Friday, August 6, 2010

Scouting memories

Sometimes small things stick in your mind. They’re neither big nor important, but they’re embedded there as vivid as the day they happened.
There is no reason that I can think of that explains this memory. It was the first day of Day Camp for Brownies. We had taken a walk with our group, probably some sort of nature study, and were returning to headquarters. A little girl, whom I did not know, skipped up beside me on the path, and started chattering happily. She had no buddy to walk with, she knew no one, but she and I held hands and I listened to her talk about this first day, her big brown eyes sparkling with happiness. She announced that she and I were friends, and I agreed.
She was the only African American child in that day’s session and she did not attend any more. I don’t remember her name; I don’t know why she never returned, but after forty years, I can still feel that little hand.
Another time, with my own troop’s camp-out, part of the troop was doing the fire building. Of course, they enthusiastically carried their loads of dry wood to their camp site and one little girl drug in the prize: a dead log almost as big around as she.

Now, anyone who has ever attempted to prune their trees after the limbs have died or sawed an old dead log for the fireplace, knows that while making an excellent fire, the dead wood is really hard.
Our tool was our bow saw, and this little girl was part of the group responsible for building the fire, so this rather frail appearing little girl tackled this log which was about eight inches in diameter.
I believe I suggested that the chore be shared. I don't seem to have an actual photo but the picture is still clear in my mind. Such determination, a job well done with the log finally ablaze.

This next unforgettable experierence casts doubt upon my level of sanity. The last troop that I was associated with was a very large one with over twenty girls. There four leaders, well, technically a leader and three assistants, but that wasn't the way we operated. Three of us were very active, each with a patrol. The fourth, assisted us by being responsible for all the mundane things we three didn't want to do. She was our anchor.

Our scouting program had always been strong in our town. From the day an earlier troop trashed the official uniform and designed their own, throughout the years of this last troop, the Council despaired of our antics. We were progressive; they were bound by arcade training and rules. When our ideas, were successful, as they often were, sometimes being the first such program in the nation, Council praised us while tensely awaiting our next bombshell.

One of the leaders of this troop, #147, had several years before volunteered to work with a group of older girls in organizing the first ever mounted patrol. She was also the leader who spearheaded a Bicycle Rodeo, that with the cooperation of the police department, had a safety and skills program for the community's youngsters.This was also a first.

Now, it was this interest in bicycle riding that was almost my downfall! I grew up in the country...dirt roads and no bike. Some where, some time I rode a bicycle. Once. When this bunch of girls got all excited about riding their bikes, they decided to take a five-mile ride outside the city limits. This may have been a badge earning project. I don't remember, but part of scouting is helping the girls plan and carry out events so plans were made and a route and date set.

Naturally, my daughter who was a member of this troop, had a bike. I don't know where I got mine. Away we went. As is so often said, "Once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget."Well. I had been on a bike before so I was qualified, right? We rode and rode with one rest stop. The girls laughing and wheeling here and there, laughing like it was loads of fun. The other two leaders were obviously

at ease, enjoying the countryside. I was concentrating upon keeping my balance and telling myself "You can do it, you gotta do it, this will end sometime today." And it did. I managed to finish the ride and get off that danged two-wheeled demon without collapsing, my determined smile still pasted across my face.

Did I mention in an earlier blog that scouting brings new experiences into your life. Unforgettable ones, I will add. So I lived for another day and more experiences yet to come.

Children are like flowers; they need to be nurtured.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Scout Leader

If you are ever fortunate enough to have an opportunity to be a Girl Scout leader, do it! Think you aren’t qualified? You’ll learn…oh how you’ll learn! The main qualification may be patience and a certain amount of interest in all things. It is a time consuming project but worthwhile things usually are. It will take organizing your time if you are to remain sane. Home life also deserves a part of you and you will occassionally need time to do your nails! Or to read something other than the current issue of the Girl Scout Leader.

I was a leader for 21 years starting in 1952 when my first daughter wanted to be a Brownie. This became a group that wanted to break the image of scouting being dull and for girls who were not of the adventurous type. They hated their official uniforms and choose a more becoming outfit but in the standard scout colors. Their other leader and I supported them in this choice because they were attractive, modern girls and if they were to continue in the program they needed to feel attractive and modern! I remember my co-leader as being more daring and progressive than I and I credit her for much of the troop’s continued interest in scouting.
Council wasn’t happy with us but it was only a year or two until the official uniform followed suit. These girls, with the encouragement of my co-leader, took part in numerous community affairs and were active in school affairs. Now in their sixties, these are women I’m proud to know.
Later years and more daughters, brought more troop work, sometimes as a leader and sometimes helping. Helpers are very important to a troop. Supportive mothers are a must, and I have never met a mother who would not help…if you only could find her niche. It might be camping or it might be telephoning, It could be transporting and it might be only once a year! It is the support group that keeps a leader from spreading herself too thin. Let's not forget fathers. They are also part of the support group, usually helping with the tougher jobs such as helping make a campground safer. Never think for a moment that the fathers, older brothers or male friends are not greatly appreciated. We leaders are capable but super women, we are not!
When my third daughter’s troop graduated and I was still a leader of the fourth one’s troop, I had to make a decision; whether I could cope with a troop, a family, and aging parents plus being a leader of a troop. Family and parents came first and I regretfully quit scouting but not without many memories. Some are rather impressive and some are ordinary but special to me.
A few of those will be shared later. You’ll wonder why I remember some. Well, so do I. Some you’ll have no doubt about!
This cactus flower shows what beauty can develop out of a pest. It's tough and durable and its needles can be a real problem. That's scouting for you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Woman Who Was My Mother

Who were the women who became our mothers? In appearance and lifestyle, mine was a completely different person from the hard-working farmwoman she became after her marriage and the Great Depression that changed lives all over the nation.
Eula Frances Lantrip was one of seven children, all of whom somehow got their teacher’s certificates, taught school and married school teachers. Except Eula! Eula did not marry until she was thirty-eight, making her an “old maid”, not the independent career woman as they are called today.
Mother’s first school was in Orange, Texas; the following year she taught in McAllen, far south near the Mexican border. The predominance of Spanish speaking students made the purchase of two Spanish language books a necessity.
Securing a teaching position in the 1900’s placed the young ladies very much on their own. Traveling was a serious undertaking; a trip of any distance was made by train accompanied by a large trunk holding everything they would need for the school term. They left home with no plans to return until the summer months.
Usually someone living near the school would have a spare room and would board the teacher. Some had enough space to provide a boarding house for three or four of the young ladies. In such living arrangements, friendships were formed, and personality differences developed. Mother never forgot one boarder who envisioned herself a talented entertainer, pounding away on the piano and giving her rendition of Sugar Blues evening after evening… It was not an event the others waited for with great enthusiasm
Mother spent her summers in Boulder, Co. She had a talent for painting and took art classes and enjoyed the area, hiking and taking tours.
Old photos show her very stylishly dressed for these trips in knee high lace up boots, pants, and a wide brimmed beaver hat. For trips to mountains such as Pike’s Peak a tour guide was hired and the trip was made in an auto with no heat and only curtains over the windows for protection from the cold. This was in the early ‘20s, so it was only the daring that undertook such ventures in such uncomfortable cars and using the gravel roads which were the highways of those days Are there still glaciers in the area for the really adventurous to cross as there were then? Mother once turned back alone from a trek across one because a snowstorm was forecast, I’ve often wondered what motivated that decision: to choose between being with a group in a snowstorm or hiking alone back to the starting point. Evidently, she trusted her instincts more than she trusted the judgment of the guide.
She took in the sights of the area, Royal Gorge and even farther west to Flagstaff AZ. Deep canyons didn’t daunt her daring spirit in the least. She walked across swinging bridges and looked down into their depths, something that has me shrinking back to a safer terrain at my first glimpse. I did not inherit that daring gene. Like Mom, if a job needs or must be done, okay, I’ll grit my teeth and do it. But a bridge over Royal Gorge does not need to be crossed so I’ll find other things to do. If it were absolutely necessary I would go…crawling on my knees, never upright.
When the depression hit, she dealt with it as she had with her past adventures; head-on, doing what had to be done, learning the best way and using her considerable skills developed over the years to cope with her family’s needs. When pressure cookers became available for home use, she agreed to an offer of half of a beef and new cooker if she would do the canning. With a canning manual and a erratic wood stove she keep the pressure correct and provided a good supply of canned beef for the following year. The early pressure cookers were not as safe to use as those of today, and I remember that she was a very nervous woman and although she used that canner and wood stove for most of the rest of her life, she never became comfortable with its performance.
When we had enough money for a down payment on a farm of our own, she took advantage of its cellar to store the entire food supply safe from the freezing temperatures that would exist in the old house. Then to her dismay she discovered the cellar filled waist deep with seeping water due to the shallow water level in that area. With the family’s food supply (including that precious canned beef) at risk, she waded in and brought out all the canned goods. What had to be done, she did it. The choice was easy; a dark cellar three feet deep in water or starvation.
The one thing she could not conquer was the rule against married women holding a teaching position. She tried and tried but it was not allowed. A woman teacher might become pregnant and the little kiddies thus be exposed to the facts of life. Mercy!
Even a severe case of osteoporosis did not defeat her. Although it became a critical situation after being knocked down by a running cow she and my father were trying to pen, she continued her farm work, the cooking and all the rest of the work that being a farmwoman involved in the ‘40’s and ‘50s. After the SS act included farmers, she and my father were able to ease their labors, but mother never relinquished her position as the one who prepared the meals and kept the house neat. She finally had to use a cane and to keep it close at hand; she tied it to her apron, freeing her hands for her chores. She swept the floors using the same technique for the broom and in later years, she tied what she needed to her walker and moved slowly with her walker from place to place, sweeping as she went.
I was allowed to do the laundry and prepare small frozen meals for her and my father but she always made the daily noontime pan of cornbread, and Dad, an early riser, was allowed to prepare his breakfast oatmeal.
As the saying goes: “The older I became, the smarter my mother became” and I am still discovering that the names she used in identifying flowers were the correct ones, that she correctly used common-sense treatment for injuries and illnesses, and that she apparently remembered every lesson she had ever been taught.
Once Dad had remembered the first line of a poem, Come Little Leaves, from his early years in school, and asked Mother if she also remembered it. At the moment, she only had a faint memory of the words, but later she correctly wrote four of its five verses, decorated its borders with autumn leaves, and gave it to Dad for his birthday. This, at 70, remembered from their 5th grade reader, 60 years before? I am still amazed.
So I remember Mother; that brave, smart, talented, determined and innovative woman, who went from stylish silk dresses to flour sack ones, who used her hands to hoe and scrub clothes instead of painting, who never gave up her teaching skills although I was her only pupil. With her abilities and background, I sometimes wonder why my dad always seemed to be the dominant partner in their marriage….but was he? I can only speculate.
What a variety of things make each life what it becomes.