03 April 2008

My Scout patrol is *not* ready for summer camp....

.... yet, but I plan to help get them ready. We have 5 boys more or less active in Scouts in our branch. Last weekend was our first campout in a long while, and the first for new convert. We're under a burn ban in our county, but the fire marshal is in our district presidency so he let us use an old dug out caliche pit on the ranch he manages so we could make a campfire.

And the campout of hard knocks began.

The Scoutmaster and I were the adults leaders for this trip (I'm the Troop Committee Chair). We decided from the beginning to let the boys learn from things and not step in. We decided this because we had a broad mix of boys. The 15 year old is the Patrol Leader because he is the Teacher's Quorum President (he is the quorum by himself), but even after 3 years of going on campouts (occasionally, when we can tear him away from his video games) he is still sorely lacking in Scout and leadership skills. We have a pair of almost 14 year olds that are excellent Scouts. One is working towards his Eagle, and the other is just shy of First Class and is trying to catch up with the other one post haste. We have a new convert to the church (13 years old) who has never been camping before, so we didn't know what to expect from him. We were pleasantly surprised when he made up his lack of experience with sheer enthusiasm. And then we have a 12 year old who seriously needs his dad to be his dad, not his buddy. His step-mom tries her best with him, but he ignores her unless called on the carpet. He is lazier than the 15 year old.

After a delay in meeting due to having to pick up the patrol leader who forgot to tell his mom about the campout for over a month, we finally got everyone together at 5:45 PM. It took about an hour to get them to settle down long enough (Lazy the Younger kept telling the new kid that Capture the Fag was a tradition and we'd have so much fun doing it) to get the gear organized (I brought extra for our two boys who don't have their own gear or the means to get their own). We also needed to do the inspection before we left. It's a rank requirement for a reason.

Spare clothes? They were all set, they said.
Mess kits? We got 'em.
Water? Plenty of it! Come on, lets go play capture the flag!

We finally get loaded up and make a quick stop for some tinfoil since I forgot to pack some for my dutch oven.

We had to wait a few minutes outside the ranch gate for someone to come open it for us. So we got the boys out and again went over the buddy system and the procedures for setting up camp. We reminded them that it was already 7:30 and it would be dark soon, so they needed to hurry to get the tents up, latrine dug, and campfire going. Dessert would take an hour to bake once we had coals, so there was no time to dilly dally.

So of course they spent their time climbing the walls of the caliche pit pretending to storm the beaches of Normandy. The more industrious boys starting digging steps into the side of the caliche walls. Tents did eventually get set up, and a latrine spot was found (they said they dug a hole.....). Dinner was a simple Mulligan stew, warmed up in the pot I snagged from the church kitchen because none of the boys thought to pack any cooking gear. Dinner was ready at 9:30 PM. Some couldn't find their mess kits, so we split up the mess kits we did have and had to improvise a lot with the tin foil and cutting up the empty water bottles from the case the Scoutmaster brought (we knew the boys hadn't planned on enough water). They survived dinner, and even enjoyed it despite their protests earlier that the wouldn't like it. (Nevermind that we took the entire patrol shopping the week before so that they could coordinate on the Mulligan stew). The dutch oven dessert was ready but we had another problem: the dishes were dirty and hadn't washed themselves! Lazy the Younger (LtY) ended up using his hands on the last of the ice cream in the tub rather than take a few seconds to clean his makeshift mess kit.

After some skits and time for scriptures and prayer, it was time for bed. Capture the Flag was forgotten by all but LtY because the other boys were all too tired. LtY realized he was tired as well, so instead of climb up to his tent (the boys decided to put their tents up on the second tier in the pit, about 5 feet above the bottom), he'd invite himself into the supply tent with the Quartermaster (our newest Scout). During the night he managed to sleep on half of the food and pop open the gallon jug of punch, soaking his clothes, sleeping bag, the potatoes, and some of the pancake mix. He wakes up cold and wet (we're out in the desert, and we banked the coals because we convinced the boys that fire watches were not fun) but doesn't do anything about it or say anything. He just spends the night that way. Of course, he doesn't have any spare clothes because he didn't think he needed any, and besides, his made his parent pack his bag for him.

The Scoutmaster and I are woke fairly early, but kept quiet and stayed in the tent, waiting for the boys to decide to wake up. We had reminded them that their breakfast was going to take a lot of prep work, so they'd all need to be up early to restart the fire and make breakfast. The bugler blew reveille at 8AM. The new Scout was trying to help with the fire but ended up putting out the coals instead. LtY announces his situation (and gets the nickname Kool Aid for his efforts: they were trying to give each other nicknames the entire campout). We scrounge around for spare clothes so he can change into something dry. He wants to stand out in the cold and dry off by the fire that is now dead. I gave him my emergency rain gear (coat and pants) from my car, the spare Scout shirt I had with me, and a bungee cord from the hiking pack I loaned out. We had to improvise for his underwear, especially since the only pants he would have would be the rubber rain pants. I ended up grabbing a large cravat and telling him to make a loincloth. The Scoutmaster tried to explain to him what that was, but after getting a blank stare ended up telling him it was like a diaper. So LtY climbs up the slope to go into someone else's tent to change, and spends over an hour in there instead of helping with breakfast. He refuses to come out because the pants were "too baggy". Eventually the almost 1st Class lends him his spare pants so he'll quit whining and come help. He hadn't volunteered the pants before because he had recently gotten into trouble with his dad (the Scoutmaster) after lending out a pair of good pants and getting them back ruined.

Meanwhile, breakfast is not getting done. They planned on sausage, bacon, pancakes, and handmade hash browns. We had one griddle, a small dutch oven, the cook pot, and the top of a bbq grill for cooking. After the fire was restarted, we had to remind the boys that arguing over whose turn it was to cook was not getting breakfast made. New Scout steps in and bumps Lazy the Elder out of the way so at least the pancakes will get made (and he did a good job at that!). LtY and LtE were standing nearby pretending to help.

Below you can see the Life Scout learning how to cook over a mesquite wood fire. Mesquite burns hot and creates a lot of smoke. Standing next to him on the right is LtY.

The Scoutmaster works in the oilfield and is used to having breakfast at 5AM before he heads out. He was starting to get a bit grouchy as we waited for breakfast, so I tossed the Antelope my emergency granola bar so he wouldn't turn into a Bear. Always count on the Beavers! (We attended Woodbadge training together. He was an Antelope, I was a Beaver, and the Bears got a reputation for being grouchy early in the morning). The granola bar held him over until breakfast was finally ready at 10:30 AM. We did intervene a bit and put the potato slices into tinfoil packets which we then threw into the fire so they could cook without having the griddle tied up all morning. Breakfast ended up being pretty good overall.

After breakfast, the boys wanted to go run off and play. We pointed out that we had a new Scout that needed to be taught a lot of things for his first few ranks, and that they had used up their playtime yesterday goofing around. So we started teaching different skills while trying not overly nag that the dishes needed to be washed. LtY did find his mess kit afterall, and left it laying around with half the bacon in it. Being a follower of the Outdoor Code, I Left No Trace and ate the bacon when he was off not paying attention to anything again. We had the experienced boys teach the rest the skills for their Totin' Chit, Fireman Chit, and the Outdoor Code. I taught the boys some basic sewing so they could sew on their own patches. LtE and LtY still don't have patches on their uniform even after over a year because they've been waiting on their moms to sew it for them.

President Riley, the Fire Marshall who is in the District Presidency, came out to check on us and asked if lunch was ready. The Scoutmaster and I quietly informed him that they had just barely had breakfast, and gave him a quick rundown of the hard lessons learned so far. He nodded his head in understanding, said "Good," and drove off.

