I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) over the years. I don't think there was even a chapter near where I grew up. If there was, I never heard about it. Nobody in our farming community could spare the money for uniforms. We all belonged to the 4-H, which had no uniforms, although you could buy a little green pin that imitated a 4-leaf clover, with a little H on each leaf. I may have once known what the four Hs stood for, but I don't any more. One of them was certainly Hands, because, being farm kids, we had to work. Another was Health, because I remember at one of the meetings somebody gave a boring talk about the importance of brushing your teeth. And Heart was probably in the list, although I don't remember anyone giving a talk about it. The fourth H has me stumped, though: it couldn't have stood for Happiness, at least not on our farm.
Some of the other farm boys in the neighborhood belonged to the Future Farmers of America (FFA). They were the sons of successful farmers, because they could afford blue warmup jackets with the FFA insignia.
I do listen to the news and read the newspaper, though, so I
they've added to their definition of a scout. In addition to a scout
being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, and all those positive
traits of the help-the-old-lady-across-the-street variety,
Oops! I just looked up the Boy Scout motto, and found that they previously had 12 characteristics of a scout, and this one makes an unlucky thirteen. This does not bode well for the future of scouting, and may account for their recent troubles.
Scout trouble has been in the news this week because of four fatalities at their National Jamboree, where 40,000 of them gathered at a government military site, Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.
On Monday, four Alaskan scout leaders, aged 42 to 57, were putting up a mess tent for their section. Evidently the tent arrived without an instruction manual; they had hired a tent assembly advisor, who advised them to erect the tent under electrical wires. When they erected the aluminum center pole, they were inside the tent and couldn't see, so when the pole touched the electrical line, all four were thrown to the ground. The tent had not been fireproofed, so any survivors died in the ensuing fire.
I think the scouts might avoid the unlucky number of
their creed by adding two more:
A SCOUT DETERMINES DISTANCES BY USING TRIANGULATION.
This calamity understandably put a damper on the Jamboree, so
people running it asked President George W. Bush to come out and
deliver an up-beat message as part of a memorial service. The 39,996
remaining scouts were told to gather in a large open field, and the
early arrivals stayed there for a long time, because everyone had to go
through security, where presumably a large number of Boy Scout Knives
were confiscated. The weather was hot and humid, so after a few hours,
the boy scouts began becoming overcome, and about 300 had to be brought
to the hospital for treatment. After several more hours, there was an
announcement that the memorial service was cancelled because there were
thunderstorms in the area and President Bush might get electrocuted if
he showed up. Evidently, neither the President nor I belonged to the
At press-time, there were rumors that Bush might address the boy scouts over closed-circuit television, broadcast from the White House's air-conditioned television studio. I guess they'll be watching on battery-powered TV sets while sitting around the campfire.