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Now that things were settling back to the normal state of mild chaos, planning was going on for next month's troop events. School Night for Scouts was to be held the second Tuesday night in September, so they were planning what they wanted in their display. The next week, there would be a Court of Honor, with all the summer camp merit badges and rank advancements. The last weekend in September would be one of the Troop's fun camp outs. They usually went to a nearby farm and had a great time. If they had added any new boys from the school night presentation, this would be the camp out for them to learn the basics and to earn their Totin' Chip, which would then allow them to use a pocket knife, hand ax, ¾ ax (27 inch handle) and a hand saw. It also let them carry their pocket knife at Scout functions that were not on school property.
Neal's patrol, the Raccoon Patrol, was really coming together. The two new boys who had originally been in Troop 582 were fitting in just fine, and they both were very happy to be in Troop 316. During the last meeting in August, they both went together to Mr. Alexander, who was now acting Scoutmaster. Billy spoke first and was obviously very nervous. "Mr. Alexander, sir? We, ah, we need to talk to you."
Jeff was thinking all kinds of terrible things that these two might have to tell him. "Let's go sit over there, where we can talk, then." When the three of them were off to the side of the room, where no one would overhear them, Jeff asked, "So, boys, what do you need to talk about?" He steeled himself for the revelation to come.
Billy handed him his Scout book, already opened to the back, where the Tenderfoot requirements were. Jeff looked at the page and suddenly realized they wanted a Scoutmaster Conference. He was almost lightheaded with relief. "Okay. Guys, Scoutmaster Conferences are usually done with just the youth and the Scoutmaster. But if you two would rather both be here for this, I'll bend that rule and let you do this together, just this once, to see what it's like."
Kaleb said, "Oh, thanks! I was real worried about this."
Jeff smiled, "The purpose of this is for you and the Scoutmaster to get to know one another, and for the Scoutmaster to review what you should have already learned, to earn this rank. If I feel you don't know something well enough, I might ask that you study up on it, and then we can talk again next week."
"You don't punish us, or tell our parents we was bad?" Kaleb asked.
Jeff's heart nearly broke. "Oh no, Kaleb, why would I? This is a private time. I won't ever tell what we talk about, unless it is to prevent you from coming to harm. Forgetting how to tie a knot, or something, isn't bad, or dangerous, just something you need to learn better. So, which one of you wants to go first?"
The boys looked at each other and Billy finally nodded. Jeff took his book and checked it over. All but the last two requirements were signed and dated.
"Okay, Billy, what was the most fun thing you have done in Scouts?"
"Huh? Oh, ah, the lock-in was so cool. I got to stay up all night, and there was lots of stuff to do. The big guys didn't pick on us, or nothin'."
"I had a good time, too," Kaleb added.
Mr. Alexander reached into his pocket and pulled out two pieces of nylon line. Each was about three feet long. "Can you tie a square knot?"
Both boys grinned, and they each tied a square knot. While they did that, Mr. Alexander went to a nearby cabinet and returned with a folded American Flag and a stave (a wooden pole about five feet long). He checked both knots. "Very good. Now, how about tying two half hitches."
Kaleb tied it right away; Billy had to think a little, but he got it tied.
"Okay, Billy, I noticed that you had a little trouble there."
"I get that one and the taut-line confused."
"Okay, why don't you tie a taut-line hitch for me?"
Billy tied it correctly, with no hesitation.
"Very good. Kaleb, what is first aid?"
Kaleb got a funny look, then said, "Ah, the first aid you give someone who's hurt?"
"Yes, exactly. Billy, what is the first aid for a scratch?"
"Wash it with soap and water, use an antibiotic, if you have it, and put a bandage on it, to keep it clean."
Mr. Alexander unfolded the American Flag and handed it to the boys. 'Let's see you fold it properly." It took a couple of tries, but they got it done.
