2017 - Jan
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I'm going to an Eagle court of honor this evening. It's for a terrific scout in a different troop than my son. He's been highly active in OA and a great scout. He has contributed tons of time and effort to Scouting in our district.
So, I was wondering if boys who stay in Scouting longer actually contribute more to society than the average Joe, why is that so? Did Scouting make them into what they are, OR do they make Scouting into what it is?
I've seen a wide range of guys join the troop, from every ethnic background, financial status, popularity level, and personality profile in our community. Every year, a few of the new guys will stop participating after a few months. When asked, it is usually because they were too busy doing other things - but an occasional honest reply will be that the boy was just trying it out and decided Scouting was not his deal.
Over the next few years, some scouts will stop participating and will usually tell me their honest reasons - sports priority, lost interest in camping, got new friends.
That leaves the guys that advance through the ranks, usually to Eagle; the guys that do high adventures; the guys that run the show; the guys I think of when I think 'Boy Scouts'. These guys stay to the end and are the ones we use as examples. But, did Scouting do that to them or would they be that way anyway?
As I've watched these guys mature, learn skills, and become leaders, I've come to believe that Scouting is just a big piece of canvas.
What do you think would happen if you gave 50 people each a canvas, brush, and paints and asked them to paint something interesting? Some would cover the canvas in a single coat. Others would make stick figures. Some would make a nice picture. A couple might create artistic masterpieces.
Give them a new canvas and ask them to do it again. I'd expect the pictures would improve.
Give them another canvas and with practice the pictures improve for most of them, but there would be some that reached their limit with stick figures. They may not be good artists, but the canvas gives them the opportunity to practice, improve, and discover.
Just like the canvas gives the artist a place to explore, imagine, create, make mistakes, and safely try new things, Scouting provides many opportunities for the boy to make decisions, see results of his efforts, and modify his style in a safe community.
Through that practice, he grows into a better person than he would have been without the practice.
Three days to enter this way cool Land of Adventure Boys Life contest. You could win it all, but at least get a free patch for entering!
Check out Boys Life Contests for a half dozen other contests going on at the BSA.
When it comes to hiking sticks, it seems there's three ways of thinking:
- Hiking Sticks - natural, wood, outdoorsy
- Hiking Poles - light, commercial, hi-tech
- None - we don't need no stinkin' help
If you get out hiking much, I'm sure you've noticed most people now have hiking sticks or poles, especially on mountainous trails. The extra support, stability, and distribution of effort can make an arduous hike more enjoyable and safe.
Poles are more appropriate for long-distant treks, such as the Appalachian Trail, since they are very light and can compact for packing. But a wooden hiking stick has a lot more character and feeling.
I've used a hiking stick often and just received a new Brazos Sassafras walking stick last week. It's beautiful wood, sturdy, and comfortable - a great stick for long walks. Brazos sticks are manufactured in the USA in the Brazos River Valley of Texas. They make walking canes also and the hiking sticks make nice gifts for that hiker you know. They also offer a bamboo hiking stick which is very strong and lightweight.
Read more about Hiking Sticks.
The district had it's Camporee and I held Intro to Outdoor Leader Skills training at the same time and location so adult leaders could camp with their troops and spend their day getting trained while the scouts were doing 'stuff'. We've been doing it this way the past few years and it works out pretty well.
There were only 6 participants this time, and only 3 were from our district. The spring session was cancelled due to low enrollment, so I guess everyone's trained. This Training Update at scouting.org talks about changing our training habits, but doesn't provide specifics about how districts should offer training. We certainly need to do something different, I think.
You can now review the ILST Course on scouting.org
Our troop just used this for new troop leader training last week and it went well. Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST) is similar to Troop Leader Training (TLT) which replaced JLT, but I think it has been fleshed out better and gives a better structure. The idea is to have all newly elected and appointed scouts in troop positions of responsibility to complete this training so they can wear their Trained patch and know their roles.
Your troop should be presenting this training every time troop elections are held so the new scout leaders can be success ful in their jobs.
