For the last 10 or 11 years I’ve been associated with Pack 438 and subsequently Troop 438. Pack 438 has been around for about 40 years while Troop 438 was started just seven years ago when my oldest crossed over from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts. I spent six years as Cubmaster and I’m in my fifth year as Scoutmaster. During that tenure there is a simple cheer we have…someone yells, “WHO’S GREAT!?” and everyone replies “438!”I’ve noticed that as the boys get older that cheer is done less and less. That’s ok. Boys Scouts is boy led and they should do their own cheer. However, our recent scout camp experience brought back the “Who’s Great!?” with a vengeance.
We attended our local council camp this year. I like this camp because they have lots of fun contests our scouts can enter. They also award a spirit stick to the troop that exemplifies true scout spirit each day and at the end of the week, one troop is selected as the winner of the spirit stick and gets to take it home.
|My Assistant Scoutmaster, Fishy the Clown|
Camp started out ok this year, but I guess my expectations were a little high since we had a fair number of older scouts attending. Of course we also had a fair number of first year scouts and that always presents us Scoutmasters with lots of challenges. For one, I’m a stickler for a clean camp. We get inspected daily and our cleanliness scores have a bearing on who wins the daily spirit stick. It was obvious with all our new scouts, many had never held a broom, let alone sweep…and I’m guessing most had never cleaned a toilet either.Early on, our scouts didn’t seem too enthused about getting involved. All I could do was prod them. Remember that Boys Scouts are boy led and while I’m happy to give ideas and my opinion, I can’t do it for them. I got tired of pushing them…because anyone with a teenager knows you can only push so far. The trick is to push, then back off.
Then there was the homesick scout. I’m no therapist, so it is very exhausting trying to figure out how to deal with a homesick scout. So, by the third day of scout camp I had enough and announced to our troop that I was “done”. This was not some reverse psychology ploy…I was literally done. I told them it’s their camp, it's their troop. I was there to make sure they followed the scout law and the buddy system and otherwise I didn’t care what they did. Instead I hung my hammock and took a nap.Amazingly my scouts decided that they would get off their collective duffs and get some things done. They lashed together a gateway (needed to get a perfect camp score), they entered the Huck Fin race, the slushy chuggin’ contest, the flop from the dock, the photo scavenger hunt, and the tomahawk race. In fact, they not only entered, they did their best and it showed.
|Blue Man Scouts|
I had a first year scout win the slushy contest…maybe not the best scout skill, but it may serve him well in college. Three of our scouts built a raft using a footlocker and came in second in the Huck Fin race. A group of our scouts entered the photo scavenger hunt and needed a picture of a clown. They also needed a picture of someone fishing. They convinced one of my assistant leaders to paint his face and grab his fishing rod. Their effort paid off as they won the contest. Once of my scouts also put his own pain aside as he won the flop from the dock...a belly flop contest where the redder your stomach and chest, the better chance you have in winning.Then, without me saying a word eight of our scouts put together a team for the tomahawk race. This is a scout skill based relay race. Each team has to build a tomahawk and the participants must carry it from station to station. I should have known we were destined for greatness by the size of the tomahawk the boys made…it was huge! They did pretty well…not only did they finish first, they set a record for fastest time the entire summer.
Then there were the scouts that did the intangible stuff, like my Senior Patrol Leader dressing in a blue man suit to go to a campfire ceremony, or the scout that at assembly walked up and took a call…it was Lucifer he said…and he wanted his weather back. We had boys do a great job with a flag raising one morning and we had scouts volunteer in the dining hall. These things earned us the spirit stick for the day and I was proud.At the closing campfire, when it came time for roll call of which troops where there, our scouts yelled, “WHO’s GREAT…438!” I was stunned but also thrilled that they revived this cheer. Several troops started making fun of it. I sat and watched our scouts intently. They took the high road.
Then the awards were handed out and it seemed that every other one announced was won by our troop or one of the boys in our troop. It was amazing to see these guys, some I’ve known since they were in first grade, hoot and holler after each award we received. In addition to the events listed above, we did enough to earn Honor Troop and then it came down to the last award for the week…they coveted spirit stick.There were two other troops I thought had been outstanding all week. Certainly my scouts had already earned more than anyone thought they would. Excitement was high…there was a drum roll…there was lots of discussion by the spirit committee.
“And the winner of the spirit stick is…Troop….438!”I screamed at the top of my lungs, “WHO’S GREAT!?”
|Record Setting Tomahawk Relay Team|
The boys responded, “TROOP 438!”It was amazing…those scouts acted as if they had just won the Super Bowl, and maybe they had. They accomplished this, and they did it without me pushing them every step of the way. That was a better feeling than any award I’ve ever received.
And as we left the arena I heard a scout from another troop say, “Hey…I guess they are great.” Yes there are…all of my scouts are great and I am thankful for getting to be a small part of their lives.