We gave the boys 30 minutes to play Capture the Flag so they would get it out of their system. We reminded them that they still needed to cook and eat lunch so they could get credit for their Cooking Merit Badge requirements, and the break camp so we could be out of there by 2 PM. The Scoutmaster ran them ragged up topside while I started breaking down the leaders' tent. He had them back with 10 seconds to spare. Lunch was supposed to be hot dogs and home made fries, but the potatoes were all either used up at breakfast or soaked in Kool Aid, so they just had hot dogs and smooshed bread. If they weren't hungry yet, we told them to get busy on breaking camp until they were.

LtE announces that he doesn't know how to fold the tent he borrowed from the troop, despite having done so on several previous campouts. We tell him that the instructions are in the bag and get to it. After sitting there for a bit waiting to see if someone would come do it for him we were pleasantly surpised to see that he took down his tent by himself in about 20 minutes. Life and Almost 1st Class have their tents down pretty quick,and they're already loading the truck with the gear that is ready. New Scout is trying to clean and put away the cooking gear because no one else really put much effort into cleaning the dishes from breakfast, leaving LtY to take down the tent he sloshed with Kool Aid. We send New Scout to help him since they both shared the tent, but he was smart enough to not get suckered into doing all the work himself. We send down LtE to go help because a) he's the Patrol Leader and b) he just folded up the same kind of tent (the supply tent came from the troop equipment). LtE does a bit and then sits there and stares at it for 45 minutes waiting for LtY to help out. LtY hasn't even packed his own gear yet. We got him back into his own clothes, minus the socks he threw into the fire, but he still stood there. We passed around water bottles because the heat was rising, especially with the caliche pit not having much airflow and the heat from the mesquite fire still lingering. Life and Almost 1st Class had worked hard loading the truck, and were off in the shade cooling down. The Scoutmaster and I obliterated the fire pit in full compliance with Leave No Trace (including covering any black marks on the rocks or ground). The tent still wasn't put away. We joined the boys in the shade and drank some water ourselves. LtE finally got tired of tasting his own medicine and came over to the shade with us complaining about the "lazy ones" and that this was the reason why he hated camping (meaning having to help out with the work). LtY sits down in the middle of the open caliche pit, with the sun beating down on him, staring at the tent. We finally convince him to help New Scout put away the tent and load it in the truck. It took 2 hours to put away that tent. We left the caliche pit at 3:30 PM.

We got back to the church building and unloaded the gear, called parents, and started cleaning the dishes that were packed away partly cleaned. LtY announces his conspiracy theory that someone dumped the Kool Aid on him in the middle of the night. We send the tent home with him so he can clean it before it can mildew. He looks at his step-mom expectantly, especially after she had commented that she had been doing the laundry all day.

We finally get everyone home, hopefully having learned something from all of this. They have a lot of work to do to become a functional patrol and be ready for the all LDS summer camp in June.


boltons said...

James you are one determined soul. I think I would have walked away and left them in the pit. You did great letting them learn for themselves but what patience it took. All I can say is... have fun this summer. So did you enjoy Woodbadge? Ray says it was one the most intense trainings he has ever attended and he loved it. I am now a cub den leader for the sweet 8 yr old wolves and wouldn't trade this calling, I love it. But I am not a life-long scouter, I do not intend to do the rough training. But the other den leader is ready to go, the more training the better for her. She has 4 sons herself and plans to be a "lifer". More power to all of you dedicated ones!
PS tell Christie that Ray and Ryan really enjoyed their visit and he says to tell Elizabeth hi for him.

James said...

I enjoyed Woodbadge. It was the new version, with more emphasis on leadership and communication than the outdoor skills. I'm working on my ticket items still. One is finsihed, a few are in progress, and I may substitute a few of my alternaes (already completed) in order to earn my beads.

Katie said...

I kept meaning to comment that I enjoyed this post - but it kinda makes me dread having three boys in scouts.

James said...

I wouldn't worry about your boys being in Scouts. The problems we're having is a combination of having to restart a program almost from scratch with very little depth of experience in the youth leadership, a small pool of adult leaders with which to work, plus having boys that haven't been taught much, if anything, in the way of responsibility. I'm sure your boys will be taught much better, alleviating most of the problem right there. The rest will depend on your ward's Scouting program.