Showing posts with label Scouting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scouting. Show all posts

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wyoming Trek

In our troop's junior year we learned about an opportunity for a Wyoming camping experience that was being offered to all girl scouts. Our council had decided to participate and sponsor three patrols. Did we want to be a part of this Wyoming Trek to be held near Ten Sleep, WY? Does the sun rise in the East? Excitement reigned. Not every girl scout loves camping, especially for two weeks but we soon had a patrol of seven of the most adventurous ones and the training began.

Before long, Council suggested we add a girl from another troop so we agreed rather reluctantly, and before long it again was suggested that a visiting scout from Germany also be allowed to join our patrol, making it a group of nine.
Another leader and I trained with the girls and competed for the chance to be patrol leader for the Trek and I won that honor. To this day I do not understand why we did not somehow scrape together enough money to pay the expenses for the two of us but we got negative vibes all around. Even from the girls who I expect felt they would appear as overly protected. True enough, I suppose,. No other troop had two leaders.
Nevertheless, I have never, before or after, felt so inadequate for carrying out my responsibilities.Camping skills were okay. There had been plenty of training and after all, I was a country girl, and wasn’t entirely ignorant of primitive living. It was the unexpected, the unpredictable, that convinced me that my coping abilities were far from adequate. From the first hundred miles, to the last, the entire three weeks was an activity that can only be described as an Experience! I am glad that I went.
No more than 100 miles down the road,, an infected cut (the rule that no preexisting medical problems were allowed, was ignored by this scout) needed treatment. Where was the first aid kit? Packed away in the bus’s storage compartment, of course, so a stop had to be made at a service station/food store to get medication. Blow number one to this leader’s confidence that she was prepared.

Soon, cars full of boys were playing tag with the bus, honking and yelling at the girls, who were delighted at the attention they were attracting. Our overnight stopover in Fort. Collins, CO was dreaded because of a car full of followers. One leader wisely made the police aware of our position and requested an occasional drive-by. This was long before cell phones were in every pocket, always available. I was thankful for a resourceful leader.
Next came the midnight rattling and banging of the doors of the gym-like building in which we were spending the night. The noise echoed and bounced from wall to wall as noises do in an empty gym. The girls slept on as did the leader of one other patrol. Only I and the leader who had asked for an occasionally police patrol were awake and wondering what would come next. We were a bit nervous; those doors sounded very loose!
All became quiet and we finally well as adults can sleep in a sleeping bag on a hard floor. And again I wondered about my ability to cope with the unexpected, the untrained for occasions.
The following day the terrain began to change. Mountains caused the bus to strain with it's load and finally it's overheated brakes brought us to a stop. Although we were sure we were going uphill at the time, naturally it wasn't true. That well known optical illusion had us fooled and we had been on a long desent. It was a welcome stop beside a cool stream with banks of ferns and huge mushrooms, The girls played in the cold water fell in and had a wonderful time. We would have enjoyed camping there!

A few more steep climbs and a few more descents and the Girl Scout Center was in sight...but sadly out of reach.
The bus stalled. It had had enough and would go no farther. Perhaps the driver had a CB or perhaps the personnel at the Center could see us miles away. Regardless, rescue vehicles were sent out to transfer the gear of the three patrols of twenty-three girls and their leaders, for the remainder of the trip.
It was not an impressive arrival.

Campsite for our patrol was near the edge of a deep canyon and it’beckoning depths had the girls quickly setting up camp and ready to embark on the trail leading down into the unknown.Having had no instructions about the proper way to accompany nine girls downward into a canyon, I placed myself about midway in the group and away we went, a group of happy chattering girls. Somewhere along the way, I turned and asked some of the following girls where my daughter and two others were. “Oh, they decided to go down the canyon wall.” Was the heart-stopping answer.
“They did WHAT?” was the brave leader’s response. What to do? To go after them was out of the question; the remaining girls couldn't’t be left without their leader. To send for help didn't seem plausible, as by the time someone reached the top of the trail and hiked to the headquarters. The renegade threesome would hopefully reached the bottom or be stranded and then we would send for help.
We proceeded to the bottom of the canyon. I called for the climbers. We whistled. We worried. And we followed a extremely noisy stream along the floor of the canyon, hoping to intersect the approximate arrival location of the descending group. That location was yet to be determined; the echo of the canyon walls and the noise of the wind and the rushing stream, smothered any answers we may have had to my frantic calls. I could visualize the evening news: Girl Scout members under the leadership of…… lost, stranded or injured…..My imagination ran wild.
Finally there was an answer! What relief! Then there was a shout and the sound of something tumbling. A reassuring call that the noise was only a camera. Finally, they appeared, stepped down onto the canyon floor and joined their buddies and a very irate leader who immediately issued instructions to sit on a nearby log and listen closely what you are about to hear. They sat and they listened and I believe my point of view was quite clear.

Returning to the campsite and level ground, all went as it should. Our meal

was prepared, Clean-up was efficient, bedrolls were unrolled and the procession to the showers began. These were board enclosed areas with a full view of the night time stars if one waited politely for the others to finish. Waiting also assured the last person in line to have unheated water. Of course, as a primitive campsite, there were no water heaters, but only water piped from across the canyon into the shower area. As this was quite a distance, wonderfully warm water, heated by the sun as it flowed through the pipe, was the luxury the early arrivals enjoyed. The last person discovered what melted snow felt like. I was last and I learned.
There were organized activities exploring the rugged area and one hike was in an archaeologically interesting area that was being mapped according to the types of Indian artifacts found in the area. A detailed record of what was found to assist in identifying the tribes that had either lived or passed through the area was being developed. Many flint chips littered the path and my antenna went on alert, for my dad was an avid hunter of these artifacts and I was familiar with the signs. While the girls took a rest break I was prowling near-by when my attention was caught by a unusual object under a low juniper bush. Looking closer, I was elated to see that it was a perfect corner-tanged knife in an unusual tortoiseshell appearing flint. I yelled, I was so excited. Oh, how I wanted to keep that piece but the rule was that every thing had to be turned in to be cataloged. After the cataloging process, it was to be placed in the Ten Sleep museum under my name. I'll never know.
Each night there was a campfire program and ceremony and of course, the daily flag raising and lowering, with each troop taking turns being responsible. Council's early instructions had informed us that each patrol must have a name and uniform and plan to be responsible for one night program while attending the Trek. The girls gave all this careful thought and then announced that they had chosen their name: The Purple Pansies! We leaders were a bit startled at the choice but we only looked at one another with raised eyebrows. We never asked what thought process brought this about. We did not want to know!
Most of our troop had participated in forming a Girl Scout Chorus the year before, again managing to be the first one in the nation. Singing was their strength so naturally they planned to sing for their campfire entertainment; their choice of a song was Folson Prison Blues. They spent many afternoons listening to Johnny Cash's rendition until they were satisfied with their version.
The flag ceremonies were formal ones and the Purple Pansies had to leave those jeans and hats in their duffel's and attend in their official uniforms. The lived through it okay and then donned their short shorts and hiking boots and met the day head-on, ready for adventure.

The girls made the most of the

opportunities to get a great tan. Here, in the camp's large refrigerator the conditions were not ideal! On the day we broke camp, a cool front had moved through and while we waited on the hill top for our bus to arrive, we found that the refrigerator was the warmest place around.

They kept a neat campsite, but this picture of their leave taking looks rather chaotic. Even with the cold wind blowing, they didn't give up their favorite attire...short shorts and a great tan! We arrived home August 16, thirty-nine years ago. It was a memorable trip for all, and some of the "girls", now career women of fifty plus, have stated that it was much more than sightseeing and camping skills; it achieved what camping is all about: discovering your inner resources and weaknesses.

In June of 2009, the troop had their first reunion and it was a great get-together. Unfortunately the entire troop could not attend but these are now planned on a yearly basis. Although they are now teachers, nurses, business owners and much more, they generally are also involved in various forms of community service. Some have been scout leaders; one is active in animal rescue and boarding. They are busy women with grown children of their own...they are even grandmothers! How can a leader adjust to her girls being grandmothers!

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!