Archive for September, 2009

Scoutmaster Minute—Everybody’s Canoe

September 27, 2009

Raingutter Regatta Kit

A young Indian brave was busy at work carving a canoe out of a log. As he worked, members of his tribe passed by. They all had a piece of advice to offer the young man.

“I think you are making your canoe too wide,” one of them said. The young brave, wishing to show respect for the advice of an elder, narrowed the canoe.

A little later, another warrior stopped and said, “I’m afraid that you are cutting your stern too full,” he said. Again the young brave listened to the advice of the elder and cut down the stern.

Very soon, yet another member of the tribe stopped, watched for a while, then commented, “The bow is too sheer.” The young brave accepted this advice as well and changed the line of the bow.

Finally, the canoe was complete and the young brave launched it. As soon as it hit the water, it capsized. Laboriously he hauled it back onto the beach. Then he found another log and began his work anew.

Very soon, a member of his tribe stopped by to offer some advice, but this time the young brave was ready.

“See that canoe over there?” he asked, pointing to the useless craft on the beach. “That is everybody’s canoe.” Then he nodded at his work in progress. “This one,” he said, “is my canoe.”

(from p.13 in BSA Troop Program Resources)


Cub Scout Uniform Patches

September 25, 2009

Welcome new Cub Scout parents!  Uniforming is one of the methods of the Cub Scout program.  We want to make sure your Cub has his patches on his blue uniform in the right places.  This graphic is located in the back of the BSA Wolf Handbook.

Patches for Cub Scouts Uniforms

Blue uniforms are available at Runnings in Marshall and Windom, Center Sports in Worthington, and the Scout Shop in Sioux Falls.  You want a Sioux Council strip (the wide curved patch that goes on the sleeve) and red ’25’ pack numbers.  For Pack 25, this year:

  1. Den 1 is the Wolf Den
  2. Den 2 is the Tiger Den
  3. Den 3 is Webelos II
  4. Den 4 is Webelos I
  5. Den 5 is the Bear Den


RIP William Sparkman

September 25, 2009

This is a bit troubling.

William E. “Bill” Sparkman was a teacher, part-time Census canvasser, and Scouter in Kentucky.  He was found hanged near a rural cemetery, with the phrase “fed” scrawled across his chest.  Bill was an Eagle Scout.

It’s a big, dangerous world out there and we don’t know the whole story.  We can look at the statistics and logically conclude that this type of violence is an anomaly in modern America.  We can rail from the left about anti-government rhetoric or from the right about culture of drugs and corruption.  We can take this as one more reason to cocoon our kids in a constant state of supervision in front of video screens….

We can justify and pontificate all day and all night.   That doesn’t make it any easier when one of our own—somebody trying to do the right thing—pays so high a price.

Rest in peace, Bill.  May the Great Father of All Scouts be with you.


[Edit] Here is a profile of Mr. Sparkman’s education story. h/t to

[Edit2] Reflections from Scouting friends in Florida.

[Edit3] In a strange twist to this tale, the Kentucky State Police have determined that William Sparkman took his own life.  Different questions, no better answers…


Always A New Adventure

September 20, 2009

Camden State Park-Lynd, MN

Our troop took a day hike this weekend. Camden State Park is just southwest of Marshall, Minnesota, on State Highway 23. The headwaters of the Redwood River cut a scenic valley out of the Buffalo Ridge with a cold-water trout fishery and multiple-use trails atypical for our prairie home. We saw maples, oaks and sumac starting to show fall colors, turkey buzzards and bluebirds floating on warm breezes, wild turkeys and jumping fish. It was a wonderful late-summer day.

The Second Class 5-mile hike requirement is widely feared by our young Scouts. Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and our part of the state is fairly flat, lacking in interesting hiking topography. Camden offers a good 100 feet in elevation change with at least 15 miles of interlaced trails to choose from. They even have a mountain bike race each year.

We don’t do as much hiking as I would like. Our troop has more of a canoeing tradition. Several of the Assistant Scoutmasters are skilled canoeists and our recent Eagle Scouts have opted for Swimming merit badge over hiking or biking options. The Boundary Waters are closer than mountain hiking trails, and I enjoyed trips to Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base when I was a youth, so I understand the tradition.

Yet Scouting to me isn’t Scouting without hiking. Hiking merit badge was one of the first merit badges I earned “back when”. In the years since, I’ve logged many memorable hours exploring prairie and mountain trails across the United States and Canada. There’s just no better way to appreciate the natural world than to get off the pavement and hit the trail.

I suppose it’s the leader’s conundrum. Is it ethical to steer the patrol leaders’ council to activities we want to do ourselves? Do we encourage those we know we can get two deep leadership for? Is it even more simply acknowledging what we know we can get done?

There’s a big old brand new Boy Scout Handbook out chock-full of activities that Boy Scouts do. Scoutcraft, Woodcraft, Campcraft, and more. No one Scouter this side of Green Bar Bill can hope to be an authority on all of them. At the same time, isn’t that one of the unlauded benefits of Scouting? That there is always something new to try? Always a new adventure?

In fact, each new Scout that joins our troop brings a whole new adventure to the group. Each adult, each youth, each parent and family member, bring new interests, activities, competing activities, baggage, experience, love and joy to our Scouting family. We are all part of a Century of tradition that grows and changes with each brand new Tenderfoot starting out on their own personal Scouting adventure.

And on each new adventure, we always tell our Scouts to give it a go and do your best. This is the hard part for me, the unscripted bits between the specific rank requirements. You know, that “Show Scout Spirit” part. So I will do my best and challenge our Scouts to pick up their hiking sticks. They will challenge me to work on my swimming (and oh so much else!). Together we’ll be prepared, for any old adventure that comes our way.

Scoutmaster Minute—The Golden Windows

September 13, 2009

It was getting toward the end of summer and the young Scout was about to enter the 3rd grade. Each morning all summer long he had noticed a particular house up on a hill about a mile away. This house, he thought, must be spectacular because every morning when he got up, it looked like it had golden windows.

On this particular morning, he decided to go see the house with golden windows. He packed a lunch and started out on his big journey. Not long after he started, he came to a fence and couldn’t resist the temptation to see how far he could walk along the top rail. Then, he continued on his way until he came to a stream, where he stopped for a long while to catch crayfish and minnows. By that time he was hungry and ate his lunch. Starting up the hill to the house with the golden windows, he happened to see a porcupine. They stared at each other for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally, he gave up and returned to his quest.

When he did reach the house with the golden windows, he was very disappointed. There was the house, but instead of being majestic, it was a deserted, run-down shambles. The railings were falling off the porch, the screen door was off its hinges, the yard needed mowing, and the flower garden was overgrown with weeds. He was crushed. Sadly, he sat down on the front steps and just happened to gaze back toward his own home. There, in the late afternoon sun, was his house with golden windows!

Often in life we think that someone else has it far better than we do, or maybe that we should have a position much better than the one we have. But, we really should stop and think about all that we have and be thankful.

(adapted from p.12 in BSA Troop Program Resources)

Almost heaven, West Virginia?

September 1, 2009

New River - Endless Wall Cliffs

Back when we were enjoying being unplugged at summer camp, the BSA settled on a new East Coast High Adventure site:  Garden Ground Mountain at Fayetteville, West Virginia. 

The [BSA] recently signed an agreement to purchase 10,600 acres, some of it reclaimed mining property, near Beckley, West Virginia, and announced that it would develop a new high- adventure base to complement its existing three bases in Minnesota, New Mexico, and Florida.

Dubbed ‘The National Scouting Center’, the new Appalachian Mountains site joins Philmont, Sea Base and the Northern Tier (e.g. Charles L. Sommers canoe base at Ely, MN) locations where the Boy Scouts of America deliver national high adventure programs.  The property, located in the Buckskin Council, is a reclaimed strip mine nestled into the New River Gorge National River park.

It seems like a lot of money to sink into real estate in these uncertain times, and i know nothing about the Appalachians, only venturing east of Detroit for a couple trips to Washington, DC.  After talking over a trip to D.C. with the Troop, I doubt our Scouts would journey so far.  Then again Cimarron, NM, isn’t much closer and I swear I will get to Philmont one day before I die.  I ought never say never again.

Speaking of never again, 2010 is due to be the last National Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.  I had heard about land use challenges BSA was facing on a proposed Jambo site in Goshen County, Virginia.  The National Council withdrew that proposal a couple weeks ago in light of substantial NIMBY pushback.  However, I had missed the news about the Fayette County, WV, proposal.   Now National is evaluating the West Virginia site for the National Jamboree as well.  That was the original plan, just, oh boy, that will be alot of work in this kind of topography.


Actually, it’s taking me awhile to come in out of the sun, but I’m slowly catching up in preparation for another Scouting year.  Our Scouts are not back in school until after Labor Day, but South Dakota is in session 2 weeks by now.  The emails are coming more regularly from our District Executive.  Earlier sunsets and cooler nights allow me to unlace my hiking boots and sit down at the computer before lights out.  I wonder what else I missed this summer?