Archive for the ‘Scouting’ Tag

My Left Kneecap   5 comments

I was 10 years old.

It was the most scared I’ve ever been. Ever. More scary than going to the outhouse after dark.

I’m talking scary.

It was my first public speech. I was a new Boy Scout, and somehow got volunteered to give a speech to the Maitland Chamber of Commerce, the sponsoring organization for my Troop 58. I’m sure I was the newest kid, and all of the older kids were smart enough to say, “NO.” So I got to go to the meeting, have a steak dinner at a Mound City restaurant (13 miles from home! And it was probably a truck stop. Just saying.) and give a speech about Boy Scouts.

Camp GeigerSince I’d been a Boy Scout for 5 minutes, it ought to have gone well, don’t you think? The topic I was given (why???) was to talk about our local Boy Scout summer camp, Camp Geiger.

Which I had never been to.

And I was speaking to a bunch of men I didn’t know that expected expert commentary. After all, they sponsored our Troop, so it just wouldn’t do for me to be the village idiot while in front of them.

So, I did my research. I put together note cards … indicative of some rather expert coaching from Mom & Sis, I’m sure. I was 10. What did I know?

I wore my uniform, including my official BSA shorts. I would have also had on my official BSA shirt, kerchief & socks. And I carried my official BSA handkerchief in my hip pocket. Styling, I was.

I stood up to give my speech, and that’s when it happened.

My left kneecap started vibrating up and down. Up and down.

I couldn’t make it stop.

Up and down. Up and down.

Throughout my speech, my kneecap had a mind of its own. Up and down. Up and down. I’m sure I read my note cards, but my terror was pervasive. I mean, if your kneecap is so scared that it develops a mind of its own, what’s next? I completed the speech, the old men that had put up with me for my few minutes of terror politely clapped, and I was done.

Since that day, I’ve given many speeches in many different environments. Big audiences. Little audiences. Audiences that knew me well, and some that didn’t know me at all. I’ve even made several speeches in my Scouting uniform.

But not once – not once – has my kneecap vibrated since that day.

May I never be that scared again.

Posted January 15, 2016 by henrymowry in Scouting

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What is a Scouter?   Leave a comment

Posted October 29, 2013 by henrymowry in Scouting

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Red Fox James   2 comments

I subscribe to the SHORPY historical photo archive RSS feed. They have a variety of 20th century photographs … Adam West on the Batman set, beach goers at Atlantic City in the 1920s … you never know what photo they’re going to share each day. The feed is free, and they sell high quality prints of the photographs in the archive.

Subscribe to the free feed here.

They delivered a photo of Red Fox James who was identified as a Blackfoot Indian … and it looked like he was wearing a Boy Scout pin. In a photo dated 1915! This was a story I had to learn. Here’s one picture … click on it to see it full size.

I can’t identify the medal on the ribbon; don’t know if that’s a BSA award or not. He is wearing what looks like a Tenderfoot pin, and has a “BSA” pin on his hat. I believe BSA was worn on the collar by leaders in this time period … uniform experts, please correct me if that’s wrong.

Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On Dec. 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed. (Library of Congress)

Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On Dec. 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed. (Library of Congress)

James rode “his famous Indian pony” throughout the country in 1914, and then again in 1915, to inspire support for a designated “American Indian Day.” He met with citizens all across the country, and frequently met with Scout troops during his journeys. He spoke to a gathering of 35,000 people in New York … he was trying to build a groundswell of opinion before mass media would have made his work much easier.

24 Governors signed James’ petition proposing a new holiday called “American Indian Day” be added to our calendar. James presented the petition to President Wilson in 1915. Unfortunately, there’s no record that Wilson ever acted upon the plea.

James had a colorful history, as one might expect from someone that became a celebrity in an era when Indians could not be US citizens. He did not live on a reservation; rather he was raised in white society. He went by many names, and at various times claimed to be graduated from the University of Oklahoma, went by the name Reverend St James, and raised over $15,000 for the American Red Cross in the early part of the 20th century – a very significant sum!

In January of 1915, James helped found the Indian Scouts of America, which was a part of the Boy Scouts. He was designated as “Acting Scout Master” according to the record of the event, which you can view here. He was a part of the founding of another organization, the Tipi Order of America, for non-Indians to learn about the Indian culture. That organization (you can find references that use both the Tipi and Teepee spelling) eventually transitioned into an adult fraternal organization.

1915, Red Fox James at the White House. State, War & Navy Building at far left. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.

1915, Red Fox James at the White House. Note the “Be Prepared” pennant. State, War & Navy Building at far left. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.


Native American Heritage Month

The Star & Sentinel, 12/08/1914

Biographical Background For Red Fox Skiuhushu – Origins

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Quarterly Journal of the Society of American Indians

The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements

The Role of Parents in Scouting   Leave a comment

A tough campout for parents is to accompany their son on their first Boy Scout camping experience.

They find that the rules have changed.  No longer are they in charge.  No longer are they primarily responsible for their son.  No longer do they set up the family tent for Mom, Dad, their son and other children.

