This is the tenth 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.
“This one got kind of burny,” Bob said, explaining the black pancake on his plate, “but it’s eatable.”
“How did the others turn out?” I asked.
“They were better after I had some practice,” He replied.
George walked over from his son’s patrol’s campsite.
“Well?” I asked.
George looked a little pale, “Not a total disaster, but close.”
“They’re eating something, though, right?” I asked.
“I detected a substance reputed to be oatmeal,” he said, “if you are hungry enough you’ll eat anything I suppose.”
George and I started up the hill towards our campsite, “Jake, when you have a moment come see me.” I called to our senior patrol leader.
Dave and Wayne were washing up after breakfast, and Wayne’s son Hunter was sitting by the fire.
“Hey Hunter,” I said.
“Good morning Mr. Grant,” he replied.
“How was breakfast?” I asked.
“Okay,” Hunter said.
“Where’s your patrol?” I asked.
“Huh?” he asked.
“Where’s your patrol?” I repeated.
“Down there,” he said pointing down the hill.
“And where should you be?” I asked.
“What?” he asked.
“And where should you be?” I repeated.
Hunter looked at his dad, looked at me, and said “With my patrol?”
“See, I knew you’d get it,” I said, “see you later on.”
“I needed to get something from my dad…” he said.
“Good, now it’s time to head back to your patrol, see you later.” I replied.
Hunter looked at his dad, got up from the chair slowly, and started dragging his feet down the hill.
As soon as he was out of earshot Wayne looked at me and said, “He seems a little glum today. I didn’t have the heart to get on his case, but thanks for doing that.”
“No worries,” I said, “anything in particular got him down?”
“Who can tell!?!” Wayne laughed, “he’s thirteen!”
Dave laughed pretty hard, “My son wanted to quit Scouts about two weeks out of four at that age. Of course during the other two he was having the time of his life.”
Jake walked into the campsite, “You wanted to see me?” he asked.
“How are the patrols doing?” I asked, “Is everyone cleaning up after breakfast?”.
“Well, the Rabbits are still cooking pancakes, The Hunter patrol is almost finished eating, and the Foxes are moving kind of slow.” He answered.
“It’s about eight thirty,” I said looking at my watch, “I expect to see our climbing guy in about an hour and a half, can I make a suggestion?”
“Sure,” Jake said.
“First off, things are going pretty well,” I began, “but as I was walking around this morning I saw a couple of things you may want to think about.”
I went on to discuss a few minor things in the campsites that I thought could be improved. There was some gear laying around, one or two tents needed to be tidied up and staked better. We also talked through how dishes should be washed, fires doused and food stored away.
“Your biggest challenge right now is working through your patrol leaders, ” I said, “You can’t be responsible for each and every detail yourself, that’s why we have patrol leaders, right?”
“Yeah, they are catching on,” Jake said, “at least they are listening to me more of the time.”
“So my talking with them helped?” I asked.
“Yeah.” Jake said.
“Well, you are doing a great job,” I said, “just remember; when you treat people with respect you get respect in return.”
“Thanks,” Jake said.
Dave Katz handed Jake something wrapped in paper toweling, “Do me a favor, try this little invention of mine: a bacon, egg, cheese, and toast sandwich. You didn’t eat more than two eggs and four or five pieces of bacon at breakfast.”
“Nice!” Jake exclaimed, as he unwrapped the sandwich and took a big bite, “thanks Mr Katz!”
“Mr. Hudson?” Jake said through a mouthful of sandwich, as he walked away, “Zach said he needed to talk to you.”
George looked up. Before he could answer I said, “Tell Zach Mr. Hudson is busy, he’ll see him when we get together to go climbing.”
“Murmph!” replied Jake as he continued down the hill.
“What if he really needs something?” George asked, a little worry creeping into his voice.
“If it was an emergency we’d run right down there,” I replied looking into the Fox Patrol campsite, “I don’t see anything that needs our attention from here.”
“If he goes home and complains to his mother I am a dead man,” George said, “maybe I should just…”
“DAD!?!” Hunter yelled from his campsite ten yards away. Wayne jumped, but before he could answer I held up my hand, “Wait! Watch what happens next.“
Jake stopped, turned and made a beeline for Hunter. Hunter and Jake talked for a moment and walked towards the Hunter patrol’s kitchen setup.
“See that?” I said, “crisis diverted!’
Wayne and George exchanged concerned looks, and then looked at me, “Okay,” Wayne said, “ I get it, I think.” he said with a smile.
George was still peering off towards the patrols, “I guess, I think I get it, maybe, but If he loses an arm and his mother finds out…”
“These boys,” Dave began, “excuse me, these Scouts are used to having lots of adult ‘help’; it’s going to be a while before everyone gets comfortable with them doing for themselves.”
“I guess it will take time for all of us to sort this out,” George muttered to himself, “In the meantime,” he turned to Dave, “professor, what is this curious sandwich invention you speak of?”
Read the rest of the story in my new book: