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Chapter 08

The last meeting before Christmas break was always a joint meeting and Court of Honor with the Cub Scout Pack. All the boys were excited and really looking forward to the party after the Court of Honor.

The Harris boys, Mitch and Travis, both first year Webelos Cub Scouts, their dad, Lee Harris, and foster brother, Andy Rolyat, who was the Den Chief for their den, were the first scouts to arrive. Several women of the church were already there, helping prepare the goodies for the party. Andy had his brothers start setting up the chairs for everyone. They had gotten the first row set up, and Mitch was still in the meeting room when Tom Richards and his gang arrived.

Brian looked at the Webelos Scout standing at the end of the row. He couldn't believe it. It was his friend from Juvy that he thought had died. He ran over to him. "Travis? Man, how in the world? It's me, Brian."

Mitch just looked at the kid, then he said, "Ah, my name is Mitch."

"Really? You look just exactly like a kid I used to know. His name was Travis," Brian explained.

There was a crash behind Mitch, and Brian's jaw dropped open. "There's two of you! What the..."

Mitch giggled.

"B, B, Brian? How? What?" Suddenly Brian had Travis wrapped all around him. Then the two boys were laughing, talking at the same time, and Travis pulled Mitch into it. Lee and Tom, Brian's Dad, came over to find out what was happening. Neal, Brian's older brother, was already there, trying to get them to slow down.

After several confusing minutes, Neal finally had the gist of things, so he told the adults, "Travis was at Juvy with Brian, but he disappeared just before I got there. We had kind of figured he had been killed, since all his stuff was still there."

Tom and Lee looked at their boys, and then back at each other. Tom said, "I guess we'd better get together, soon, so they can really catch up with old times."

Lee replied, "I think that would be wonderful. I'll let you know, when we get back from our Christmas trip."

"Okay, sure, that sounds great," Tom replied.

By this time, Nick Stokley had arrived, and in true SPL form, had all the boys setting up the chairs, he and Matt Little and Andy were setting up the front table for the Court of Honor. They had all the awards lined up for the presentations by the Cub Master and Scout Master. The ladies of the church and some of the moms were busy setting up the snack tables for the party.

About five minutes before things were to get started, Martha and Nick arrived. Lee was surprised, since he thought they were going to have a nice quiet evening by themselves. He walked over to find out what was going on.

"Martha, I thought you two were going to have a nice quiet evening, alone."

Nick laughed, "My Martha just couldn't stand her boys getting their patches and pins and her not being here to see. So here we are. I can't deny her anything."

"Well, you are certainly welcome, and the boys will be thrilled that you came," Lee said.

Martha smiled and gave Lee a hug. They found seats and watched the Court of Honor.

The Cub Scouts had their awards presented first.

Mr. Little then went to the front. "As you can see, we are a growing troop. Since our last Court of Honor, after summer camp, we have added four more boys. They have been working hard and having a great time." He called Saul, Tommy and Shawn to come forward and to bring their parents. He presented each boy his Rank card for Scout and the pin for his mother. Then, he had them remain and called Kaleb to join them. "All these boys have also earned the rank of Tenderfoot. This is the first step on the trail to Eagle. Congratulations, boys." He gave each of them a left hand Scout handshake.

Next the entire Eagle and Raccoon patrols (except Kaleb) and Todd and Monty, were called forward. Mr. Little was grinning. "This is the largest number of boys I have ever had the pleasure of seeing earn a rank at the same time. All of these boys have earned their Second Class rank." Cards and pins again and the Haven boys pinned either Tom or Leo.

After everyone had returned to their seats Neal was called back to the front. "Neal has been a very hard worker and has managed to complete his First Class rank, at last week's meeting. Neal, you have set a troop record for earning First Class. I hope you continue as you have been. The ranks get harder from this point on, but I'm looking forward to seeing you up here often."

At the conclusion of the Court of Honor, Nick reminded the Scouts that they had guests who should be allowed through the goodie line first. The boys all groaned, but waited for the adults to go through the line.

Brian made a bee line for Travis. Neal followed his friend. When they got to where Travis was standing with Mitch and Andy, Mitch was saying, "See that tin of cookies there on the end of the table? Whatever you do, don't eat one of those, or you will be really sorry."

Neal, overhearing this, took it as a challenge, "Hey, you can't tell me what to do; I'll eat all I want, and you can't stop me."

Mitch started after Neal, but Brian grabbed his arm and held him back. "Let him go. If you say they're bad, and he won't listen, then let him find it out for himself."

Neal had already grabbed a cookie, and returned, "Man, these are Chocolate," he popped it into his mouth, and chewed. Cookie crumbs sprayed everywhere, "Shit cookies!"

"NEAL HUXLEY RICHARDS!"

"Sorry, Dad, but taste one of those, and tell me I'm wrong."

Tom picked up a cookie, and just barely got a whiff of fish, before Martha, the housekeeper and cook for Lee Harris, snatched the cookie away from him. "Sorry, but those things are lethal. Don't be angry with the little angel." She picked up the tin, and carried it back into the kitchen.

Tom, Leo, Alice, Ed, Monty, Todd, Jimmy, Pat and Pat all said in prefect unison, "Angel? Neal?"

"Jeez. This is horrible! What will get this awful taste out of my mouth?"

Mitch, feeling sorry for Neal, said, "A kosher dill pickle and jalapeņo peppers, helps, a little, but not much. With any luck, it will wear off by Christmas."

"CHRISTMAS!!!! Jeeeeezzzzz!"

"Well, I warned you... I really did try."

"I thought you were trying to get more for yourself," Neal said, sheepishly.

"I would never do anything like that," Mitch stated.

Martha returned from the kitchen with a jar of dill pickle slices, "Sweetheart, here, try some of these. They should help. We try our best to keep that woman's cookies out of circulation. She must have stopped in and put them there when we weren't in here. However, if you had waited, as you were asked to do, one of us would have removed those terrible things, before anyone was poisoned."

Tom, who was standing right behind Neal, started laughing.

Brian brought Neal a chair. "Come on, guys, you need to back off, give Neal a break, you know he's always there to help, when it's needed. He saved my butt more than once, in more ways than one." He looked at Travis, "I'd still be in that horrible, rotten, stinking place, if it wasn't for Neal."

Travis came and gave Neal a big hug, "Thanks for saving him, Neal; I will always love you for that. Brian was there for me, and I am so glad you were there for him."

Mitch and Travis moved off a little, Mitch whispered, "You think we could make it better for him?"

"Oh, sure, we could, but do you want that taste back in your mouth?" Travis replied.

"Ah, never mind." They both giggled and returned to the party.

* * *

The first meeting in January was not well attended. The Haven kids and Andy Rolyat had just returned from a trip. Mr. Richards had called Mr. Little, to say they wouldn't be there this week, but they would be back with a bunch of new boys the following week.

At the circle-up at the end of the meeting, Mr. Little said, "Boys, it is time for troop elections. Next week, those interested in being Senior Patrol Leader or Patrol Leader need to tell me before the meeting. There will also be a chance to nominate someone for that job. I already know Andy is interested in being SPL. We will also be having more new Scouts next week. Mr. Richards called me to let me know. I shudder to think what he considers a 'bunch' of new guys. So if you are interested in running, have a little speech ready for what you would like to see the Troop do and how you will do it. After the SPL election, patrols get to elect new leaders. Remember, if your PL has served more than a year, you need to elect someone else. Then the new SPL can start selecting the other Positions of Responsibility. If there is a specific job you want to do, write it down, and tell why you think you can do that job, so the new SPL can consider you for that job."

When Mr. Little stopped, Nick grinned and said, "Wow, a Scoutmaster Minute that really was just a minute. I think I finally got him trained." Everyone laughed, and Mr. Little tried to look fierce, but failed miserably.

* * *

Thursday night at the Cub Scout meeting, Mr. Little got the answer; Tom showed up with a bus full of cub scouts. What was normally controlled chaos was even more so, as the new boys were sent to their proper age group.

When things settled a bit, Mike Little went up to Tom Richards. "I hate to ask, but where did you find a whole Cub Scout Pack? There were at least twenty boys in that group."

"Actually, there were twenty-three. It's all Brian's, Mitch's and Travis' fault. Well, and Neal's, too. It seems they wished that they owned the place where they had been, so they could rescue the boys. Well, they need be careful what they wish for, because they got their wish."

"So, how many new scouts do you have for the troop?" Mike asked.

A grinning Tom replied, "Only three patrols, seventeen boys ages eleven to fifteen."

"Lord, and you say Neal is responsible? I used to like that kid," Mike replied, grinning.

"Neal and Andy have been working on a plan for the new guys. I actually think they have it pretty well under control, as long as Nick agrees. By the way, Andy wants to be SPL, and this was good practice for him," Tom explained.

"I guess it is time for me to do the hardest thing a Scoutmaster has to do, step back and get out of the way." Mike laughed, and he and Tom enjoyed watching the youngsters in hyper mode.

* * *

The next Tuesday, Tom Richards was back with the bus. Andy and Neal had the boys organized and had them set up and sit together in groups. The two of them then went to Nick Stokely and talked for a few minutes; then Nick walked over to where the boys were sitting, looking very nervous.

"Hi, guys. I'm Nick, and I'm in charge around here. I'm the Senior Patrol Leader. At least until we have elections. Andy and Neal tell me that you guys all want to be Scouts. I kind of guessed that, since you are wearing uniforms." The new guys smiled and the tension they were projecting reduced greatly. "Now, Andy and Neal say you have kind of formed your patrols. I just want to fine tune things a little. After the opening, I'll be back, and we'll get things organized."

After the Beaver Patrol did the standard opening, Nick began the big business for the night. He went to the white board set up in the front of the room. He wrote 'Andy' on the board, and under that he wrote 'Matt.' "Okay, listen up. A lot of you guys are new and don't know very many of us. But we are open for questions, and you guys do get to vote. Are there any more nominations for Senior Patrol Leader?"

In accordance with Robert's Rules of Order, he asked two more times. Jamal Freeman said, "I move the nominations be closed." Someone replied, "Second."

Nick smiled. "A motion has been made and seconded, All in favor..."

A loud shout of, "AYE!" was the reply.

"Those opposed say, 'nay.'"

Silence.

"Okay, Andy, come on up here and tell us why you think you should be our next SPL."

Andy came up and stood in front of the troop. "Since I got out of rehab and back to the troop, I've been thinking about this. Now we just got a whole new bunch of guys. I know how the troop works and I have had the council 'Youth Leader Training' course; I took that a year and a half ago with Nick and Matt. I know everybody, and I'd like to make it possible for us to have one hundred percent attendance at camp outs and even summer camp. We need to raise more money, so everyone can attend, and I will try to get the PLC to work on getting that done. I want to be sure everyone is having fun and advancing. Just one other thing, I really want to do this this year because, next year I have two brothers who will be joining, and I don't want them thinking I'm bossing them around, too much."

That last comment got laughter, especially from those with younger brothers.

Matt then replaced Andy in front of the group. "Hi, guys. A lot of you don't know me. I'm Matt Little. Currently, I'm the Assistant SPL, so I know the job. So vote for me." Matt then sat down.

The adults passed out slips of paper and told the boys to write who they wanted to be SPL on it and fold it in half. After a minute or two Nick walked around and collected the ballets. He then gave the ballets to Mr. Alexander to tally.

That done, Nick turned the meeting over to Bart Miller, who was going to review winter camping with the boys. Nick had the Viking patrol join him, Neal and Andy. They approached the new guys.

"Okay, you guys look like three patrols. Todd, here, is the Patrol Leader for the Viking Patrol. I'd like you five younger guys to be Vikings. Now that makes this patrol a little big, so, Monty, you go with this other group and be the patrol Leader." Nick did a quick count of the Vikings and there were nine boys, still a bit big. "Shawn, let's move you over to the Raccoons, okay, Neal?"

"Sure, Nick. Welcome to the Raccoons, Shawn."

"Okay, patrol leaders, go get your patrols organized." The younger boys moved off, following their leaders. Nick stayed with the seven older boys. "Okay, guys, we don't usually have a bunch of older new guys. What we need to do is elect a Patrol Leader first. This has to be someone that you will listen to and do what he says, and it is someone who will be representing you to the Patrol Leaders Council, or PLC. The PLC plans what we will do and handles problems before the adults get involved."

Jason spoke up. "Glenn should be our leader. We all listen to him, and he makes good sense."

Jordy Geiger added, "Yeah, Jason's right, and Glenn doesn't get mad and yell like some of us."

Hairy Henderson said, "Everybody that wants Glenn, raise your hand." Glenn was the only one who didn't raise his hand; he just looked around, speechless.

Nick said to Glenn, "So, will you do the job?"

"I guess. I really don't know what to do," Glenn said.

"No problem. I'll get you a Patrol Leader's Handbook. It tells you what your job is and how to do it. Also, after the troop elections we will have leadership training, and that will help you a lot. Now, you guys need to decide on a patrol name and a patrol call, and, if you have time, a patrol flag. Here is a list of possible patrol names and the patches that go on the uniform. We already have Beavers, Eagles, Raccoons and Vikings, so just pick an unused name." Nick patted Glenn on the shoulder and handed him the sheet of paper.

Glenn looked around at his friends. They were all looking at him, waiting. He swallowed and said, "So, let's look at our choices." After a few minutes of discussion, they had narrowed it down to the alligators or the stags. Glenn told everyone to close their eyes and hold up a hand, one finger for the alligator and two fingers for the stag. There were four two-finger hands and only two one-finger hands. Glen didn't have to make the deciding vote, for which he was greatly relieved.

Next was the patrol call, or yell. None of them had any idea what noise a stag would make, until Jason giggled. They all looked at him. "Well, at school dances, a lot of guys went stag and would whistle at the girls." When the laughing stopped, the Stag Patrol yell was a 'wolf whistle' with unanimous agreement.

Meanwhile, Todd had the new Viking patrol. They were quickly organized with Saul Rabinowitz being appointed Assistant Patrol Leader. Then they started going over the things needed to become a Scout. Since they had worked with the Haven kids, they were pretty much ready. Todd went to find Mr. Little, to see if he could do some Scoutmaster conferences.

Monty asked Dean Ricland to be his Assistant Patrol leader, and then they went about picking a patrol name. It seemed like each boy had his own idea of a good patrol name. Monty finally got them all quiet and said, "Look, we need a name that we all can live with. Some of the names are cool but the patch is weird, like that blue wolf." So now the boys focused on the patches. They soon agreed that the dragon looked pretty cool, and a nice roar would do for a patrol yell. Monty asked if any of the guys could draw. Noah Patterson said he could, and he was given the task to come up with a design they could use for a patrol flag.

* * *

While this was going on Mr. Little approached his son, Matt. "That wasn't the speech you've been practicing at home."

"Yeah, well, When I heard Andy, and saw what he had done with the new guys already, I knew he was a better choice. He really wants this and he is ready. He worked hard this past week organizing the new guys and they do know him and will follow his lead. I don't know them yet and I'll get to know them this year and I can spend more time working on my Eagle."

Mr. Little gave Matt a pat on the back and walked away satisfied that his son was growing into a fine man.

* * *

Game time was spent with the new guys doing their Tenderfoot Exercises, and Mr. Little doing Scoutmaster Conferences. At circle up, Mr. Little said proudly, "Our Troop has again had a HUGE growth spurt. Before Summer Camp, we had twenty scouts, now we have fifty. I welcome all our new Scouts. I think I got to talk to each of you tonight. If I missed any of you, please see me before you leave. I had a little warning and managed to have some Scout rank patches." Mr. Little then walked around the circle handing each new Scout his rank patch and giving him a left-handed Scout Handshake. When he finished, he continued, "I'm happy to announce your new Senior Patrol Leader is Andy Rolyat. Let's give him a nice 'one hand applause'!" The boys acted as if they were clapping but with just one hand.

Andy stood and said, "Thanks, guys. I'll sure try to do the best I can. If you want a Position of Responsibility, write down your name and what position or positions you would like. I'll look them over this week and announce them next week. The week after that we will have a PLC for about a half hour after the meeting. I'd like all Patrol Leaders and Assistant Patrol leaders as well as all troop officers to be present."

* * *

On the trip home, Andy had a good number of slips of paper. It looked as if most of the guys that were First Class had given him a paper. He would have his work cut out for the next meeting. He really wished he could use Nick or Matt as his ASPL but both had already had that position for a year. 

Tom listened to Ben McNeil and Stephen Randall, who were in the seat right behind him on the return trip to Haven.

"What is with Shawn?"

"I don't know. I was in his class last year and he's like a super brain."

"Yeah, maybe, but he doesn't have any common sense."

"I noticed. I hope he gets better."

"Yeah, did you see his mother picking him up tonight?"

"No. What?"

"Poor kid, she had to kiss him, right there in the parking lot, and then she straightened his uniform, like she was dusting him off or something, and he just stood there."

"Gross."

Tom thought he would watch that kid closely.

* * *

The next meeting, they discussed summer camp. The new guys were very quiet as the discussion was going on. Their faces got sadder and sadder, as things were mentioned and plans were taking shape. Mr. Alexander was watching them, and when things broke up for patrol time, he motioned the three new patrols over to talk to them.

"Hi, boys, I'm Mr. Alexander, the Charter Organization Representative. I am the contact between the church and the troop. I couldn't help but notice how most of you were reacting to the talk about summer camp. Could you tell me why?"

Jason (The Mouth) said, "Well, we can't go, so we are mad. It was pretty mean to talk about that with us right here."

Jeff looked at Tom who had walked up behind the boys. Tom shrugged that he didn't understand either. "Why can't you go? Every boy in the troop can go."

"Yeah, right. It's got to cost a bunch to go do that stuff. We are a poor bunch of orphans. We don't have any money to go."

Tom looked at Jeff and grinned, then pointed to himself, and then patted his wallet. Jeff nodded to Tom and then looked at the boys. "I can see where you might think something like that. Do you think all these boys here are rich? Well, they're not. Now, the troop does some fundraisers to help pay for things, and some money is set aside for those boys who participate to use toward their summer camp fees. I know we have a spaghetti dinner coming up, and if you guys help, you could earn some money toward the camp fees. We just had troop elections , and you three belong to the PLC, you can ask for more fundraisers to help. I bet if you really want to go, there is a way."

The boys' mood was completely changed. Now they were excited and trying to figure out how they could make some money to go to camp.

Jeff walked over to Tom. "I hope I understood what you were trying to say."

"That I was planning to pay for them to go?" Tom Grinned. "Well, actually the Phoenix Youth Foundation will cover their fees."

"I've never heard of this Phoenix Foundation," Jeff said.

"Yes, it was just formed. Not all the details have been worked out, but Neal, his brother Brian, and the Harris twins own it and are the board of directors. The funds are there to support the boys through college." Tom smiled as he watched Jeff digest this information.

"Boys in charge of boys?" Jeff asked.

Tom grinned and replied, "Look around; it can work."

"Well, you got me there."

* * *

Andy stopped by each patrol and found out who was now Patrol Leader and Assistant Patrol Leader. Then he went to talk to the boys he had selected for the various troop Positions of Responsibility. By the end of patrol time he had them all filled, except for Scribe. Scribe is a very important position because the Scribe collects the dues and keeps track of the money for the troop. The Scribe needed to be able to talk to the guys and help out if there was a problem getting the dues of camping fees. He had two people in mind and one was a Patrol Leader so he would have to talk to the other.

* * *

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Little reviewed the plans for the fund raiser. They were having a spaghetti dinner, and the profit went toward the boys' summer camp fees. The new boys from Phoenix house were very excited on the way home. Summer camp sounded like it would be a lot of fun.

Eddie and Artie sat together on the bus ride back to Haven. "So, Dad, can I help with the fundraiser and go to camp?"

Eddie tried to look as if he was in serious thought. "Well, what about Howie?"

"Huh? What about him?"

"You going to leave him all alone?"

"Jeez, no. You stay with him."

"What? Me? You think I'm going to miss summer camp? Are you crazy?!"

"Daaaaaad!"

"Okay, okay, we'll work on it. Yes, you can go. It will be a great experience for you." Eddie hugged Artie.

* * *


When Andy got on the bus he went and sat by the person he wanted to be the Scribe. "Jason, I have something to ask you."


"Sure, Andy, what's up?"


"Well, there is a Position of Responsibility that I still need filled. It requires someone who can talk to all the guys. The Scribe is in charge of collecting dues and keeping track of who has paid and who owes. It is his job to ask about late dues and if there is a problem to bring it to me or the PLC. It is a great way to learn who everybody is. Mr. Carson is the troop treasurer and you would be working with him, too."


Jason was pretty much blindsided by this. "You sure you want a new guy in charge of collecting the dues?"


"Well, I tried to think of who would be respected and that the guys would listen to about their dues. I kept coming back to you. I think you could do the job and sure would like you to try."


"I'll need some help. I don't know what to do."


"See, that's why I want you. You aren't afraid to ask for help. Next week, watch the scribe and have him explain things. Then if you have more questions come ask me."


"Okay, I'll try."


Andy grinned and patted Jason on the back. "I can't ask for more. Welcome to the team."


* * *

The next week the troop committee had a meeting. The Committee Chairman, Harvey Pooka, led the meeting. The minutes from the last meeting were read and approved. Mr. Pooka then addressed the committee, "A few of you may not know about the extraordinary event that happened last week. Mr. Richards, would you please fill us in on the new Scouts?"

All heads turned to Tom. "Thanks, Harvey. Well, due to some very complicated turns of fate, a very bad group home was closed down, and those boys were rescued and brought to this area. I brought them last week and registered them in the Troop. The younger boys in the Pack. There are eighteen new Scouts. I also have with me the applications for four adult leaders. Dr. Leo Turnman has offered to become a committee member and offer medical services to the boys, if needed. Mr. Ed Hillguard, Mr. Frank McNeil and Mr. Eddie Richards as Assistant Scoutmasters and Merit Badge Counselors. These boys have had a very rough life, and I feel Scouting offers them a great basis to build their new lives on. I want to assure the committee that I will be responsible financially for these boys, including summer camp. They are all excited about the possibility that they might be able to earn their way. I realize that that will be impossible for them, so I want the committee and other leaders to know that they will be covered."

Jeff Alexander said, "Tom, that is a most generous offer. I will bring this up to the Session at our next meeting. Maybe we can match that offer for the boys not covered by Mr. Richards."

Harvey said, "I guess that answers my question about the troop being able to handle the number of boys we now have."

Mr. Little stated, "There won't be a problem, with the new adult leaders to help on camp outs. Our Senior Patrol Leader has them in patrols and already working on advancement. I promised to try to stay out of his way." Everyone laughed at that. "We do have the spaghetti dinner in a few weeks. I am very happy to report that we have had almost everything we need donated. Jeff, will it be possible for us to store the donations here?"

"I don't see why not. Let me go check on a place. I'll be right back." Jeff left.

Mr. Carson, the Troop Treasurer, said, "Have the quartermaster make a list of equipment that the new boys will need and give it to me, so I can approve it and we can get it ordered."

Tom smiled. "John, please let me pay for the equipment. I feel bad having the troop spend a lot of the money that the boys earned on the guys I brought to the troop. Besides, I have the money."

"We are thrifty, so I accept your offer. We are talking about equipment for three patrols. The older guys are going to be jealous of the new guys getting the new equipment," Mr. Carson commented.

Tom looked puzzled. "So how would it normally work?"

Mr. Little responded, "The new equipment would go to the older boys and the older equipment is passed down to the new guys."

"That sounds reasonable. Just because I'm paying for it doesn't mean that the troop should do anything differently. Please remember that I am not throwing my money around to gain favors. I happen to be unbelievably rich and want all these boys to have a really great Scouting experience. I don't want any of them treated in any special way." Tom was very firm in his voice, and understanding was clear in the other committee members' faces.

Mr. Alexander returned. "Dr. Hall was in his office and said we could use the storage pantry in the kitchen. He gave me a key and he has one, so if there are any deliveries during the day he can show them where to put the supplies."

"That's great," Mr. Little said. "I have a trunk full of things now and I'll get the boys to carry it in and put it away. Last year we served 350 meals and should do about the same this year. With the donations we have now, we should clear between $800.00 and $1,000.00. That will be a nice start on summer camp for the new guys. We will need to consider some ideas for other fundraisers to help them. I know Tom will make up the difference, but the more the boys can raise, the better they feel about going. It is something they worked for and achieved."

Tom nodded his acceptance of the plan. The meeting continued and ended in time for the adults to join the boys for circle up.

The boys were excited about the upcoming spaghetti dinner and thought they could go into Haven Estates and put a flier on everyone's door inviting them to the dinner. Neal said that sounded like a great idea but they needed to clear it with the troop. He said he would check it out and get back to them about it.

* * *

Later that week Tom went online to a site Mr. Little had recommended and he ordered personal camping gear for each of the boys. He ordered ten 10X10 nylon umbrella tents and a tarp to use as a ground cloth for each tent, 10 adult packs and 15 youth packs, 25 closed cell sleeping mats, 25 zero degree mummy bags and 20 forty degree bags (he and his boys already had light weight sleeping bags), assorted sizes thermal underwear, thermal socks, canteens, mess kits and utensils.

With 'Philip's' help, he also ordered a red sweatshirt for each boy to wear under his uniform shirt, as also recommended by Mr. Little. Tom was grateful that he had earned some discounts because of the number of things he had ordered. It was expensive to outfit a boy, and he wondered if some of the poorer families had difficulty. He made a note to ask Jeff if this was the case, so he could maybe find a way to help them.

Next, he filled out another Adult Application to turn in with his Merit Badge Counselor Application. Then he looked over the list he had gotten from Sam Miller and decided on the merit badges he could teach. After studying the requirements online, he decided on signing up for astronomy, coin collecting, communications, entrepreneurship, pioneering, public speaking, and space exploration. He had done as requested and signed up for at least one Eagle Required Merit Badge, Communications.

He then set out to find the other adults that had shown an interest in signing up as merit badge counselors. By dinner, he had forms filled out for Eddie, Nick, Ed, Frank, Samuel, Lee and Linda. He was surprised that there were very few duplications. He was proud that not only was he bringing boys to the troop, but he was also bringing leaders to help provide a quality program for the boys.

Tuesday of the next week, a large delivery truck arrived. Tom signed for the shipment, then went back and got the older boys out of class to help carry the boxes into the lunch room. There was plenty of room to place them at the end of the room that wasn't being used. It didn't take long for them to realize that it was camping gear and they, of course, wanted to open it immediately. Tom said, "No, you need to go back to class. This will be here when school is over."

After herding the boys back to class, Tom had 'Philip' locate Leo, Eddie and Lee and ask them to come and help sort all of the gear. The four men discussed the best way to sort all the gear. Before the 'calm' discussion came to blows, Eddie stepped in. "The military has this problem all worked out. We have each boy come through the line. He is issued a pack, one of the scouts adjusts it for him then he goes on down the line and the rest is issued and put in the pack to carry. Then the last is the bed mat and fart-sack, oh, ah, sleeping bag. Then we can let them go check out what they got. It will be like Christmas for them."

So the men made quick work of sorting the boxes. At lunch, Tom called Andy over to his table. "We have some Scout business to deal with, so I thought our new SPL should be in on it. I'm sure you noticed the boxes over there. We ordered camping gear for all the Phoenix Scouts."

"Wow!" was Andy's response.

"What we are planning is to have them start with their new pack and then move down the line and fill the pack," Tom explained.

"Ah, that's not the best way, Mr. Richards. I'll get the experienced guys to buddy up and then they can work with them on where to pack the gear in their pack so it will be balanced. I'll go get them together." Andy didn't even wait for a response.

The rest of the afternoon was fun to watch. The Scouts got their new gear and learned how to pack it so it would be easiest to access from the pack. They learned how to roll their sleeping bags and mats and how to secure them to the packs. The younger boys weren't left out. They each got a sleeping bag and mat so they were all set for sleepovers. It was a wonderful day.

* * * * *

Authors Notes: Don't you hate it when I end a chapter on a nice note. Makes you wonder what evil I have planned for the next chapter. Well, you'll just have to wait for it. Did you notice that Martha wasn't in two places at once?

Str8mayb

East Coast Editor's Notes: Well, Troop 316 has really grown, hasn't it? From 20 boys to 50 in one meeting! New Scouts, new patrols, new patrol leaders, and the promise of new equipment. Tom is really going to be busy for a while! Now that the initial shock is over, I think the troop will adjust well to its new situation. I, for one, can't wait to see what's coming next.

Arli J

Mid-West Editor's Notes:

I'm with Arli on that one. I know that some of you might be a bit confused about some things. I know that as I was reading this chapter, I was thinking that I remembered some of this from somewhere else. Then I remembered that quite a few of the things that were discussed in this chapter occurred in earlier chapters of the Haven, Fire and Phoenix stories

Remember that Fire and Haven are both quite a bit ahead in story time, compared to this one.

So to some extent, this will be somewhat of a review of some of the Scouting experiences.

Of course, you will notice that the events described in the other stories that you will see here will be described in more detail here. Of course, once all the stories merge and catch up together to the same point in time, events will most likely be placed in their appropriate story.

I might have mentioned this before, but I think it is important to mention it again, in case people have forgotten. Scouting is a wonderful experience for boys. The things that are taught to them will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Whatever some of us might feel about the politics of the national organization, I feel that the end results for the boys is much more important than the fuss fighting about adult matters.

Str8mayb has had many years dealing with scouts and has an enormous amount of experience, dealing with people in various positions of scouting, adults and boys. (Some of the boys act a lot more like adults should, than a lot of the adults.)

When he describes the different types of troops, you can believe me, he knows what he is talking about. As you will see, the best possible way to organize it is to let the boys do the day to day running of the troops and packs. The only time that the adults should get involved is when the boys come to a point where they can't handle a certain situation and then come and ask for help. That is the only way they will truly learn responsible behavior.

I, too, am looking forward to more adventures with Troop 316, and I will be waiting not too patiently.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

West Coast Editor's Notes: To clarify things for Darryl, this is the story of Troop 316 and its scouting activities. While it will contain stories about the characters in Haven, Fire and The Last Phoenix it will also have stories about characters that only appear in this story.

For the rest of my notes Ditto what Arli and Darryl said.

TSL