Sunday, December 14, 2014

In the Beginning

So, it has been almost a year since I started this historical blog and I just noticed I have commented on different parts of my past but I have no cohesive form. I will now try to replace this chronologically chaotic stream of consciousness with a more sequential story. But, if I decide that is to constraining, I will once again bounce around as I see fit. Besides, this is my history.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Summer Camp at Blackhawk – The Aftermath

Well, with summer camp now behind us, we prided ourselves in surviving our adventures and in the process completing four out of five merit badges. The Camping merit badge requires a lot of nights that we knew we couldn’t meet on this activity. But they did add three nights to their total.

So, on paper, this was a great success. The boys were completely involved in the planning, preparation, and execution the camp. They learned skills that they had to use and they had great time in the process. We came back from this experience a close-knit group having shared a common challenge. But this experience reinforced in me that my skills did not include scouting.

True, we had great experience. But I knew that scouting would always be an obstacle for me. I enjoyed the camaraderie that comes from the experience. Yet there was no way the troop would succeed as a scout troop if I were its leader. So, the Sunday after we got back, I asked Bishop Carroll to release me as soon as possible.

He was reluctant to do so. He told me that the boys had never had such a good time with scouting. But I could read the writing on the wall. I had given it all I could. So, I was released. In less than two years I was working with the youth as Young Men’s President. That was where I belonged. 

Summer Camp at Blackhawk – Day 3: Pioneering

Our last merit badge to work on was Pioneering. We decided to build a tower that had a ladder to climb up and a platform where you could stand once you made it to the top. Now, we had practiced our lashing and knots for weeks ahead of the camp. So we know what to do. But we had never built anything that we would actually climb on.

Luckily, Dave Freeman was the expert and he came up Friday afternoon with the ropes and poles. As soon as he arrived we started building. First we lashed together the platform. Once that was done we started on the structure that would support the platform. Finally, we built the ladder that would allow us to climbed up. The platform of the tower was about 10 feet off the ground.

The boys had a great time building it and Burt and Dave did a fantastic job working with them. In few hours we were ready to hoist the tower from the ground and test our great pioneering skills. The test would come by having each boy climb up -- one of a time, of course.

Summer Camp at Blackhawk – Day 2: Wilderness Survival

Now, this was the day I was dreading and the one the boys were looking forward to. As part of the requirements for Wilderness Survival, we and to make our own sleeping structure from items we found on the ground. No axes, no hammers, and no tents were allowed. Although, the merit badge pamphlet stated we could we a tarp to avoid sleeping wet.

The BSA was also trying to advocate leave no trace camping so we could not cook any food. We had to eat whatever was in our packs and we had out to haul out all garbage. Indeed, after we left, the campsite had to look more natural than it did before we got there. Well, we didn’t do well with that part of the requirement, as you will see.

Summer Camp at Blackhawk – Day 1: The Prelude

So the day the of the summer camp finally arrived. It was not going to be a full week. Rather, it went from Wednesday through Saturday. On Wednesday, we did the following

  •   Arrive
  • Setup camp
  • Start the Environmental Science observations

The boys needed 30 hours of observation so we had to allow that in our plans. But, get real. Can you image a group of young, teen-age boys standing for 30 hours in some natural habitat documenting the flora and fauna? No way. So my job was to walk around visiting each little group of boys and pretending to find value in what the requirement stated. Mostly, we just chatted.

To help with the Cooking merit badge the boys had full responsibility for each meal. They planned the meals before we left. I went shopping with them to procure the food. Finally, they had to prepare each meal and clean up.

It was great having Burt there to help in this area. Not only did we avoid starving, we ate fairly well. The cool part was the preparing, cooking, and cleaning took time and planning so this became structured time that kept the boys involved.

We had a campfire that night and I tried to be my dad. But that didn’t go over well. Burt contributed much and the boys wanted to do skits. We had a reasonable good scouting time. But my real apprehension was brewing. The next day would bring Wilderness Survival to the forefront. Did I mention that I have camping?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Summer Camp at Blackhawk – The Preparation

As I mentioned earlier, when I was called to be Scoutmaster I was also informed that the boys were to have a troop sponsored summer camp and not to attend a council sponsored camp. There is a great difference between these two types of camps – at least from the Scoutmaster’s point of view.

At a council camp, the council is responsible for the merit badge classes, activities and other items designed to occupy the boy’s time. The busier the boys were the less trouble they would get into. Well, that’s the theory. They get into enough trouble even when their schedule is full. Twelve to thirteen year-old boys are the epitome of chaos.

With a troop sponsored camp, the entire burden of the camp rests upon the shoulders of the Scoutmaster. Well, I should say the Scoutmaster and the troop committee. But the troop committee rarely exists and when it does exist, it rarely contributes in any way to the troop.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What? Scoutmaster. Me!!!

One the cruel twist of fate in my life was being called a Scoutmaster. Now, I had been raised never to turn down a calling. I had also been raised that all callings came from God. I had assumed, growing up, that “coming from God” meant God spoke directly the church leader extending the calling as He did to Joseph Smith.

Well, that illusion lasted until I served in Bishopric and saw how most callings were really extended. The Bishopric looks at the likes and interests of the person, discusses what positions are open, determines if the person has the time and can contribute positively to the dynamics of the proposed organization, then prays about it. Absent a lightning bolt, earthquake, or other tangible manifestation supporting or opposing the decision, the Bishopric extends that calling.

Now we can debate the true nature of inspiration or the vagaries of revelation, or we can just move on. I suggest we move on and have that conversation face to face.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

An Actual Ax Accident

Pardon the assonance, but how could I resist?

One of the verities of Scouting is that you will have injuries. While most are minor, there have been incidents of serious injuries and even deaths. Luckily, I have never been a witness to either of these two tragedies.

But when you take a group of boys to the outdoors and add fire, knives, axes, saws, bows, arrows, guns, canoes, swimming, and hiking all together you have a perfect recipe for injuries. I have learned when a scout or scout leader starts an activity with the words: “Watch me do this…” it is better to call 911 first, and then watch the crazy stunt that is sure to follow.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Royaneh Raccoons

When Dad was Scout master and I was still too young to attend Boy Scouts, I had the pleasure of going to two days of Scout Summer Camp as Dad’s guest. Because I was the Scoutmaster’s son, none of the older boys ever teased me and, to be honest, they were all quite nice to me. This made me feel great.

At school, I did not have too many friends. I was small, skinny, and less than coordinated when it came to sports. Sports was the key social outlet for a young boy. So, I was either excluded or purposely excluded myself. Of course, it didn't help being pigeon toed either. Anything that makes you different than others leads to uncomfortable social ostracism.

But scout camp was different. There I was included. I mattered. No one made fun of me. So I really looked forward to going there with Dad.

Of Knives, Fires, and S ’mores

I hope I made it clear that not all of my scouting placed a horrible scar on my young psyche. I had many enjoyable and sometimes laughable times as a scout. So now that I have bored even the hardiest of readers with my personal scouting experiences, I want to take the time to reflect on some of my more happy memories.

The first one that comes to mind was our day hike at the Sunol Park just east of Fremont. Jim and Carol Harris were the Blazer Scout leaders and drove our small patrol out to the park. This was our first true scouting experience as young boys. Our parents weren't with us. He had on our uniforms. Better yet, there was to be a camp fire.