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As I was almost done with my 8-mile walk, I heard a bicycle coming up behind me on the gravel path so I inched over to the right edge giving all the room I could. Instead of flying by, the cyclist slowed and said, "Excuse me." Well, that's a first.
Beside me was a young lady with panniers full of gear and more strapped on her bike, not just the normal commuter. It turns out she wanted to know what town she was in because she was supposed to meet someone on the trail by Edgefield or Edgeland or something like that. I told her this was Eden Prairie and she said, "Yeah, that's it!"
Being of quick mind and sharp reasoning skills, I figured she wasn't from around here. I asked. She told me that today she came from the town just south of us but had started in Montana and needed to meet her friend along this trail. I explained where the trail went and where the most probable spots were to meet someone. I really wanted to hear more of her trek but she was off again, being in a bit of a hurry. At least I got to do my Good Deed for the day.
I hope she finds her friend and has a great trek, wherever it's taking her.
Our troop flag is fairly bland. Red and white with the BSA emblem in the center. But, hereís a flag from Pennsylvania celebrating the troopís 75 year history. There are three flag decoration items that can be added to a flag, if desired. These items can be purchased from the BSA at ScoutStuff.org or your local scout shop.
- Flag fringes and tassles - A gold cord and tassle can be tied to the flag pole for a distinctive touch. A gold fringe can be sewn around the flag border.
Neither of these items have significant meaning and are meant to make the flag display a bit more pronounced.
- Veteran Unit emblem - This emblem represents the number of years the unit has been in existence and is a completely optional decoration to add or leave off. The emblem comes as a square of cloth, but can be sewn as a round.
Emblem is affixed to unit flag midway between the top and bottom of the flag and midway between the staff edge and center flag emblem.
- Gold Stars - Gold stars may be affixed to the unit flag indicating past members of the unit who died in the service of their country. The stars should be placed along the staff edge of the flag, parallel to the staff, with the bottom star 6 inches from the staff edge and 6 inches from the bottom edge; subsequent stars to be placed proportionately on that line, up to the place assigned to the veteran insignia.
Iíve not been able to find a picture of a troop flag that displays the veteran emblem and gold stars.
There are no images of the gold stars or fringes on ScoutStuff.org so I'm in a bit of a quandry here.
If you send me a photo of your troop flag prominently and clearly showing gold stars, fringe, and veteran emblem so I can post it here, Iíll send your troop a thank you gift.
Well, I've received pictures from Troop and Pack 33 in Takoma Park, MD showing their flags with gold stars and veteran unit emblem. They don't have gold fringe on the flag, but here's the image. (Click it for a larger version)
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Scout meetings are taking place regularly - life is good. But, do you remember those few guys that aren't here this year? Those that graduated in the spring and are now off at college or work and no longer in the troop.
Well, those guys are also settling into their routine at a new school or job, possibly far from home and family support. An occasional contact from back home could provide them with enormous encouragement.
Why not take a few minutes and contact the parents of your recent graduates and get their addresses? Write them a short message of support and mail it - it takes just a few minutes and a few cents.
Better yet, print a scouting photo of each one and have all the scouts write a note on the back and send that. We did this with a troop photo for a scout that is at the Air Force Academy to boost his resolve.
You might make it a duty of the Troop Historian to keep a list of troop alumni addresses and emails. The troop could send them Christmas cards each year, or birthday cards, or any sort of contact to let them know they're still thought of.
The BSA has a Scouting Alumni site giving people an opportunity to reconnect with Scouting.
This time, for the Cooking portion, I'm excited to try out my new Woody Dutch Oven. This is made in America (actually in Michigan) and is very cool. It is aluminum so it's pretty light and easy to clean. As you can see, it's square rather than round and that makes some foods fit nicely - such as my enchiladas which I made last week. I'm making monkey bread for dessert tonight by using the Woody dutch oven inside our conventional oven.
It also has removable legs that are just metal screws. You can put in legs as long or short as you want, and the four dimples on the lid are specifically for positioning the feet if you stack them - I thought that was excellent thinking.