"Well, boys, I think you did fine. Kaleb, can I have your Scout Book, too, please?" Jeff signed and dated the Scoutmaster conference in both their books. He then looked at the Second Class and saw they had everything signed off, except the five activities and the last three requirements. "Did you two go camping with your other troop?"
"Sure. We went to Br. Michael's friend's place; we went to that park."
"Did you do any other things as Scouts, that weren't part of a regular meeting?"
"We did a flag ceremony for Church, on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July."
"Kaleb, when did you drop out?" Jeff asked.
"I did the camp outs, but I'd already quit before the flag ceremonies."
"Kaleb, you will need a couple more activities for second class. There is a place in your book to write the activities down. I know you won't know the exact dates, but try to get it at least by the right month, if you can. Billy, you have six, so you already qualify for Second Class, if you think you are ready."
"Is that okay, Kaleb?"
"Sure, that would be cool!"
Mr. Alexander smiled and handed Kaleb his book. "Take this over to Mr. Miller. He's the man with the laptop. He will record all this and get a Board of Review scheduled."
"What's that?" Kaleb asked, in a very worried tone.
"Well, that's when the Troop Committee finds out if I am doing my job. They will ask you some questions, to be sure you are ready to be a Tenderfoot Scout. It's not as hard as the Scoutmaster Conference."
Kaleb wasn't really sure about this, but he took his book over to Mr. Miller.
Mr. Alexander then asked Billy some questions about the second class requirements. He asked how he was doing in school, and what kinds of things he wanted to do. Billy was surprised when Mr. Alexander signed off everything except the Board of Review.
Kaleb's and Billy's fathers came up to Jeff, when Billy went over to Mr. Miller. Dick Woodcock spoke first, "What was that all about? The boys in trouble?"
Jeff laughed. "No, Not at all. They were wanting to earn their next rank. That was a Scoutmaster Conference. They really know their stuff. You can be very proud of them. Billy actually passed for two ranks. He is a bit ahead, because of all he got done at summer camp. Those are two very good boys. They are fitting in with the others quite well."
Over at the table, Mr. Miller entered the dates from Kaleb's book, and then Billy was there. Mr. Miller looked around and said that he would be calling them in a few minutes. The boys went and joined the others. Sam Miller asked Tom and Eric if they would mind sitting on a Board of Review. Tom had never done that, but said he would follow their lead.
Kaleb was the first called back. Mr. Miller introduced the other adults, and they sat in the corner and took turns asking questions. Kaleb was still waiting for them to really start, when Mr. Miller shook his hand (left-handed, of course), and congratulated him on becoming a Tenderfoot Scout. Kaleb left in a daze, still wondering what had just happened. Billy's Board of Review took a bit longer, since they had two ranks to cover. Tom was very glad Sam had a booklet with questions to ask at each level. Billy did great, too, and left with a huge grin.
The boys were now shifting to 'Troop Time.' Mr. Freeman was beginning the Orienteering Merit Badge. The September camp out was to include an orienteering challenge that would satisfy the requirements for those wanting to earn the merit badge. Tonight's time was spent in a review of compass and map reading. Kaleb and a few other boys were totally new to this. The rest found it a good review. The older boys realized that they'd better pay attention, or Mr. Freeman would make them pay.
When Game Time arrived, all the boys went outside, and Nick had three challenges set up. The patrols rotated, with ten minutes at each one. Station one was judged by Matt Little, and was knot tying. Station two was first aid and was judged by Tom Parada. The third station was an ax yard setup, overseen by Bart Miller.
After all three patrols had completed (or timed out) all three stations, the boys cleaned up and returned inside to clean up there. At circle up, Nick announced the results. "We have three winners, tonight. The Beaver Patrol placed first in first aid. The Eagles were first place in the ax yard, and the Racoons were awesome in the knot tying, and, over all, the winner tonight."