Instead, a boy is in charge.  The parents are “encouraged” to take a break, and let the boys do it.  And that is often very, very hard — for the parents.

Scouting begins for many as a Tiger Cub.  Your son is in first grade and a flyer comes home from school.  Your son can join Scouts!  You’ll go to a recruitment night, and there you learn that you’ll join Cub Scouts with your son … he must have an adult partner in Tiger Cubs.  You’ll go to his Den meetings every week or two; you’ll go on outings with the other Tigers and their adult partners.  It’s a blast.

Velda signed Christopher up for Tigers while I was on a business trip.  I had left Scouting when I went to college in 1974 … I had never even heard of Tiger Cubs in 1989!

What I soon discovered is that Scouting had expanded the program to include first graders.  At the time, I was traveling extensively for my job, so Velda was Christopher’s adult partner and attended most of the meetings and monthly field trips.  She loved it almost as much as Christopher did:  he had a wonderful time!  I attended a couple of meetings, and I remember feeling a little lost.  Pack meetings helped get me in the swing of things, though, and by the next year, we were ready to volunteer our time to build the Pack up.

Cub Scout campouts are about families. This campout was in the Sequoia National Park at Camp Wolverton. I’ll never forget the Cub Scout’s big sister that thanked me: she had never been to a real campfire before.

Velda became a Den Leader and I became the Pack Treasurer.  We were all in, having fun with the kids, planning events and making sure the boys — including our sons — had a fabulous time at every meeting.  For the youngest boys, that is especially important.  Cub Scouting is a family event.  Velda was the Wolf & Bear Den Leader for both of our boys; I was the Webelos Den Leader, Committee Chair and then Cubmaster.  The Pack grew from 9 boys to 60+ boys.  We did many, many campfires and campouts.  Our garage had a permanent table and benches for the twice-a-week Den meetings.  As I said, we were all in.

As the boys grow from Wolf to Bear to Webelos (2nd to 3rd to 4th grade), the parents’ role does subtly change.  At the beginning, parents are with their son at every meeting, every event.  As the boys enter third grade and begin work on their Bear badge, parental attendance often becomes more optional.  Note that their participation is not an option, but there are times they can physically miss a meeting.  The Pack provides trained, adult leadership — and backups — to make sure that the boys are motivated, educated, entertained and well supervised.  The boys will spend time with their peers and learn to follow Akela … their leader.

At the same time, parents will contribute in the way they can best contribute.  Some are Den Leaders or assistants … and some help to set up the chairs before a meeting.  Helping set up meetings or bring snacks are also important tasks that help make the Pack run smoothly.

The boys in Cub Scouts learn a dizzying array of skills.  They will learn how to be responsible.  They’ll learn first aid.  They’ll learn about our country.  They’ll even learn how to communicate with their parents.  And, they’ll get to do Scouting stuff, too:  sing songs, camp out and build campfires.  The boys will have a GREAT time, and they’ll do it with their family.  My daughter still says she was a Cub Scout — she went to every Den Meeting, she went on every outing.  Note that she is in the middle of the Cub Scouts in the campout picture, above.  Cub Scouting is about family.

Every Cub Scout learns the motto:  Do Your Best.  And they have fun as they do their best, learning how to use a pocket knife, how to tell a tall tale, how recycling works and how to bake cookies.

As the boys transition to Boy Scouts, however, they learn a new motto.  As a Boy Scout, they must “Be Prepared.”  It’s no longer acceptable to simply do their best — now they must be ready for all challenges that come their way.

And that takes us back to their first campout.  It’s five years after your little boy became a Tiger Cub, and their world has changed.

It’s inevitable, really.  Families go on Cub Scout campouts, and Moms & Dads are in charge.  They set up the tents.  They make sure everything gets done.  When the boy goes to Boy Scouts, however, that all changes.  Who runs a Boy Scout troop?  The boys.

When that fifth grade boy, 10 or 11 years old, goes on that first campout with a well-run troop, he will answer to his Patrol Leader, often a 13-year old boy, who has taken on the responsibility to teach the new Scouts in Patrol.  That 13-year old Patrol Leader, in turn, reports to a Senior Patrol Leader who is the elected boy leader of the Troop.  The SPL is in charge of the outing.  He will consult with the adult leaders of the troop when he needs to … and the adult leaders will advise him as they need to.

Boy Scouts learn a lot from adults, of course … but I have always felt they enjoy learning skills from older boys much more. That is good on two levels: both the students and the teacher are enriched by the experience.

The parents aren’t in charge.  They’re not in their son’s Patrol.  They are not in charge of the Patrol Leader or the training that their son will receive.  The parents are welcome at the campout, especially at a first campout.  However, their role is not to set up their son’s tent.  They should not camp overnight with the Patrol — they will camp in the adult section of the campsite.

One of the goals of Boy Scouting is for the boys to learn leadership skills.  They do that by leading younger boys and teaching them Scout skills.  As boys advance in rank, they will learn how to set up their own tent.  They’ll learn what makes a good site for that tent.  And they’ll learn how to cook their own meals.  And then they will teach those skills to younger boys as they join the troop.

