Edited by Jon C. Halter
Want pancakes with your butter?
At a camporee one of our patrols was preparing pancakes and sausage for breakfast. As one Scout started to cook the sausages, another began preparing the pancakes.
After a few minutes, I heard a loud sizzling and smelled smoke. The Scout responsible for the pancakes was heating a huge lump of margarine in a skillet. When I asked what he was doing, he replied that the directions on the package said use a quarter cup of butter for each pancake.
When we double-checked the instructions, we realized the Scout has misread the word "butter" for "batter."
Proud to be Scouts
A few weeks after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, nine Webelos Scouts and their dads from my son's den served as ushers at a Florida State football game. The boys were in their Webelos Scout uniforms, and everyone who walked by said things like, "Thanks for being a Boy Scout" and "Keep up the good work."
Those nine boys stood 10 feet tall that day.
Our ushering duty was over after the second quarter, but we were allowed to stay for the rest of the game. I asked the boys if they wanted to take off their Scout shirts, which they normally were quick to do following most den meetings. But this time they all replied: "No way!"
That day taught them something about being proud to be a Scout. And I am happy to report that they all crossed over to Boy Scouting in the spring and became very active in the troop.
A lifesaving lesson
In 1944, I was a Scout in Troop 28, chartered to the American Legion Post in West Hartford. When our adult leaders went into military service, pilots from the Army Air Force stepped in to serve as acting Scoutmasters.
One of their lectures concerned how to exit safely from burning buildings. They used the tragic Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston in 1942, in which 492 persons died, as an example of what could happen when people are unprepared in such situations.
That summer I was attending the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford when another disastrous fire broke out. This time 169 persons died, but thanks to what I had learned in those troop meetings, I was able to calm my friends and lead them to safety while avoiding the panic around me.
The single kind won't do
When my son, Jack, became a Boy Scout, he would talk about it to anyone who would listen. My 4-year-old daughter was playing with a friend one day as Jack left for his Scout meeting. I overheard the friend ask her what Jack had to do to be in Boy Scouts.
"It's really hard," my daughter answered. "He has to get a whole bunch of married badgers."
A swimmer's courage
As a 12-year-old camper at Slippery Falls camp in Oklahoma, I signed up for swimming, hoping to overcome my fear of water.
At the first session the instructor, who was only about 16 years old, encouraged me to put my head underwater. I thought it was odd that a boy not much older than me would be my teacher, but he was confident and I learned to trust him and gained strength from him. And before the week ended, I qualified as a beginning swimmer and within two years I swam the BSA mile.
This young man taught me more than swimming. He taught me to believe in myself and to overcome fear.
I now have four boys of my own, and one by one I taught them to swim. As I encouraged my 6-year-old to jump into deep water with me, his loving mother turned away and could not watch. But her little boy took courage from me and jumped.
It was courage once given to me by a young Scout whose name I do not know. But my four young swimmers and I want to say thanks to him, wherever he is.
A pathfinding lesson pays off
In 1936 I met with Gene Harris to work on the Pathfinding merit badge. Mr. Harris was a lawyer, our council president, and a merit badge counselor. One thing he asked me to do was memorize the street map of Santa Barbara.
Eight years later, in 1944, I was a first lieutenant and a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Corps, when our B-17 was shot down on my 42nd mission. I was captured and sent to Stalag Luft III, where the first question I was asked by the major who was the barrack commander was, "If you're from Santa Barbara, where is Montgomery Street?"
I quietly said thank you to Gene Harris and then replied to the major: "It is one block long, near the old Spanish Mission, and dead-ends into a hill."
"You're from Santa Barbara all right," he replied. He then told me that his wife was living on Montgomery Street with her parents and he hadn't seen her for two years.
I then learned that all new prisoners were suspect until they passed such a test, for the Germans tried to run English-speaking ringers dressed in American uniforms into the compounds to learn if anything forbidden was going on.
I still live in Santa Barbara and I have been a member of the local Scout council for 68 years. I count my merit badge sessions with Gene Harris as one of my most cherished experiences in Scouting.
Lt. Col. Donald L. Stillman, USAF-Ret.
Copyright © 2006 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.