Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Musings on scouting

We enrolled the boy in cub scouts and took him to his first Camporee this weekend. So I'm going to indulge myself in some nostalgia.

I was both a Cub and a Boy Scout, my wife just missed scouting in Poland and regrets it. I believe it was banned during the communist days and reestablished at end of the Soviet occupation.

Historical note: during the Nazi occupation, the Polish scouts assisted the Armia Krajowe (Home Army) as couriers, and in the Warsaw Uprising carried food, water and amunition. They were called "the Grey Legions." (The color of Polish scout uniforms.)

A splendid time was had by all. The baby sister also got to run around the campground in an ecstasy of delight. My wife says this is exactly the kind of activity she wants the kids into.

Me too. And, well I'm not going to cop an "In my day we were REAL scouts attitude" but...

Baden-Powell was a British spy during the Boer War, and the old scout manuals used to go into some details of his career. Including the fascinating story about how he used to pose as an eccentric butterfly collector and conceal drawings of fortifications in elaborate drawings of butterfly wings.

Baden-Powell asked his good friend Rudyard Kipling if he could borrow characters from 'The Jungle Book' for scouting. Which is why you find Akela, the Head Wolf showing up in Cub terminology. Kipling also wrote The Boy Scouts Patrol Song.

Scouting originally was supposed to be just that - an organization to teach the skills of a military scout, and the character and fortitude necessary to survive and keep functioning during wars and emergencies.

It was also supposedly inspired in part by the age regiments of the Zulu nation. How's that for multi-culturalism?

In an online edition of one of the first scout manuals I came across instructions on what to do if you find a dead body! (They amount to "don't disturb a potential crime scene, note the area and fetch the pros.)

A late 1950s scout manual I used to own (and sorely miss) was chock full of inspiring scout stories such as the French boy scout who was tortured and murdered by the Gestapo rather than tell where Dad and his buds in the Resistance were.

When I was at Boy Scout camp, we used to (gasp!) shoot guns! I think they've got BB guns for the Cubs here. I don't know if gun handling is still a part of scouting in this part of the country but I mean to find out. I read once that scouts in the UK used to teach quarterstaff fighting.

Robert Heinlein incorporated scouting into one novel, 'Farmer in the Sky' and one novella, 'Lost Legacy' (found in 'Assignment in Eternity.')

Scouting is, of course, under attack by certain elements of the reinvent-human-nature Left. I think that says more about them than it does scouting.

And just for fun, here's

The Boy Scouts Patrol Song

by Rudyard Kipling 1913

These are our regulations--
There's just one law for the Scout
And the first and the last, and the present and the past,
And the future and the perfect is "Look out!"
I, thou and he, look out!
We, ye and they, look out!
Though you didn't or you wouldn't
Or you hadn't or you couldn't;
You jolly well must look out!

Look out, when you start for the day,
That your kit is packed to your mind;
There is no use going away
With half of it left behind.
Look out that your laces are tight,
And your boots are easy and stout,
Or you'll end with a blister at night.
(Chorus) All Patrols look out!

Look out for the birds of the air,
Look out for the beasts of the field--
They'll tell you how and where
The other side's concealed.
When the blackbird bolts from the copse,
Or the cattle are staring about,
The wise commander stops
And (chorus) All Patrols look out!

Look out when your front is clear,
And you feel you are bound to win.
Look out for your flank and your rear--
That's where surprises begin.
For the rustle that isn't a rat,
For the splash that isn't a trout,
For the boulder that may be a hat
(Chorus) All Patrols look out!

For the innocent knee-high grass,
For the ditch that never tells,
Look out! Look out ere you pass--
And look out for everything else!
A sign mis-read as you run
May turn retreat to a rout--
For all things under the sun
(Chorus) All Patrols look out!

Look out when your temper goes
At the end of a losing game;
When your boots are too tight for your toes;
And you answer and argue and blame.
It's the hardest part of the Law,
But it has to be learnt by the Scout--
For whining and shrinking and "jaw"
(Chorus) All Patrols look out!


  • At 6:50 PM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    Reminds me of the fuss over JROTC. Some anti-military bigot in my hometown was all worked up at the thought of JROTC in our local junior high or high school. He claimed that it was military indoctrination, whatever that is. He feared that it would turn the children into cold-blooded killers by giving them military training that was somehow dangerous.

    I attempted to explain to the man the limited utility of drill and ceremonies to modern warfare - or even to fisticuffs, street crime, or warfare post-1900. He wouldn't have any of it. His mind was made up and the facts were not going to change it.

  • At 4:57 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    I had JROTC in my high school (Rogers HS, Newport RI) and rather enjoyed it.

    (Unfortunately all the M1 Garands we were issued had at one time or another passed through the drill team, which means getting dropped a lot in practice - and there's only so much abuse even a Garand can stand...)

    To this day I have two regrets about my high school years, 1) that I did not accept a coaches pleading to join the wrestling squad, and 2) that I didn't get into marching drill more. I'd have been a much better martial artist - and historian/anthropologist if I had.

  • At 10:45 AM, Blogger Eduardo said…

    BB guns for Cubs

    22 and shotgun for Boy Scouts

    Handguns for Venturing Crews

    The old books taught stalking and scouting as necessary skills. Today's urban Scout is largely removed from that basic skill, but depending the Troop and Patrol, it is still done.

  • At 8:00 AM, Blogger Jeremiah said…

    I got my Eagle in 1999 (and all three of my brothers not long after), and my experience matches the above, bb guns for Cubs, 22s and shotguns for Boy Scouts. Archery for both. I spent 30 bucks on pigeons one summer getting the shotgun badge and enjoyed every minute of it.

    I do recall at a Rendezvous one year they let us Cubs take a turn on rifles, including a blackpowder rifle (with an adult helping to support it).

    Most of the shooting in my council (Western Colorado Council) was centered on Camp Kiwanis for Cubs and OA Greager for Boy Scouts. I heard that OA Greager was closed a few years after I finished though, because the bathroom facilities were rather rustic (outhouses and solar showers). Too bad.


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