Cheers went up from everyone. Nick passed things to Mr. Alexander. "Thank you, Nick. The next camp out is set for the weekend of the twenty-ninth. Next week, we have School night and the week after that, we will be having our Court of Honor. Please remember to bring the snack or drink, and, of course, your parents." After the groans, he continued, "We also have two new Tenderfoot Scouts tonight, Kaleb Desoto, and Billy Woodcock." The boys all applauded for them. "Also, Billy has completed his Second Class." He handed Kaleb a Tenderfoot badge and Billy a Tenderfoot and a Second Class badge.
The meeting ended, and everyone departed.
The Tuesday after Labor Day, the meeting was busy with planning for the School Scout Night at the Middle School the next week, the Court of Honor the following week and the menu planning for the next camp out. Mr. Alexander and the other adults helped keep things moving along and focused on the tasks at hand. It seemed that the time flew by and the meeting was over.
The next Tuesday night, the Eagle Patrol and the Raccoon Patrol met Mr. Alexander at the middle school. The principal, Mr. Sooker, was not allowing them space in the back of the cafeteria where the PTA meeting was to take place, so they had to set up in the hallway. They set up the display with the troop flags and pictures from the past year. Since the boys had to go to the different classes with their parents, being in uniform got a lot of the other boys' attention. With all fifteen boys there, that meant at least one of them was in almost every class. There were, of course, also, some boys from the other two area troops. A couple of the boys who were in Billy's old troop were surprised to see the Second Class rank badge on his uniform. He just told them that 316 was a cool troop and the older boys and adults helped them earn the ranks.
Mr. Alexander stayed with the display to answer any questions that anyone might have, while the class visitations were being done. At the end, the Scouts hurried back to help. Several of the boys were bringing someone with them. They excitedly told about camp outs and summer camp and the things they had planned. Mr. Alexander and several of the troop parents helped answer the parents' questions about how the troop operated and how much it cost to join. When the last boy and parent had left, the display was quickly taken down and loaded back in Mr. Alexander's van. It had been a successful night. Hopefully there would be a few more boys next Tuesday night.
The next week, the first boys to arrive were put to work getting things set up for the Court of Honor. Tables were placed along the back wall for the food and drinks. Chairs were set up for the parents and Scouts to sit. And, in front, a table was set up and the logs that held the candles were put in place. Twelve ten inch white candles, six on each side, were secured and three twelve inch candles (one each of red, white and blue) were set in the middle. On the table, Mr. Alexander had laid out the advancement, Merit Badges and other awards for each boy, and for the adults, too.
By seven o'clock, the room was getting full. Nick took his place in front of the table, facing the audience. He raised his hand in the Scout sign. When everyone was quiet, he said, "Please stand. Color Guard, advance."
Just before the Color Guard, the Eagle Patrol, ran into him, he said, "Color Guard, Halt! Post the Colors." The flags were placed in their stands behind the table, and the boys stood waiting. Nick smiled. "Color Guard, dismissed." The boys went to their seats. "Please join me in the Pledge of Allegiance. Scouts Salute!" When that was done, he invited everyone to be seated. "Welcome to our fall Court of Honor. This has always been my favorite one, since we get all the stuff we earned at summer camp. So, without further ado, the Beaver Patrol will do the opening." Nick took his seat, off to the side where Mr. Alexander was sitting.
Lamond Williams, the Patrol Leader, took his position behind the table. The rest of the patrol spread out around the outside of the audience. "Scouts, please stand and join me in reciting the Scout Oath."
The boys all stood and raised their right hands in the Scout Sign.
"On my Honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the scout law;"
Lamond lit the middle, white, twelve inch candle.
"To help other people at all times;"
He lit the red candle.
"To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."
The third, blue, candle was lit. "Thank you, Scouts. You may be seated." The boys sat, the lights were dimmed. "Beaver Patrol, please recite the Scout Law with meanings."
All the boys, in the patrol, began with, "A Scout is,"
Then, while one boy would give the point of the law and it's explanation, Lamond would light one of the ten inch white candles.
"Trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him."
"A Scout is,"
"Loyal. A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school and nation."
"A Scout is,"
"Helpful. A Scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers to help others without expecting payment or reward."
"A Scout is,"
"Friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own."
"A Scout is,"
"Courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along."
"A Scout is,"
"Kind. A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing."
"A Scout is,"
"Obedient. A scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying them."
"A Scout is,"
"Cheerful. A Scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does all the tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy."
"A Scout is,"
"Thrifty. A Scout works to pay his way and help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property."
"A Scout is,"
"Brave. A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him."
"A Scout is,"
"Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean."
"A Scout is,"
"Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others."1
The lights were turned back on, and the Beaver Patrol took their seats. Mr. Alexander now came forward. "Good evening, everyone. It is so nice to see so many here tonight. There are even some new faces. This is a chance for us to publicly recognize our boys for all they have done since our last Court of Honor. I am very pleased to be the one up here tonight. Mr. Little will be coming home this next week, and will be back here next Tuesday, and for our next camp out."
The boys all cheered. "Well, see the thanks I get. Maybe I should just take all this stuff and go home..." Appropriate boos from the boys and parents.
"Okay, maybe not. We had a really great time at summer camp. We had a situation where one of our two adults was called away and a replacement had to be found immediately. Mr. Tom Richards stepped forward, and brought a whole new patrol with him. By the end of camp, we had a great new set of Scouts, and I had fished in another leader."
Mr. Alexander picked up a stack of cards from the table. "This is highly unusual, but would the entire Raccoon Patrol come forward and bring your parents, please." A few moments of chaos and all eight boys were standing facing the audience with their parent or parents behind them. "Neal Richards joined our troop at summer camp. The first day there, he was elected Patrol Leader and earned the rank of Scout. Neal, here is the rank card and the parent pin. Mr. Richards has several boys earning rank tonight, so I have a ribbon here for each boy to use." He handed Tom the first ribbon and Tom pinned it to his uniform pocket. Neal then pinned the Scout pin to the ribbon. Tom shook Neal's hand and gave him a hug. Neal turned back around.
"The 'Camp Baden-Powell' program at summer camp is designed to complete many of the requirements for the first several ranks. Neal has also achieved the rank of Tenderfoot." Mr. Alexander shook Neal's hand and Neal then pinned the pin on His Dad's ribbon. "The boys also completed two Merit Badges, cooking and an Eagle required merit badge, First Aid." Neal accepted another hand shake and then two cards with the merit badges stapled to them. Everyone applauded for Neal.
Mr. Alexander moved to the next boy, Jimmy Richards, who was presented the same ranks and Merit badges as Neal. Tom had two ribbons now. Monty was next and beamed as he was presented his ranks and merit badges. Tom was proud of his three boys. Next was Todd Gunther and he had missed the first day and he had a few missing requirements still for Tenderfoot but had earned both merit badges. Stephen Randall was grinning from ear to ear as he pinned the rank pins on his mom's dress. Ben Mac Neil had a bit of problem, since his mom was wearing a low cut dress. It was amazing how red a kid's ears could get. She finally took it and pinned it on herself. Billy Woodcock was so proud of himself. He had completed one more rank than Neal and was awarded his Second Class rank. Kaleb Desoto was the last of the Raccoon Patrol to receive his advancements and merit badges.
The rest of the boys had their time to receive rank advancements and merit badges. When all the youth awards had been given, Mr. Alexander introduced a special guest. "It is my pleasure to introduce our Council Executive, Mr. Thomas Collins."
Mr. Collins was sitting in the back of the room. He stood and came forward. "Thank you, Jeff. Ladies, gentlemen, and fellow Scouts, I was asked to come here tonight to recognize a few heroes we have here with us. Would Todd Gunther, Neal Richards and Tom Richards please come forward. I'm sure most of you heard about the awards at the end of summer camp, and that the Governor came to recognize one of our adults and two of our boys. There are several awards that are given by the Boy Scouts of America for heroism, bravery and life saving. Todd Gunther was awarded the Honor Medal for demonstrating unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save a life, at considerable risk. The highest award is the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms, and is given to a youth or adult in exceptional cases where unusual heroism, skill or resourcefulness was demonstrated in saving or attempting to save a life, at extreme risk to self. Mr. Tom Richards was awarded this award for actions that saved his family, guests and a State Policeman. You may note that on their uniforms, above the left pocket, there is a red square knot. This represents this award.
"We also have two Medals of Merit awarded. This medal is given to a youth or adult leader who performs some outstanding act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others. Neal Richards and his Dad, Tom Richards, stepped up and gave aid to a boy who had been beaten and abused. Tom used his first aid training from when he was a Scout, and they refused to leave the boy; they brought him to their home and safety. The blue and yellow square knot on each of their uniforms is for this award.
"It is quite impressive to have someone in your unit that has earned one of these awards, and you have three, one of which has actually been awarded two of them. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very proud to present to you three true heroes." The audience stood and applauded the three bonafide heroes.
When the applause wound down, Tom and the boys sat back down. Nick returned to the front. "Before we adjourn this court of Honor, I'd like to thank all of you for coming and supporting us. Now, I'll turn the closing over to Dr. Hall."
Dr. Hall came to the front. "I have never been so proud to be associated with a Scout unit. 316 was first chartered here, ten years ago. I have seen the force for good that these boys have been, and tonight is yet another example of the caliber of youth and adults that come to the Scouting program. Please stand." Everyone stood. Dr. Hall raised his hands and said, "May the Great Scoutmaster of all Scouts be with you until we meet again. God bless you all." There were several, "Amen's," and the boys joined their families to show off the badges they had received.
Needless to say, Neal, Todd and Tom were the center of attention for quite awhile. Leo just beamed, as he waited with the other boys to get a chance to congratulate their Scouts. Another hour, and the room was cleaned and returned to its normal appearance. Dr. Hall was as impressed as ever, since he couldn't tell that the meeting room had just been full, with more than one hundred people. He wished the church groups that used the room left it as neat and clean.
* * *
The next week, Mr. Little was back, and the plans for the camp were finalized. There were three new boys who had seen them at the school night program and then come to the Court of Honor last week. They had their applications, and their parents were there to talk to the Scoutmaster. The boys were turned over to Nick, and he took the three sets of parents into the church library, where they could talk.
"Welcome to Troop 316. I am extremely glad to have your boys as a part of the troop. We are a very active troop. We have a camp out every month, and sometimes another activity as well. I hope that you will be active as well. There are no secrets here. All troop meetings and camp outs are open to parents. I love to have adults on camping trips, and, believe me, the adults always eat well. From time to time, we may need help with transportation to or from camping trips or other activities. I guess the bottom line is that it isn't just your son who is joining us, you are too. We have a camping trip next weekend, and I would really like to have your sons there."
One of the mothers said, "Shawnie doesn't have any equipment for camping."
Mr. Little smiled. "That isn't a problem for this trip. He can just bring three changes of clothes in a plastic bag and we can cover the other things he needs. This is one of the really fun trips that we do each year. The new guys can get to know the other guys and get to learn the basics of camping. Would any of you want to join us?"
"I sure would. I'm George Read, I was a Life Scout, and am really looking forward to getting Tommy into the program. I still have my gear and Tommy will be all set."
"Okay, the other thing for you is, if you want to be a registered leader or, hopefully, at least a Merit Badge Counselor. There are forms and information in the packet I'll give you before leaving tonight. Now, for the important stuff for the boys. We require the boys to have a Scout shirt with the proper patches. If you have a problem getting them, let me know. They have some used shirts available, and some of the moms can help with sewing the patches on, in the proper places. Also, each boy needs a Boy Scout Handbook. The book not only tells him what he needs to know, but also helps him keep a record of his advancement."
When they returned to the meeting room, Nick was sitting with the three new boys, Todd Gunther and Monty Richards. When he saw Mr. Little, Nick excused himself and went to talk to the Scoutmaster. "I talked with Todd about being the Patrol Leader of a new patrol, and he agreed, if Monty could be his assistant. They are already working with the guys on the patrol name and stuff."
"Great job, Nick." Mr. little patted him on the back and then walked around the room, seeing what each patrol was doing. When he got to the new boys, he said, "Hi, boys. I'm Mr. Little. I need to speak to each of you for just a minute. Who would like to be first?"
Mr. Little finished the Scoutmaster Conference for the boys in time for them to go out for 'game time.' Jeff came over when the boys had gone. "I volunteered us for Saturday breakfast. I was thinking either three egg omelets in the baggies, or french toast and sausage links."
"Let's do the french toast and save the omelets for a Sunday for quick clean up. Can you get the supplies? I'm backed up at work and will be doing some overtime, just to get caught up. I told them my beeper wouldn't work this weekend. I didn't tell them that was because it will be at home, not at the farm."
Jeff laughed and replied, "What they don't know won't hurt you."
At the end of game time, the boys came inside, put the chairs away and then circled up. When everyone was in the circle, Nick began, "Good meeting, guys. We have a new patrol tonight. Welcome, Vikings."
The Vikings gave a fierce war cry.
"Remember, we have a camp out this weekend. Be here by about five o'clock so we can be packed and on the road by five thirty. We should be back by one o'clock on Sunday. I have the permission slips, so be sure to get one before you leave. Mr. Little, do you have anything?"
"Yes, thank you, Nick. It's nice to be back, and it seems as if all I have to do to get the troop to grow is go away. Don't go there, Nick. I got a very good report from Mr. Alexander, and that is just what I like. I'm looking forward to next weekend. The weather forecast is for nice dry days and warm temperatures. So, bring your rain gear and a sweat shirt and jacket. Now, even though we just had a Court of Honor last week, we have three new Scouts, tonight. Saul Rabinowitz, (I'm pretty sure that Saul is a Presbyterian), Tommy Read and Shawn Partridge. Congratulations, boys." Mr. Little handed each boy a patch and gave him a left hand handshake. The others boys all applauded their newest members.
They then all joined hands and Nick lead the Scout benediction. Less than five minutes later the church was empty and another meeting was at an end.
I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter. The next chapter we will get to see the boys on a troop camp out. After all my years in Scouting, the only thing I could ever say for sure about a trip before it started was that it would never happen like it was planned. It will be interesting to see just what happens and who is going to cause the most trouble.
As I said in parentheses, I'm pretty sure that Saul is a Presbyterian. Don't worry if you don't understand why that is.
This is another chapter that brought tears to my eyes, several times. That always happens to me when I have to read the Scout Oath or the Scout Laws. I think back to when I was a scout, and I can't help remembering. Our Scoutmaster was Roger Anderson, and we all loved him very much. He made Scouting a lot of fun.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Associate Editor's Notes:
Isn't this a day for nostalgia! I grew up in a small village, and the only activities for young people there were the Boy Scouts and the church youth group. We really looked forward to Sunday and Monday evenings, when we got together for youth group and Scouts. The Boy Scouts were a big part of my teen years, and I think I learned more through the Scouts than anywhere else about growing up to be a responsible and mature individual. I'm only sorry that there were no troops nearby, when my sons were growing up, so they missed a wonderful experience.
Fort Chief Editor's Notes:
It is very nice seeing all of the Scouts get the well deserved rewards for all of their hard work. Seeing Neal and his Patrol continue to fit in is also a very good thing. After the long wait for this chapter, where is the next one?
The Story Lover