By Robert Peterson
In one of the BSA's lesser-known programs, nearly 400 boys around the world participate as Lone Scouts.
For most boys, a major attraction of Scouting is the promise of close friendships with other Scouts. For a handful of boys, however, that promise goes largely unrealized, due to circumstances beyond their control.
They may live too far from the nearest Scout troop or Cub Scout pack, or they may be unable to join a local unit for a variety of reasons.
But they can still be Scouts, thanks to Lone Scouting. Never heard of it? Join the club.
"Even some professional Scouters, and lots of volunteer leaders, don't know about it," says Conrad L. Fruehan, associate director of the Council Services Division at the national office of the Boy Scouts of America.
Lone Scouting provides a way for boys 8 to 10 years old to be Cub Scouts and those 11 to 17 to be Boy Scouts, with the help and guidance of an adult Lone Scout friend and counselor, usually a parent. The BSA has an estimated 400 Lone Scouts, including a few in other countries, Fruehan says. The majority are Lone Boy Scouts.
No Lone Scout is typical
Whether Cub Scout or Boy Scout, there's no such thing as a typical Lone Scout. One of the more unusual Lone Scout settings, however, is that of 11-year-old Webelos Scout Zephyr Goza.
His home is a camper towing a trailer full of theatrical backdrops, scrims, and props used by the Activated Storytellers, his family's traveling act.
Zephyr, his mother, Kimberly, and father, Dennis, are the cast, stagehands, sound effects people, and general factotums for the Activated Storytellers. They perform mostly at schools, libraries, and community centers. Dennis writes the plays and Kimberly is director, scheduler, and promoter.
Last winter, Zephyr had the title role in "Jack and the Beans Talk" and its complementary tales about Simple Ivan, a Russian boy, and Juan Bobo, a fable about a Mexican boy. He has toured with his parents since he was 18 months old and has been an actor since he was 3. "They couldn't keep me off the stage," he says with a chuckle.
Zephyr Goza discovered Scouting when he saw the 1965 Boy Scout Handbook his father had purchased in a secondhand book shop. "The book was interesting," he says. "The activities looked like fun, and they were challenging. I said, 'Hey, I'm going to do this.'"
Zephyr's mother knew that traveling would not permit her son to join a local Cub Scout pack. She thought he would opt to work on advancement requirements and learn other skills on his own, without actually becoming a registered member of the BSA.
"But he wanted to be an official member," Kimberly recalls. "He wanted to earn the patches and other recognitions that go with it."
Several visits to local Scout council offices failed to reveal the fact that Zephyr could become a Cub Scout through Lone Scouting. But Kimberly was familiar with the Internet (where most act bookings are made through www.activated-storytellers.com, their Web site), and she decided to check the official BSA national Web site, www.scouting.org. There she discovered Lone Scouting.
Zephyr was 9 years old at the time, and he immediately began working toward the Bear Cub Scout badge, with Kimberly as his counselor. After achieving the Bear rank, he became a Webelos Scout.
When he turned 11 last month, Zephyr continued as a Lone Boy Scout. He has high ambitions: "I'm aiming for Eagle. That's always been one of my goals since I joined."
Kimberly keeps an eye out on the Web for Scouting activities in towns where they are scheduled to perform. As a result, Zephyr has attended a blue and gold dinner in Las Vegas and a day camp in California. He also joins in troop activities when the Gozas are at a campground where a troop is also camping, she says. Zephyr himself seeks contacts with Scouting units and other Lone Scouts on his own Web site, "Z's Lone Scout Page" at geocities.com/zephyrgoza.
Scouting from a distance
Lone Scouting was born in 1915 when William D. Boyce, who had incorporated the BSA five years earlier, decided that rural boys had little chance to join troops and founded the Lone Scouts of America so they could participate in Scouting.
The LSA attracted boys in droves, mainly through the magazine Lone Scout. The BSA absorbed the LSA in 1924, which added more than 45,000 boys to its enrollment.
Today, many Lone Scouts are boys who live far from any troop's meeting place. One of them is 12-year-old Boy Scout Hayden Harvey, whose address is Gallatin Gateway, Mont. (pop. 100) on the edge of the Gallatin National Forest, l6 miles from Bozeman.
"I'm in Lone Scouting because we're quite a ways from town, and sometimes the roads ice up pretty bad," Hayden explains. In addition, he adds, "I really like how I can motivate myself to do things without having any meetings."
He frequently backpacks into the forest for an overnight camp-out, sometimes with his father, Scott Harvey, who is his Lone Scout counselor, or with friends who are not Scouts.
Lone Scouts like Hayden who are registered with a local council are routinely invited to council and district events, such as camporees and Scout shows, as well as to council long-term camp.
And although they may not have a close personal association with other boys in a pack or troop, most Lone Scouts do communicate with other Scouts through e-mail, fax, ham radio, telephone, or as pen pals.
Often, the enthusiasm of a Lone Scout and his counselor will lead to the formation of a new pack or troop.
The Gallatin Gateway area already has a Cub Scout pack. Scott Harvey serves as a den leader, and Hayden is his den chief.
And, his father notes, Hayden is "really into camping and hiking" and is the leader of a group of boys who like the outdoor life. But they have been unable to form a troop in the area due to a lack of success in recruiting adult leaders.
So Hayden Harvey remains a Lone Boy Scout.
Contributing editor Robert Peterson is the author of The Boy Scouts: An American Adventure
October 2001 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2001 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.