The Perfect Campfire

This past weekend was another successful camping trip with my Boy Scout troop. Couldn’t have asked for a better weekend of weather. I digress from my main point here, the campfire.

One of the best things about camping is tending to the fire. It provides a source of heat and light. It is normally the primary way to cook food…unless your a wussy and bring propane stoves. ( The one caveat I have to this is when preparing large amounts of food for large groups. It just more efficient.)

If you are a Scout like myself getting a campfire started is one of the best tests of ones scouting skills. There are a few ways in which to challenge ones self in getting a fire started, flint and steel, 9 volt and steel wool, but probably the classic is the two match start.  Essentially you only get two matches to start it after that your SOL. Personally, if I have to use the second match I consider it a personal failure.

In order to achieve perfect ignition you need an appropriate amount of tinder. Really small twigs, pine cones, dried bark (preferably birch), pine needles (Not a ton. The smoke produced while hamper your ability to continue.). If you bring a fire starting kit that’s great. (This kit will normally include one or more of the following; dryer lint, saw dust, pine cones, broken apart twine, cardboard, etc…)  It is also important to remember that the tinder bundle/pile needs to be arranged in a manner that will allow an adequate amount of air to flow through it. Much like us a fire needs to breath oxygen.

Once the tinder catches fire it is a bit of race against time to keep the fire going. You essentially have two methods of building up the fire in order to keep it going. Log cabin and tepee. There are other types but that requires some time to set up and build depending on the situation. I prefer the tepee build because it allows one to pile on in a way and also to shield against winds that may be causing issues.

At this stage in creating a fire you are adding kindling. Somewhat larger twigs and sticks, splintered off pieces from logs, I think everyone gets the picture. Once this wood catches fire you can relax a bit, but it doesn’t mean slack off.

At this final phase of the fire building you should be adding fuel wood. Large tree branches, split logs, broken up floor boards, whatever you have to keep the fire going.  This is where you start creating the coals you will need for cooking later in the day.

However, in my case the fire was just for heat and relaxing by. Once the fire was going it was just a matter of feeding it the occasional log or two to keep it at the optimal temperature.

The Gay’s are Ok

Boy Scouts of America has finally lifted the ban on gay adult leaders…well kind of. I’ll circle back to the “kind of” part in a minute you’ll just have to bare with me for now. I am glad that national got it together and has extended the opportunity to all adults to be part of scouting regardless of sexual orientation. There are a handful of former scouts whom I hope to see become active leaders again now that the ban has been lifted. Far too long have they been gone from what they once loved and enjoyed.

All I can say is that I am sorry that the powers that be shunned you, but please come back. I know there is much that the youth can learn from you. You may be the difference that helps a boy make it on his trail to Eagle. Alright, lets circle back to the “kind of”.

After rereading the comments from BSA’s President, Robert M. Gates, I have concluded that this move to stop the ban was not done for the right reasons, but to avoid what would probably turn into a costly and lengthy legal battle. Wanting to avoid that legal mess makes sense to me, but the decision to lift the ban should have been done in a better light. None the less, the right decision has been made albeit for probably the wrong reasons.

The national council has also left a sizeable loophole. If a scout unit’s charter organization or committee finds that allowing gay leaders to be a part of the troop to be a violation of their own religious rules they can still enforce the ban. If you look at the percentage of scout troops whose charter organization is normally a place of worship you would see that a large percentage could still potentially enforce the ban. I honestly don’t foresee many actually doing so, but the potential is there.

From my religious studies I was taught that we should always love and care for one another. At no point in time was there ever mention of there being an exception that you don’t have to because said person bats for the other team. To further my point here, I believe that in order for scouters to truly follow the tenants set forth in the scout law we need to be accepting of all people from all walks of life otherwise we are failing miserably to uphold the spirit of scouting.

If you disagree with nationals decision that is your right. However, you can either tow the line and get with the program or get out. I know that runs counter to a lot of what I just said but we either work together to make scouting better each day or part ways. I also accept that fact that it may be me who is shown the door as well.

Latrine Duty

I had been kicking this one around in my head for a while trying to decide if it was worth the post. My internal committee came to a consensus on yes.

Upon arriving at summer camp I promised myself that other than the necessary services required of me by the camp or my troop directly I was going to relax and not let anything bother me. I failed miserably at the not letting anything bother me portion. Didn’t even make it half a day and someone managed to irritate me.

In the same campsite as my troop was another unit from out of state. When there are multiple troops in the same campsite chores get split up as they should. In this instance it was decided upon that all chores would be done by troops on alternating days. If you haven’t figured it out from the title latrine duty is one of the daily tasks.

During my first day in camp it was our chore day. I also happened to be the only person from my troop in camp at the time so of course I’m the only choice of person to address issues with. As such one of the male leaders from the other troop comes over to inform me that the latrine was out of toilet paper.

Normally, this isn’t a big what to do, but he continued to inform me that even though the cleaning and restocking of the latrine had been taken care of hours earlier that day it was still our chore day and as such needed to restock the TP. Really dude?! All of the information after being told the latrine was out of TP can be filed some where between no shit and no duh.

Honestly, I would have just brushed off his statement except for if you compared the size of both troops said other troop sharing the camp site with my unit was more than double the size. If you do the math you will use more than twice the amount of shitter tickets as my troop. How about you have one of your boys run to the quarter masters supply and get more.

Like the good scout I am, I just smiled and said it would be taken care of. At that point I thought I was in for a long week, but luckily that was the only transgression I  had to deal with.

Female Scout Leaders

Today was our districts annual First Aid meet. During the event the boys are split into their respective patrols and rotate between stations having their first aid knowledge tested. As always it was a great turn out and some fun was had.

During the event one of the leaders I am in the same unit with pointed out that there were a few female adult leaders. Not an uncommon site, but one was wearing the rank insignia of Scoutmaster and this is not very common in Boy Scouting. Not unheard of because occasionally there just isn’t a male leader capable or willing to step up to the plate so one of the moms will.

The leader I was conversing with would then go on to say he didn’t think females should be allowed to be leaders. I agree with him to the extent that they shouldn’t be Scoutmasters, but I don’t have an issue with them serving in other leadership capacities.

During cub scouting I had some pretty damn good Den Mothers growing up and glad I had them. However, after crossing the bridge into Boy Scouts I only ever had adult male leaders and while currently serving as one I am glad for it. At this point in their lives boys are starting on their trek into manhood and by the natural progression of the things , from my perspective anyway, begin separating from their mothers trying to gain more independence.

I’m not say females aren’t capable of being excellent leaders, but the person at the top of the pyramid should be a male. There are just certain things in life that a young man going through adolescence just aren’t going to ever be comfortable discussing with a female. It also goes without saying that having a female in camp creates the need to create extra accommodations for both protection and privacy reasons.

Having said all that, somewhere down the road and honestly probably sometime when my children become old enough to join scouting as a young adult Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting as we know it today will not exist. The sad reality of it is that both of our numbers have been dwindling despite an uptick in the local area of the scouting population. I can honestly say that at some point in the future there will e an integration of boy and girl scouts and we will just become scouts. If this transformation of scouting does occur I am hoping that national will quickly realize that there will always need to be a chief leader for each unit and that regardless of who it is that there will need to be a primary assistant of the opposite gender. It will literally be the epitome of two deep leadership.

This could parley out into a much more involved discussion, but this is all I am currently willing and able to put out into the fray for now.

A Scout is…..Reverent

The last of the Scout laws is reverence. The minimum expectation with this law is that a scout belongs to some religion, has some knowledge about the religion and could hold a discussion about it. Basically an expectation to attend services on a regular basis.

I understand and respect that some people choose to not participate in any religion. I know that national for whatever reason isn’t able to over look this fact, but as far as I’m concerned who cares. As long as the scouts that I help guide through their scouting experiences are understanding and respectful to all religious choices or lack there of, that’s good enough for me.

A Scout is….Clean

Part of being a human being is trying to  keep ones self as clean as possible. However, in scouting sometimes personal hygiene takes a back seat. If you’ve ever met a trail crew coming off the trail from a weeks worth of hard work you know exactly what I am talking about. Otherwise, yes, we do our best to be as clean as possible.

Personal Hygiene isn’t the only clean that is to be considered when addressing this part of the scout law. There’s also a mental cleanliness that does need to be considered. To water this down and to avoid any arguments what I am basically saying is that a scout knows the difference between right and wrong and does their best to walk the path of the straight and narrow.

A Scout is….Brave

When a scout is called upon to be brave it is much more than just being courageous and steeling ones self in a dangerous situation. Training for rock climbing or survival style camping can be done over time and the fear associated with it can be overcome.What I am talking about here is having the courage and tenacity to try something new.

To quote the great Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots your never take.” I must have parroted that or something similar a million times to a number of scouts. Trying to get an adult to understand that trying and possibly failing at something is ok, let alone someone who is in their adolescence. That will always be a hurdle to jump over in scouting.

Another aspect of being brave is sometimes having to stand up for yourself. The obvious situation would be in the instance where you are dealing with a bully. Sometimes people will challenge a persons beliefs and ideals or just your point of view really and that’s where you will sometimes stand your ground and defend yourself. To quote Rocky, “What’s so crazy about standing toe-to-toe with someone saying “I am”?”.