As I sent my Webelos across the bridge into Boy Scouts Saturday, the first thing I felt was relief.

Five years ago, I started with a group of about 20 unruly Tiger Cubs. Every year thereafter, I lost a few to sports commitments, changing interests and family changes. New boys joined along the way. I made mistakes. In an effort to be accommodating to conflicting schedules, I failed to establish a consistent meeting day and time and Scouting often fell down the priority list. And that’s a shame, because its important. In the end, there were four who made it all the way.

Mostly it is a credit to the boys and their parents that they stuck to it.

I hope they leave with happy memories.

I’m not sure they’ll remember their knots. I taught them the same ones every year. And each time, they acted like it was the first time they’d seen them.

But I took solace in the fact that each time I taught them, they were still eager to learn, which is all I could really ask for. And maybe one day when they really need to know it, they’ll remember to use direct pressure to stop bleeding. Maybe they’ll tie a good taught line hitch on a rain fly and they’ll stay dry on a rainy campout. Maybe they’ll remain calm in the face of challenge, confident of their ability to respond.

On our final campout as Cubs, my small core group competed with other dens to build a fire.

They prepared by shaving wood into thin chips, arranging the tinder carefully around a cotton ball. I coached a little but they worked on their own, as a team, dividing the tasks. Peter chipped sparks on to the cotton ball.  The fire sparked. Joshua blew gently. William added shavings. The small fire crackled and rose, fed and coaxed by the boys until it burned through one string that had been strung above the ground.

Then following the rules of the contest, the boys stood back and watched, as the fire they built rose on its own, high enough to burn a second higher string.

A minor moment of triumph. We were nowhere close to the fastest of the fire builders.

But they did it. And they were proud.

And I hope it’s the beginning of something.

Not pyromania, of course.

But a sense that with knowledge and skill and by working together, they can start something. For themselves.


Tom Spencer
Webelos II Leader