This is the ninth of twelve installments in a story that follows a new Scoutmaster, Chuck Grant, attempting to use the patrol method in a troop that has forgotten how.
I’ve based this work of fiction on the stories shared by readers and listeners, questions they have asked, and the advice I commonly share in reply. Scoutmasters can expect to encounter challenges and setbacks along the way.
I’ve tried to avoid being unreasonable optimistic, or overly pessimistic about the progress we can make when we stick to the basics.
The first night of my first camping trip as a Scoutmaster was going well. The Scouts had set up camp and gathered around our campfire.
“Jake,” I asked, turning to our senior patrol leader, “what time is lights out and all quiet tonight?”
Jake looked at his cell phone, “It’s [9:45], what time do we have to get up in the morning?”
“Sounds like an excellent question for the patrol leader’s council,” I replied, “why don’t you send the Scouts off to their campsites, get your patrol leader’s council together, make a few decisions about times, and come talk to me when you are done.”
“Right,” Jake replied.
I dropped into my chair as the Scouts ambled down the hill towards their campsites.
“So far so good,” said George, “I am beginning to think some of this may work.”
“I don’t know,” said Wayne, “we haven’t seen breakfast yet.”
“Speaking of which,” I said, “who’s cooking our breakfast, I brought bacon and eggs.”
“That’ll be me, if that’s okay,” Dave said, “I am kind of itching to cook over a fire,”
“Sound’s good to me,” I replied, “thanks Dave.”
Jake stepped into the firelight, “ten o’clock for lights out and all quiet, and we are getting up at seven.”
“Okay, Jake,” I replied, “like we talked about on the drive here, you’ve got your alarm clock and we’ll call you when Mr. Katz has your breakfast ready. Anything else?”
“You said the climbing guy is coming at ten tomorrow morning?” he asked, looking at his schedule.
“Yes, and it’s about five minutes’ walk from here to the rocks,” I replied,
“The schedule is climbing for a couple of hours after breakfast,” Jake said, “head back for lunch, and climb some more during the afternoon.”
“Sounds good to me,” I replied, “are you going to look in on the patrols before you go to bed?”
“Sure, I can do that.” Jake replied.
“Sounds good, Jake,” I said, “and thanks for all your hard work this evening.
“Okay, goodnight then.” Jake said as he started down the hill.
Dave called after him, “Jake?”
“Yeah” Jake replied.
“Nice job this evening, you are turning out to be a pretty good senior patrol leader.” Dave said.
“Yeah, what he said,” Wayne added.
George chimed in, “He’s right, Jake, good job.”
“Thanks,” Jake said, and went to check on his patrols.
I sat and talked with Dave, George, and Wayne as the fire turned into a glowing bed of coals.
“Have any of us actually looked at how the tents are set up?” Dave asked.
“Some of our newer Scouts haven’t had much practice with the tents.” Wayne said.
“Or cooking,” George added.
“I wonder if they remembered the ground cloths.” Dave said to himself.
“I hope they put their food away properly.” said George.
“I can think of ten or twelve other things that may not be perfect right now,” I answered, “but we aren’t looking for perfection; just initiative.”
“What if they really mess up something important though?” George asked.
“What happens if a Scout needs us, or something goes wrong over night?” Wayne asked, “We are kind of spread out here.”
“The farthest tent is really only about 25 yards away,” I said, “I’ll leave a lantern on so the Scouts can see where we are.”
“If the lantern batteries run out,” Wayne said, “they can always follow George’s snoring.”
“It keeps the bears away too,” George said.
“There aren’t any bears around here,” Wayne replied.
“See how well that works?” George said, “I live to serve.”
We sat and talked for a while longer as, one by one, lights in the Scouts tents went out.
“I have to cook breakfast,” Dave said looking at his watch, “I think I’ll turn in.”
George stretched, yawned and said “Me too.”
“I’m going to take a quick walk past the patrol sites,” I said.
“Want some company?” Wayne asked.
“Sure, let’s go.” I replied.
We heard low talking in a couple of tents as we quietly surveyed the campsites.
Wayne and I headed up the hill to our tents. “You know, they did a reasonable job of setting things up.” he remarked.
“I saw a couple of things lying around but, all in all, so far so good.” I replied.
“So far so good yourself, Chuck,” Wayne said, “I’m still a little skeptical about the Scouts running things, but ‘so far so good’.”
“That’s pretty high praise from a skeptic” I replied, “I’ll take what I can get!”
Read the rest of the story in my new book: