This is the seventh 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.
My committee chair called the next day, “Rob Borgatti was awfully upset, he says you were complaining about what he’s done for us and bossing him around, I am afraid he’s really quit this time.”
“Well, John,” I sighed, “I don’t know what to tell you other than what I’ve already said. I am sorry to lose Rob’s help. I probably could have done a better job explaining what I wanted to do, but he didn’t gave me the chance.”
“Who is going to transport all of the troop gear if we don’t have Rob’s Truck? This is a disaster!” John moaned.
“I’ll talk to Dave Katz, he has a truck.” I replied.
“After all those years, though, Rob’s been around longer than I have.” John went on, “Frankly Chuck, this is very upsetting; I hope we know what we’re doing.”
“I understand,” I said, “I’ll reach out to him again if you think that would help.”
“From what he said to me it wouldn’t help,” John answered, “Rob can be a little hot-headed.”
“Well, John,” I replied,”I am certainly willing to do what I can to repair the situation. I wasn’t really expecting this sort of reaction.”
“I know you are doing your best, but let’s not lose any more assistant Scoutmasters, please?” John said.
“Dave, George, and Wayne have been very supportive so far.” I said.
“I’m going to give each of them a call,” John said, “just to see how they take this.”
“I’d appreciate it if you let me speak with them instead,” I replied, “or at least let me speak with them first.”
“Yeah, I suppose they are on your side of the organization chart.” John said.
“That’s what I was thinking,” I said, “it’s not about protecting my turf, but I think it’s my responsibility.”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” John replied.
“Well, let’s just be sure that you keep talking, and that we both understand each other.” I said, “There are plenty of good things happening too.” I went on to tell him about how well Jake and the patrol leaders were doing.
After I finished speaking to John, I called Dave, Wayne, and George to let them know what had happened with Rob.
Dave Katz appeared on cue about a half hour before our last meeting before the mountain climbing trip.
“Dave, I really appreciate you doing this,” I said shaking his hand.
“Well, what are assistant Scoutmasters for?” he smiled back.
“The whole thing with Rob has been a big upset,” I said, “I was really taken by surprise.”
“Didn’t really surprise me that much,” Dave replied, “Rob was always Rob, if you know what I mean. He and the last Scoutmaster were pretty good pals, I think it was just a matter of time really.”
“Well, I still feel bad about the whole thing,” I sighed, “it’s really been bothering me, and John is not too pleased, to put it mildly,”
“Listen Chuck, I’ve been around a while, and I think I understand what you are trying to do.” Dave said, “People come and go, it’s to be expected, especially when some of the top roles in the troop change, don’t take it too personally.”
“I really appreciate that, Dave,” I continued, “Can I tell you what I’d like to see happen so far as the gear goes?”
“I am all ears,” Dave replied.
Dave and I spent the next few minutes going over my plan.
Jake was late getting to the meeting, so we had little time to talk, and one of his patrol leaders was home with a cold.
Things were getting kind of bumpy.
That evening the Scouts were loud, slow to follow directions, and this shook Jake’s confidence.
“Everything okay Jake?” I asked.
“They aren’t listening.” Jake replied
“Who?” I asked.
“Zach and Hunter” he said, “they kind of think that because their dads are Scoutmasters they can do what they want.”
“Would it help if I got involved?” I asked
Jakes face clouded, “Maybe, but…”
“But you don’t want to be a tattle-tail?” I asked.
“Kind of,” Jake said.
“I understand, Jake,” I replied, “but it seems like getting me involved is kind of inevitable at this point. This is at least the second or third time you’ve mentioned this.”
“Okay,” he said, “I guess you should talk to them.”
“I’ll make a point of doing that as soon as I can.” I said.
Since one patrol was leaderless, I met with them and tried to sort out their plans for the weekend. The patrol leader had whatever he had planned at home with him, and I was not very much help.
My committee chair appeared without any notice and, while I was checking up on Dave and the quartermaster, took over the room to talk about climbing safety for ten minutes.
Somehow, we made it to the closing. As Jake reiterated our plans for the weekend, John, our committee chair interrupted him to go over permission slips (again), and I ended with a couple of disjointed thoughts in the guise of a Scoutmaster’s minute.
I asked Zach, Hunter, and their fathers, George and Wayne, to speak with me briefly after the meeting closed. I told George and Wayne what was going on, and asked them to follow my lead.
“I wanted the five of us to discuss something, this shouldn’t take long.” I said, “George, I have been asking you to do a few things over the past couple of weeks, right?”
“Yes sir!” George said saluting.
“And you too Wayne?” I asked
“Yes.” Wayne answered.
“And I appreciate how supportive and helpful you have both been,” I said, “Why do you guys follow my directions?”
“Because you are the Scoutmaster, that’s the way it works.” Wayne answered.
I turned to their sons, “Zach and Hunter, if I gave you a direction you’d follow it, right?”
“Yeah,” they replied.
“Whose directions is your senior patrol leader following when he asks you to do something?” I asked.
They looked at each other, “You, I guess,” Zach said.
“That’s right, he follows the Scoutmaster’s directions and you Scouts elected him to be responsible for the good of the troop” I said, “I expect patrol leaders follow the senior patrol leader’s directions as quickly as you’d follow mine. What point of the Scout law applies to what I am saying?”
Zach and Hunter thought for a moment.
“Obedient?” Hunter replied.
“That’s right, good answer,” I replied, “I am glad you both understand, and the next time your senior patrol leader asks you to do something you’ll get it done. Right?”
Zach and Hunter looked at me, not too sure what to do next.
“Can I get an answer to my question; the next time your senior patrol leader asks you to do something, what will you do?” I asked.
“What he says,” Zach answered.
“Hunter?” I asked.
“What he says to do,” Hunter replied.
“Thanks guys, I just wanted to be sure we understood each other, ” I said, “let me talk to your fathers for a minute.”
Zach and Hunter headed out the door.
“Well,” George said, “I’ll talk to Zach about this.”
“And I’ll talk to Hunter.” said Wayne.
“I think we made our point,” I said, “so go easy, let’s not make too much out of this.”
“Yeah, but they have to understand how important this is.” Wayne said.
“We are asking a lot from them, and from the other youth leaders right now, Jake was very reluctant for me to be involved,” I said, “We can expect that things will be a little difficult for them at first, like I said, go easy.”
We headed out the door; I locked the meeting room, stood in the parking lot for a moment.
If my first two meetings were steps forward, this one felt like a step back.
Read the rest of the story in my new book: