Why scouts must be prepared | Martinell

Reading the letter to the editor about the Boy Scouts on our website www.kirklandreporter.com (and below) made me think of my good ol’ days as a scout. It was a little more than 15 years ago that I went on my first Boy Scout camp out with Troop 600 in Bellevue. We attended the regional camporee, which for the uninitiated is an opportunity for boys to do things that boys love best, playing (sometimes safely) with knifes, whittling sticks into twigs, testing our knot-tying skills on smaller kids and making fires - lots of fires.

It is a verifiable truth that whether or not a scout ever makes it to the rank of Eagle, which I eventually did, he will learn at least three things. What burns, what doesn’t burn and what really, really burns.

Another thing explored at camporee is a boy’s natural curiosity with sharp objects. In the novel “Lord of the Flies,” adolescent boys stuck on an island together use a conch to decide who gets to speak. Obviously, none of them were Boy Scouts. If they had been, they would have used a Swiss Army knife or a large stick the size of a staff.

For me, at the socially awkward age of 12, none of this was apparent yet, nor was it on my mind. The year was 1999, and in those olden days I was completely oblivious to the obvious, like how my scout uniform was way too big for me. My parents claimed I would “grow into the clothes.” Which I did, five years later.

The only thing that concerned my rambunctious group of friends was the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the greatest video game ever made. In a blatant act of disobedience to my older brother, I had secretly brought along his cherished player’s guide in an attempt to figure out where the heck that key was in the Water Temple.

Either it was my eyes being stuck on the pages or my friends were equally as fascinated with the book as myself, but during that first camp out we learned several great truths after the fact. For one, we weren’t even good enough to be tenderfoot scouts. We were just scouts. To the second class and first class scouts, we were cabin boys, swabs. If we did what we were told, we got promoted to mate. In practice, this meant we were delegated the thankless tasks of gathering (natural) fuel to be used for the fire, while the older scouts got the pleasure of throwing ten matches on top and then lighting it with some aerosol spray. During capture the flag, we were told to stay as close to the flag as permissible and scream with our cracking voices if we saw someone coming.

Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about the star or life scouts. They were eager to use us as pawns in their quasi-military quest to beat other troops in competitions. As long as we had enthusiasm, they loved us.

We learned a lot of things the hard way. It’s always rainy somewhere in Washington, and as such, cotton is rotten. Always.

Choose your tent’s location accordingly. My friends and I picked a bit of sand in a small depression near a creek. Long story short, among other things the players guide got soaked. My older brother was also at the camporee and word spread through the camp faster than the identity of a kid’s secret crush. You do the math.

Additionally, and I cannot stress this one enough, make sure you trust the kid cooking your meals. If you don’t, you will get cheese-balls instead of macaroni and cheese. Think of slightly moistened macaroni noodles stuck together by a near-lethal amount of dehydrated cheese powder. Believe you me, if you have not ever eaten cheese-balls, you have not experienced the worst that processed foods has to offer.

In other words, be prepared. You never know what you might experience.

TJ Martinell is a reporter with the Kirkland Reporter.

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