Scouting is still about old-fashioned fun and character development. It is funded by donations and various forms of fund-raising, none government derived or initiated, although BSA is chartered by Congress and the honorary leader is always the President of the United States.
Competition on several fronts has reduced Scout membership — many more youth sports activities plus a lot of youth organizations have sprung up and grown, drawing from the Scouting membership base. Television, computers and the resulting proliferation of video games have siphoned interest. Another major factor in membership reduction is urbanization.
SCOUTING is coming to grips with the competition and resulting loss of membership. While there are still plenty of fun offerings, Boy Scouts don’t have to rely on such things as moss on the north side of a tree or a compass with the advent of Global Positioning Systems (GPS). They have embraced technology with the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” in mind.
Managing the nearly 3 million youngsters in the program is accomplished by Scouting’s national organization through regional units, known as councils. To find the council responsible for your region, go to the national website, www.scouting.org.
In checking the nearest regional unit, I went to www.longhorncouncil.org and found out a lot about Scouting. For instance, there are three council Boy Scout camps — Worth Ranch, Sid Richardson Scout Ranch and Camp Tahuaya.
BOY SCOUTS, it seems, are still big on adventure programs: blobbing, swimming, water polo, jousting, paintball, Western fast draw, Viking ship, F-16 flight simulator, SR2 Multimedia, G-scale railroad, wake boarding and Brazos River Canoe Trip, to name a few from the Longhorn website.
That canoe trip was an attention-grabber because of a 1951 summer high excursion. The Heart O’ Texas Council, now part of Longhorn, sponsored a Canadian canoe trip for 26 Boy Scouts. A bus carried the Scouts (I was among them) and two leaders from Waco to Ely, Minn., the jumping off point for 10 days of canoeing in Quantico Provincial Park across the U.S.-Canadian border.
AT ELY, the Scouting contingent was divided in half with 13 Scouts and a leader assigned to a guide with five canoes. Each group took a different trail.
Most of the lakes were connected and the few portages — which involved carrying the canoes, personal item packs plus the group camping gear and food — were pretty short. The longest was about a mile. Every lake was crystal clear and you could see the bottom at 30-40 feet. We each carried a tin cup attached to a lanyard around our necks. So pristine was the water that you could take the cup and dip it into the water as the canoe glided along the surface, and drink it without fear.
It was truly a wilderness area and the only other humans we saw during the trip were a honeymooning couple and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mountie) officer. There were plenty of fish (walleye pike, northern pike and rock bass), plus sightings of moose, beaver, bear and, one big-eyed Scout swore, a cougar.
IN ADDITION to outdoor adventures aplenty, Scouting also offers training and awards in a multitude of fields. Most are at least indirectly, if not directly, related to citizenship training and character development.
Scouting has some shortcomings. Their membership contains only about 11 percent minorities, while the nation is 28 percent minority. However, there are active programs to increase the number of minority youngsters in an overall attempt at growth.
The Scout Oath is a strength rather than a shortcoming:
“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.