Tuesday, November 24, 2009


At the most recent Troop 281 meeting, Thanksgiving break had already begun for those still in school, including the four visiting Cub Scouts who were with the Flaming Arrows for that night. So the skill session was appropriately all about Dutch Oven cooking and cleaning. Led by Ben M., it was a mostly digital presentation with PowerPoint detailing how to make a very basic but very good Dutch Oven dish: Prison Tacos. (Simple chili mixed in with Fritos after being cooked, sometimes also known as “Walking Tacos” to the older generation.) The skill session was very informative, as Dutch Oven cooking can be a confusing art, cleaning being an even more confusing art as it is a very bad idea to use soap at all to clean up, rather it has to be left all up to water, an un-soapy rag, and good old' elbow grease to clean the iron cooking pot.

The presentation was not over when the power point slides were, however, as outside the Scout Room there had been a Dutch Oven cooking the chili component of Prison Tacos! A large bag of Fritos was opened and everybody got to sample the Dutch Oven cuisine, there being absolutely no chili left at the end and making Ben’s job easier in terms of cleaning.


There was still plenty of time after everybody had enjoyed their “Tacos”, thus it was time for the game. Continuing the trend of trying out new games the Troop hasn’t played in a long while (if ever); SPL Avery had selected the game to be “Flashlight Tag” of all things. For simplicity’s sake, the rules were pretty much rendered to be like normal tag, except instead of having to run after other people it was “having the light shone on you and both your hair and shoe color called out” to be tagged and taken out of the game. While in normal circumstances this might be an interesting twist, the game was held out on the church’s front lawn, which had more than a few bright lights lighting up the front of the church and the flagpole, making it rather easy to see people (especially Nick B, who for some reason was wearing a very reflective Rumpke hoodie).

To make matters worse, a pipe had busted under the field, so half the field was off limits because it was too muddy to easily run on without getting covered in mud. In the end, however, the game quickly broke down into a “free-for-all” version of tag, the flashlights all but forgotten. So for most of the game, scouts were chasing scouts who were also chasing scouts. It was fun for all the participants though and it was successful in that regard.

After the scouts were brought back in, the troop quickly sped through a few announcements before the time had once again come to “circle up”, to which Joel R. and Nick B. actually tried to make the group form a real circle. How effective their efforts were is still to be determined, as it quickly became something close to an amoeba shape again when everybody crossed their arms to hold other hands, clapping all at once again to end the meeting.
Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



This previous meeting was mainly focused to hold Boards of Review for scouts who were ready to get to their next rank. However, as usual, most of the Troop did not need a Board of Review (seeing as how there was one not too long ago after the Survivor Campout), so those who were not advancing took part in the skill session of Orienteering, led by SPL Avery R. Using hand-out maps and specialized compasses (provided that the scouts brought their own), Avery went over the basics of Orienteering; ranging from how to set a compass to be able to be used with differing maps to how to orient yourself even without a compass.


Avery’s skill session wasn’t the only one that occurred that night, however, as right after the SPL finished, Scoutmaster Dr. Reynolds started his skill session on dishwashing. For those who don’t know, the Patrol Boxes (those giant brown heavy boxes that always get loaded first into the trailer) are equipped with tubs and tools to clean anything used to make food, usually the plates, flatware, etc. However, the task of washing dishes is time-consuming and can be loathsome to select scouts, and so it is a task most scouts don’t look forward to. For one particular patrol, they were so lax about cleaning their food-related materials, the Quartermasters found the eating utensils and the plates and other things both covered with remnants of food and other unhealthy things in the Patrol Box upon inspection post-campout (the patrol in question had to remain after most of the Troop had gone home just to clean the filthy plates, etc.). Thus, the need to review Dishwashing 101 was apparent, and Dr. Reynolds made sure that everybody knew how to properly clean dishes after all the meals on later campouts. It’s not a fun job, being stuck on dishwashing duty, but it sure is preferable to being forced to use disgusting-looking plates for dinner.

When Dishwashing 101 was over (much to the relief of some scouts probably), it was time for the game: Capture the Flag. The “flag” for each team ended up being a dodge ball, however, in order to make it easier to pick up from the ground (since picking up a piece of cloth would be very hard when running at speed). It quickly grew chaotic, even though there wasn’t really anything to make things go crazy, and the game was ended a little while after it had begun since the meeting was almost reaching the usual 9:00 PM end time. After a few announcements, Dr. R had the scouts circle up, and so closed the meeting in the traditional “all-at-once” clap.

Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Friday, November 13, 2009



It was time once again for one of the more infamous of Troop 281’s annual campouts: Color Wars! This year, there were only three patrols competing against each other due to there not being enough in either the Viking or Kodiak Bear patrols for them to function as their own patrols, so they were merged with the Hurricane Patrol to be the combined, one-time entity patrol known as the “Bearicanes. The other patrols were the younger - but much more numerous - Falcon and Flaming Arrow Patrols. Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) Avery R. and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL) Brett C. also were known to have said that some “surprises” were to be expected this year, not revealing their sinister plans to anyone they didn’t think trustworthy enough. Another difference was the pleasant fact that there was no rain at all this time at Achewon, meaning everybody could perform their best at the challenges to prove their patrol was better than everybody else’s patrol.

Anyway, the trip down to Camp Achewon differed only from other times in that it was totally dark by the time the Troop arrived at the parking lot, otherwise it went over rather smoothly. Outside of the Troop leaders making plans in the Staff Campsite, the scouts just set-up camp, had some cracker-barrel (late-night snack, like chips and salsa), then went to bed.

The next morning was cold and had the feeling of serious competition in the air. After waking up and having breakfast, the scouts all gathered in the “parade field” for the raising of the flags. It was then that the first beads were awarded (unlike the few previous Color Wars, the use of beads instead of points made scoring and keeping track of scores much easier) and the first “Round Robin” was set into motion. Simply put; there were three tasks that the scouts had to complete for beads, thus earning more points, these tasks being using a strange PVC pipe to transport a tennis ball into a paper bag, the Spider’s Web challenge (probably the most infamous Color Wars challenge of all time), and the “God’s Finger” Challenge.


The first challenge, handled by Mr. Neuhart, was to transport a tennis ball from point A into paper bag B, but the catch was that the ball could only be moved by lifting it in a PVC pipe that had six strings connected to it (and those six strings were at differing heights in relation to one another, so simply pulling on all six strings at the same height would not make the PVC pipe level). The scouts who were charged with getting the ball into the bag had to work together, changing the tension in the strings while moving to keep the ball off the ground until it could be dropped into the bag. Simply completing the rather-simple task earned a bead, but up to four more beads could be earned by accomplishing different maneuvers while carrying out the task (such as making the ball spin one full rotation while off the ground, everybody walking backwards while pulling on the strings, and trying to complete the task without anybody verbally communicating to each other). The event was timed, but that was to be expected, since practically all the early challenges were timed anyways.


Following the odd ball-and-string task, the scouts ran into one of their most despised challenge: the Spider’s Web, a Color Wars mainstay. The older scouts especially hate the overcomplicated network of twine because of just how small the holes can be in relation to the average size of a teenage male, but Avery, who was in charge of the challenge this year, found a way to make it even more annoying compared to previous incarnations. In addition to the small holes that can only be passed through once, this year Avery added these little “tendrils” (or as Alex R. liked to call them; “Tentacles”) that hang inside of a hole, not splitting the hole into two holes but still being able to “tag” people trying to get through, making them try again. Also, scouts usually have to be carried through some of the holes to get through, a fact that was exploited as well this year in that if a scout helping get another scout through touched the web at all, that counted towards having to restart going through for the scout being lifted. The younger scouts must have had a much easier time, being on average maybe only half the average size of a “Bearicane”, but the older scouts still ended up being the best at the Spider’s Web thanks to Jonathan R. using a ramp (made from a random wooden plank found at the challenge site and most of the Bearicanes supporting it up at an angle) to climb up and then literally jump over the web itself, legally avoiding having to go through the insidious looping labyrinth of twine.


The third event in the Round Robin was simply known as the “God’s Finger” challenge. Here, scouts had to take a hula-hoop (a.k.a. “God’s Ring) and somehow get it down a giant stick in the ground (a.k.a. “God’s Finger”, although which of His fingers it was supposed to be is unknown) and then get it off the “Finger” without the ring or anything else touching it. For the Bearicanes, they eventually ended up just throwing it on and then off the finger. The younger scout patrols probably had a much easier time with the challenge, but just how they accomplished the task is unknown to yours truly as well.

Following completion of the Round Robin, the individual patrols headed off to their individual campsites for lunch and a little downtime for themselves, and then it was back to the parade field for a game of Capture the Flag that was surprisingly evenly matched. And that’s including the fact it was just the Bearicanes against the combined team formed from both the Falcons AND the Flaming Arrow patrols (in other words: one team outnumbered the other by at least a three-to-one ratio of people). Yet, even with three times as many people as the other team, the younger scouts still lost when the older scouts managed to score the one flag steal of the game after what probably was an hour of back-and-forth instances of “cat-and-mouse”. Some of the younger scouts thought it a good idea to try and smuggle out the other flag while in jail, taking and then hiding it in their pockets or some such when nobody was looking. Two times they tried to steal the flag under the enemy’s noses, and both times they failed after having the flag be taken back from them while still proclaiming they didn’t steal it at all.


Luckily for the Falcons, they were able to make up the loss at C.o.F. in the short challenge immediately following the game: Brett C.’s eating competition. Last year, Brett had gotten his challenge to involve one scout per patrol eating an entire package of Oreos as fast as possible (not as easy-or as delicious-as the idea sounds like), and this year he sought to top the Oreo-consumption with something even worse: Whipped Cream eating. The premise is simple: three scouts, one from each patrol, race to see who can consume the contents of an entire can of whipped cream the fastest, the winner earning beads for his patrol. Needless to say, things got ugly very, very quickly! There was whipped cream going all over the place, and when there’s no more air to “puff-up” whipped cream, it starts tasting terrible! In the end, it was Alex S. representing the Falcons who one the two bead prize for his patrol, along with getting to learn how to even work a whipped cream can nozzle as well! It certainly was one of the more memorable events in Color Wars history, Brett himself saying “It was worse than the Oreos!”


When time enough had been given for the Whipped Cream Chow-Down to wear off, it was time for the second Round Robin of three tasks. This second series of challenges was comprised of “Kim’s Game”, “The Human Knot”, and the “Knot Race”. In “Kim’s Game”, with Mr. Wilson handling it, the goal is to stare at a bunch of objects under a cover (in this case a gray tarp), and then afterwards try to remember as many objects under the tarp as possible (things like a shoe, flares, and the Autobiography of Ben Franklin). After the memory game was “The Human Knot”, where Mr. Neuhart timed patrols in how fast they could untangle themselves after each scout gasped two different arms of two other scouts, the trick to the game actually being teamwork and flexibility of the group as a whole. The last of the second set of tasks was Brett’s “Knot Race”, where the entire patrol was racing against the clock to go to 4 different people and tie a specific knot before moving onto the next stop (In order: Brett and the clove hitch; Mr. Coying and the Timber Hitch, Dr. Reynolds and the Taught-Line hitch, Avery and the Bowline knot, then back to Brett to stop the clock). While the knowledge of the knots was obviously necessary, the task was also physically demanding as the fastest way to complete the circuit (the locations of the 4 stops in relation to each other almost forms a circle) pretty much had patrols running all around Achewon’s outer rim non-stop.

When that Round Robin was over, the patrols once again broke away for camp, this time to make their spectacular dinners for the dinner competition. Here was another instance where a twist was added: Brett had gotten it approved that the secret ingredient (revealed to be Cinnamon) had to be used in making the dinners, turning the cooking challenge into something akin to “Iron Chef: America”, although Brett didn’t have to say “Allez cuisine!” to get the patrols cooking. Flag lowering was held during dinner prep, so not all the scouts had to attend the formalities if they were making dinner or tending the fire.

HIDE but not SEEK

It had gotten almost gotten totally dark when the dinner judging was finished, but the judges (Brett and Dr. Reynolds) no doubt got full stomachs when they were done eating the three various meals they partook in. After dinnertime was more downtime, during which the scouts were to prepare for another Color Wars favorite: Hide and Seek. The idea is simple enough (like almost every other challenge detailed in this write-up): the scouts hide all over the back area of Achewon, and the adults have to find them in a certain amount of time. A patrol earned one bead for each scout in that patrol that did not get found. In anticipation of outsmarting the adult staff, several scouts had located spots where they were sure they were totally undetectable.

Unfortunately, it was reportedly said that the adults didn’t really feel like hiking all over creation to track down the scouts, and so the Hide-and-Seek game was canceled, the plus side being that the patrols were given a little more time to prepare for the final chance to earn beads: Campfire.


Like everything else, Brett had made a twist on almost every aspect of the entire campout, and Campfire was his best twist yet. After having all the scouts gather at the parade field and turn out their lights, Brett and Avery led the other scouts down to the Chapel fire ring, where several silhouettes of adults were all that were visible. Suddenly, a flash of light appeared in the woods just above the firepit, and a flare rode down an improvised zipline right into the middle of a log-cabin style pile of firewood, which quickly was aflame and illuminating the now-sitting (and clapping) assembly of scouts and adults. The time had come for each patrol to perform a skit and a play, the final two criteria in which patrols could earn beads and potentially snatch victory away from another patrol, which is apparently exactly what happened. Up until that time, the Falcons had been in the lead, the Bearicanes rapidly catching up to them throughout the day, but when the skits and songs had been performed, Bret ended Color Wars 2009 by announcing the standings. The Flaming Arrows had ended up in third place, but they had fought hard and had even beaten the other, more experienced patrols at a challenge or two. In second place, by a very small margin, was Falcons, leaving the Bearicanes to take the coveted First place, complete with bragging rights until next Color War. The scouts soon made for their campsites afterwards to enjoy some late night desert before going off to saw more logs on another cold night.


Sunday morning, also chilly, saw the scouts getting ready to head home once again. The breakfast is traditionally something like store-bought doughnuts eaten out of the box, due to no one really wanting to have to clean dishes one last time before heading back to the church, there was enough packing to do anyway. In between the caravans of gear being hauled up to the parade field to be loaded into the trailer, Flag Raising was held, and after most of the stuff from the campsites was ready to be loaded into the trailer, everybody headed back to the Chapel area, where acting-Chaplin’s Aid Elliot H. led a very appropriate closing that touched on the importance of color in the Bible. From that point on, the scouts just played (or just laid back) around up at the parade field, waiting for Mr. Todd to bring the trailer up so that all the gear could be loaded up into the trailer at last. When he did show up, there was some confusion as to how the trailer was to be loaded, but eventually all the gear was successfully loaded up into the trailer, allowing the scouts to perform flag lowering. After the final lowering, the poles were disassembled and moved up to the barns where they are stored while other scouts performed police lines to ensure there was no garbage remaining on the premises. When that was done, the scouts all piled into the cars and left for the church.

The final part of the campout, as always, was to unload the trailer, put everything back in the scout room, take out the garbage, and make sure nothing or no one got left behind. For the most part, everything worked like clockwork, at least up until the very end. Apparently, the Flaming Arrow patrol’s dishes hadn’t been cleaned at some point on the campout, and so the entire patrol (or what was left of it by that point) had to stay behind and get the dishes at least reasonably sanitary to eat off of again. Meanwhile, most of the scouts had taken their stuff and, for some odd reason or another, decided it was okay to simply leave without being dismissed like usual. By the time Avery realized that, too few scouts were still at the church to rationalize falling in to dismiss, so the mass-dismissal was just written off and Avery just let everybody go home when they wanted to.

Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Great Video Game Wars (a.k.a. Game Night)

The Historian as a gamer
At the most recent Troop 281 meeting, Boards of Review were held for those eligible for the next scout rank, but since only a few scouts were able to participate in a Board of Review, something had to be done for all the other scouts who were attending the meeting. Thus the reason the last meeting was a “Game Night” meeting, or in other words where there is no real objective other than to have fun, a goal which could be reached through several means.

Set up at a few different spots were televisions hooked up to several different video game consoles (a Wii, an Xbox 360, a Gamecube, and another Xbox) where a few scouts could play together in any of the games brought for said consoles. For those who didn’t want to or were waiting to play the video games, there were other non-electronic games, too. Several scouts played basketball and others engaged in various card games. As the night went on, the scouts who had Boards of Review were pulled out periodically, later returning to re-engage in the activities.

Due to it being just a “fun” night, the meeting was cut short to end around 8:45 instead of the usual 9:00, so while the games started slowing down 5 minutes before the meeting’s scheduled end time, the final game to be turned off was “Guitar Hero” due to the fierce matchup of Ben M. against Bret C., both guitarists so evenly matched that they simply could not defeat their opponent. As the troop circled up, a good few scouts having lost the ability to feel their thumbs by that point apparently, Dr. Reynolds told a quick story of being woken up by the actions of a beaver back on the
Survivor campout before all in attendance clapped their hands in unison and left for home.
"All thumbs"

Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian