about this time that Ryan, the young Patrol Leader of the Patrol, came up to them. He wanted to know if Scott was interested in going on a hike with the Patrol. Scott hesitated. If he went, he'd probably miss the roundtable meeting! Oh well, he thought, helping the Scouts out was more important. He told Ryan that he'd be glad to go and to just make sure the others wanted to go as well. Ryan smiled and headed off to the little group that was still talking and laughing over by one of the tents.
Scott was quickly caught back up in conversation with the Scouter, and a half an hour went quickly by. The topic of conversation had turned to camp mattresses now, and the Scouter was bragging on the rugged, self-inflatable one he had recently purchased. He went back to his tent to fetch it so that Scott could examine it for himself.
As the man turned away to go get it, Scott contentedly surveyed the campsite. He paused, though, when he observed Ryan moving some food totes around by the campfire. He suddenly remembered the hike Ryan wanted to go on and wondered why he didn't come and get him again. He walked back to the campfire.
“What's up, Ryan?” He asked.
Ryan looked up from the ice chest he was bending over. “Well, the guys didn't want to go on a hike right now.” He replied with a bit of a downcast look. “One of the Scouts from the other Troop is showing them a spy walkie-talkie set he got for Christmas. So I figured I'd just work on getting all of our cooking gear ready for lunch.”
“Okay.” Scott nodded, but he walked back thoughtfully. Something wasn't right. He looked at the group of Scouts by the tent, at Ryan, and up at the Scouter and his mattress who was waiting for him. Something just didn't feel right.
Once he reached the other campsite, the Scouter utilized a clear table and set down the rolled-up mattress on top. With a flourish and a touch of pride, he demonstrated how the mattress went from fully deflated to fully inflated in a matter of seconds.
As the man was doing this, though, Scott realized what was wrong. He quickly expressed his admiration of the gear and added: “Well, I've got to run now, but it was great meeting you! And thanks for showing me your gear! Unfortunately, you'll have to give me a rain-check for that roundtable meeting.”
“Oh… a Scout hike?” The man asked with a look of understanding sympathy.
Scott nodded and smiled, but his smile was genuine! He strode back into camp and pulled a map and compass from his tent. He then called the whole Troop to gather 'round.
At first, a few of the Scouts looked irritated at being called away from their conversation, but that look went away when they saw the excitement on Scott's face.
“I have a question!” He announced. “You see that mountain over there?” He pointed through a clearing in the tree cover to the green, round top of one of the closest mountains. “Who thinks that there is a town on the other side and who thinks there is just more forest?”
About half of the Scouts felt sure it was a town; the other half insisted that it was more woods.
“Well, to tell the truth, I honestly don't know! You see this map of camp? It ends right on the other side of this mountain. I want to know if it's woods or a town! Who wants to find out with me?”
The Patrol enthusiastically agreed!
“Okay then, it's our mission to find out! Ryan, here is the map and a compass. You're the P.L.; you've read about how this works. You take the lead and let me know if you have any questions. Hank and I will bring up the rear! Anyone have any questions? … Alright, everyone be ready to leave in 2 minutes!”
The Scouts hurried off to their tents. Water bottles and a few hiking staffs were procured, and it was less then a minute before they were all ready and filed off into the woods!
Hank was a little disgruntled at the sudden change in activity, but Scott couldn't stop grinning.
He had come very close to missing the point of a Scoutmaster. It isn't that he did something wrong; it's what he didn't have that was the problem. He had been so occupied with the importance of being Scoutmaster and 'leading' the Troop, that he had forgotten that he too was a Scout!
His lack of adventure and imagination was reflected in the Scouts. How could he expect the boys to act like Scouts when he had forgotten that he was one! When he recaptured that spirit of adventure in himself, it naturally spread to the Scouts!
The hike was a fairly ordinary one, but he enjoyed that hike more than any other! He srambled over rocks and tread with a light-hearted step. He enjoyed each new sight and each change of terrain. When they finally made it to the top, it wasn't woods or towns he saw, but undiscovered adventures and untold possibilities!
“He has simply to be a boy-man … He has got to put himself on the level of the older brother, that is, to see things from the boy’s point of view, and to lead and guide and give enthusiasm in the right direction.” – Baden-Powell