Finally, the lid and bottom are about the same height. This means you can flip the lid and have two deep rectangular pans if you want to do some stewing or frying or making pancakes.
We try to cover a bunch of different ways to cook in IOLS - open fire, dutch oven, tinfoil, backpacking, even solar one time. It's a fun time to see the options for food on an outing and will hopefully get back to the scouts through modeling and training.
I acted. I did something. I put in some effort in my local community. And, I did it with the thought that it is a very small part of a much greater whole. Someone in New York and someone else in North Dakota also built a bit of trail. Their bits and pieces combine with mine to create something amazing. Now, one of my goals is to hike the entire trail in a couple years.
When we "Do a Good Turn Daily", we are making the world a bit more connected and a bit better. We are acting locally while we think globally. Good Turns are not heroic deeds. They are small things that, over time and repeated by many, can make a huge difference.
It's easy to think about what's wrong in the world and not do anything about the problems. The problems are so big, a single person can't change them. That is why each person needs to change his local world in whatever small way he can, while keeping in mind the good of the whole.
Walking or biking to work or the store, participating in a charity hike or run, volunteering for a CERT position, picking up trash along a trail - it doesn't matter so much what you do, as long as you do something.
Check this out about Making a Difference around you.
How much impact does a single person really have on the world?
A few people become famous through athletic ability, acting, politics, or terrible acts of violence. But, the vast, vast majority of us are unknowns in a global sense. We exist, live, and die being known by a miniscule number of people. If there are 7 billion people on the planet and you interact with 7,000 of them, you've reached 1 out of a million. Even if you count all your Facebook friends, you probably don't really know or care about 7,000 people.
Since we have such small spheres of relationships, it can be difficult to think our actions have a global impact. But, every decision you make does ripple out to some extent, effecting people you don't even know and that have never heard of you. We DO need to think on a global scale when we live our lives.
Here's an example. I'm deciding if I should take an alcohol stove or a isobutane stove on the Arizona Trail next spring. The alcohol stove is just a couple pop cans, uses easy-to-find alcohol, but doesn't put out as much fast heat as the other. The isobutane uses canisters, took a lot of resources to manufacture, and does an excellent job.
Whichever I choose will consume resources and fuel and provide heat for my cooking. By choosing the alcohol stove, my environmental impact is much less because I'm recycling and creating less waste. By choosing the isobutane stove, I'm spreading my wealth to the companies that make the stove and the canisters and the stores that sell them in towns along the trail.
If we choose to walk or drive, leave the laptop on or turn it off, mow the yard every day or every week, keep the air conditioning at 72 or 78, we change our impact on the world. If we think globally, we try to minimize our negative impacts and maximize our positives. It's easy to convince ourselves that the decisions don't matter, but they do.
Ants are a good demonstration. In my yard, there is a little ant hill. If you look closely, an ant brings up one grain of sand at a time. One grain of sand is trivial, it doesn't make a difference. But over the course of a day or two, with everyone doing a small amount, there's a big pile of grains and a new community underground.
Thinking on a global scale helps me make better choices. A large group thinking globally and making their individual decisions with the good of others in mind, even people they don't know or possibly aren't even born yet, are bound to increase the overall good. I think that's what we should be about - trusting that others will do good and doing our best to do good and show others how it's done.
Scouts get to use EDGE to teach other scouts Chess skills. I especially like requirement #5c where the board is set up and the scout needs to demonstrate how to force checkmate.
There's not a lot of 'doing' in the requirements, just play three games or a tournament, but understanding strategy, rules, and terminology is prominent.
Great timing for the release, I think. How many of you are going to have winter Chess tournaments in your troops this year? :-)
Now, who moves first? Black or White?
A lot changes this time of year. School just started back up, the air is cooling off, the mosquitos have vanished, and it's the perfect time to hike and camp. It's also the perfect time to remind your scouts to look around their classroom and see who might want to join their Pack or Troop.
It's 11 miles to the end of the trail and back from my house. I'm doing that route each morning this week so I can see how my legs feel after 5 days in a row. So far, no problem.
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