The Czar is correct in his previous post in this series, that the skills learned in scouting stick with you. Yes, I can fold my laundry with the best and I know how to iron*. Some merit badges have more lasting memories than others – maybe because of the skills learned, the experience specific to the scout in earning it, or the counselor or environment that was key to achieving it. GorT has stories about all three. Of the 42 merit badges, I’ve earned, I can probably relate stories in these categories to about half of them over 30 years after earning them. Today, I’ll share three.
Lifesaving was one of the hardest merit badges to earn. I vividly recall doing the swim portion of the merit badge at an all day session held at what was then referred to as National Naval Medical Center** in Bethesda, MD. There was a decent sized indoor pool there and our troop had a connection where we could use part of it for a group of scouts earning water-based skills. The leader who was the “victim” in the front- and rear-approach rescue & tow (13b & c) took the role seriously. I was roughly 11 or 12 years old and it is quite daunting to swim out to a flailing 40-some-odd-year old very fit man and try to subdue him and drag him across the pool. While hopefully that situation never presents itself, it is still something I remember well. Also, something you can try on your own if you have a deep enough pool (14a & b) – it’s not as easy as you might think…especially for a boy of that age.
Pioneering is one of GorT’s favorite merit badges. Recently he was asked what kind of summer camp “class” he would teach and GorT responded, “pioneering, although I doubt they’d let me chop down or scavenge enough trees of the right size to build a tower.” GorT completed this merit badge (the lashing sections: 9 & 10) at a local jamboree. A jamboree is a gathering of multiple troops usually with some competitions and sharing. The tower building was a competitive section of the jamboree and our troop came in second place. It was awesome to work with a bunch of other guys constructively and competitively. No, I’m not building towers and trestles with logs and rope, but I can tie a whole bunch of knots*** which has come in handy for packing, sailing, and other things around the house.
Orienteering is a skill falling by the wayside but hopefully one that won’t be forgotten. The main thrust is to educate scouts on how to read a map and use a compass. Trekking through woods using a topo map and a compass is a cool experience – one that teaches you some patience and awareness of the world around you. For requirement 8, GorT set up a course that took scouts to letters on the ground. There were false letters scattered about the area. Scouts that followed the directions would spell out one of 3-4 short words depending on which set of directions they used.
* I was a groomsman in a college friends’ wedding (knew both bride & groom) and was staying the night before the rehearsal at the bride’s mother’s house with 2 other groomsmen. I asked the MotB if I could borrow an iron as my shirt was wrinkled from traveling. She was taken aback. Then she saw the net result and asked how I learned it and if I could do her ironing.
** Now known as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Naval Support Activity Bethesda.
*** “The rabbit hops out of the hole, goes around the tree, and then back down the hole” – simple and effective