Parents should be a part of the adult leadership of the troop.  Typically that goes in one of two directions:  the Scoutmaster and his assistants, who help the boys plan and implement the events the troop participates in, or the troop committee that does everything from budgeting to transportation planning.

As our boys joined their troop, I went along with them and became an Assistant Scoutmaster.  Velda decided that she would not formally volunteer as an adult in the troop, but she did help with transportation and other volunteer tasks as needed.

However, even as I continued to be “very” involved, I still made sure that I gave my boys plenty of room to grow on their own.  As one example, the troop did an extended Alaska trip with floating, fishing and camping.  I did not go on this outing, but both of our sons did.  They had a great time, and I’m certain they experienced things differently with me not there.

And that is a wonderful thing.  Boys need to learn to be self-reliant as they grow from 2nd graders to 9th graders.  How are they going to do that if their parents are at every outing, every event?  By not going to Alaska, I helped the boys grow up.

And that, ultimately, is the role of parents.  The Scouting program can help, as I know it did for me in Maitland, Missouri’s Pack 58 and Troop 58, and as I know it did for my sons in Pack 575 and Troop 2 in Saugus, California.

Get Big Ones   3 comments

I grew up on a small family farm in rural Missouri.  My world was pretty small … a trip to St Joseph, 32 miles away, was a very big deal.

I joined Scouting while in second grade, and loved reading Boy’s Life and dreaming big dreams about what I would do in Scouting.  One of my biggest dreams was to go on the ultimate Scouting adventure:  backpacking at tbe Philmont Scout Reservation, near Cimarron, New Mexico.  Understand, my Troop never went backpacking.  Such a trip was way, way beyond the resources of my family, and of my troop.  It simply wasn’t going to happen.  But the dream … did not die.

1970, after receiving my God & Country award. I was 14 years old, and wouldn’t have lasted on the trails of Philmont, even if I could have gotten there.

It’s important to have goals.  Really, really big goals.  You need to get big ones.

I wrote in a recent post about “The 2012 Plan.”  This plan took 15 years to complete, and the best part was that I didn’t have to do the work!  I graduated from Mizzou in 1978.  Beginning in 1997, it was up to the wife and 3 kids for them to earn their degrees.  15 years and 5 degrees later, we deserve the family celebration that’s just a few days away.

I’m sure that Velda will say that the worst part of the Plan was that the family had to eat my cooking while she was studying for her Masters in Nursing from UCLA.  I never understood what the problem was: not only am I proficient in the kitchen, I prepare dishes that Velda never will.  And the kids didn’t complain (too much) about the 3 dishes they said I prepared … not even the Hamburger Helper!  Good news:  we all survived!

No one will mistake what I do for the artistry that Velda performs in the kitchen.  But the choice to miss her cooking for a few meals in order for her to achieve one of her big goals was not a choice at all.  She’s been happy as a nurse practitioner ever since.

But, back to Philmont. I did not reach that goal until I was 46.  But that’s really not the story.

Climbing the Tooth of Time is a part of the Philmont experience that no backpacker should miss!

The problem for me was that Boy Scouts are serious about backpacking, and, thank goodness, they expect the boys and leaders to be in shape.  You have to make a goal weight based on your height … or you don’t go on the trail.  Once I understood that my boys wanted to go to Philmont, I had to prepare myself.  And lose about 60 pounds.

I’ve never been a gym rat.  Velda had achieved great success with Weight Watchers, but that didn’t seem like my thing, either.  I started doing what I had not done since high school:  I decided to run.

The problem, though, was that I wasn’t able to run any distance at all.  I started walking in my cross trainer Reeboks, wearing sweats … and worked myself up from there.  Eventually, I could run 2 miles without walking.  That was a very big day, let me assure you!  But I was not nearly done.

I fixed my diet (a calorie-counting shake from Costco in the morning, a banana and an apple for snacks, Subway for lunch, and a sensible dinner from Velda.  I kept pushing.  And the weight fell off.  Running became a daily obsession, and I eventually got up to 7-mile runs on the weekends.  I faithfully kept a running log every day, and used a GPS system to track my times for each segment of the runs I did.

By the time I went to Philmont with my boys, I was in the best shape of my life.  I had lost 70 pounds.  Hitting the trail with 50+ pounds on my back for a 10-day, 52-mile trek was still nothing to sneeze at, but I was ready.  I was 46, but keeping up with 17-year old boys was not a problem.  We sat on the Tooth of Time at sunrise, and we proudly proclaimed “Go Big or Go Home” while we reveled in the burro races, the trail food, and a feeling of self reliance that’s very difficult to discover if you’re sitting on your sofa.

It was the most personally fulfilling thing I have done in Scouting.  And I got there because I had a goal.  A big one.

We made it: Michael Mowry, Christopher Mowry, myself, and Lyle “The Destroyer” Wohlfarth with the map he was in charge of for all 52 miles. 2003.

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