Notes From My Knapsack 7-28-11
Some Things Change, Some Things Don't
This week our local Boy Scout Troop is off to summer camp. Huzzah for Troop 65 and Granville Kiwanis, their chartering organization!
There's a number of images that some of us might have about what BSA camping looks like, but if you've not been involved for years, or only have some loose, media-related scenes in mind, you may have the wrong picture.
My troop loaded up on an old school bus, a not uncommon way for Scouts to roll into camp in the 1970's. Troop buses, sadly, with their distinctive paint schemes and refurbished back ends with shelving and racks for gear, are a thing of the past: even the most well-funded troop can't afford the liability insurance, and they've almost all been retired across the country from sheer practicality.
Ask today's adult leaders if they miss the adventure of looking for a part on an antiquated school bus from a breakdown that always happens in a wonderfully awkward situation. Not so much.
What you may envision is a group of lads trekking into wilderness, chopping down trees and building their entire site out of lashings right down to the latrine – if they don't get picturesquely lost as do most pseudo-Scout groups in movies.
"Leave no trace" has been the watchword for some years in the BSA, actually, and long-term (five or six night) camping, while an annual part of every troop's outdoor program, is either at a Scout camp like Licking County's own Camp Falling Rock, a Scout reservation in a nearby state, or a high adventure program around the country like Philmont, which is a whole different proposition (and another column).
So not only are the young men of T-65 going to an established camp with a summer staff and designated troop camp sites, even latrines are changing. Groundwater regulation means that the old pit KYBO's are being phased out in many areas, while composting toilets are more and more common. (The legend is that many early Scout camps used coffee cans from the Kybo brand, hence the name sticking to the outdoor outhouses and "kybo tape" being…you guessed it. Now they say it's an acronym for "keep your bowels open," but you know "the rest of the story.")
Adult leadership for our 34 Scouts will be five Scouters; each troop brings their own unit leadership, while the total camp of some 300 has a site staff of 35-40 for dining hall, program areas, aquatics/lifeguards, etc.
Every adult present at a residential camp has to go through what's called "Youth Protection Training," an excellent program that can be done online and must be repeated every two years. There is additional training for various unit roles, let alone for summer camp staff.
Plus each youth & adult must have a physical form (three pages, lots of detail along with a copy of the insurance card), and then there's the "tour permit," a document that is filed with the council office as to the insurance and safety status of each driver. We're going into Pennsylvania this year, so a tour permit out of county is absolutely mandatory.
For all the modern trapping of paperwork and safety, the Scouts will still swim and canoe in a lake, sleep in tents (even if made of space-age fabric and not mildewy canvas), build fires (in approved locations), and burn food which will be eaten enthusiastically. Much has changed, and yet much is still what Baden-Powell and twenty-two British boys did on Brownsea Island in the summer of 1907.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio, and an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 65. Tell him your camping tale at email@example.com or follow Knapsack @Twitter.