Sunday, December 12, 2010

Like Thanksgiving, except there's no turkey.

As the sun began to set on the Anderson Hills United Methodist Church, the scouts of Troop 281 were once again packing up for a campout. It was clear from the massive amounts of food being loaded into the trailer that the campout in question could not be anything other than FeastFest; another one of Troop 281's 'signature' campouts. With FeastFest, it is a celebration of, well, food. Each patrol (Staff included!) is in charge of some aspect of the giant setup of food that in some cases could be considered a second Thanksgiving, only without the Turkey or other major Thanksgiving staples, but more on that later.

Going back to the start of the campout, the usual challenge of getting both troop and personal gear to fit inside the trailer, things already had gotten off to an unusual start. As it turned out; the church was holding a big play that same night, so the parking lot was parked up and forced the scouts to load up the trailer from the curbside under the giant columns. When the trailer was loaded up and the doors miraculously closed without problem, the scouts divided up into their respective cars and the long, 2-hour drive to Camp Oyo began. Highlights of the trip include the planned halfway "pit-stop" at a Marathon gas station (for restroom breaks and the purchase of on-the-road goodies) along with being able to view the neat holiday light displays set up in the towns the troop passed through thanks to it being very dark. The troop arrived at Camp Oyo and the trailer unloaded, then the firewood trailer was brought in and unloaded as well, being divided up between the main mess hall (where all the cooking would be done) and the two cabins (the "Blockhouse", where the younger scouts and adults slept, and the Wagner Lodge as the temporary home for the older scouts). The cabins are very much a big part of the FeastFest experience, as they provide much more "homely" sleeping arrangements and space than the usual tents.

The next morning got off to a slow, cold start as people had to will themselves out of their warm sleeping bags and hike to the mess hall for breakfast. For Saturday, the morning activity was a five-mile hike up to the firetower. Participation being madatory, the scouts were divided into two different groups: the younger scouts and the older scouts. The younger scouts took a more straightfoward route to the firetower, getting the 5-mile hike achievement for rank advancement, while the older scouts took a MUCH more challenging route in the spirit of Philmont preparation, complete with those going on Philmont loading up their bags to an average weight of 40-50 lbs per scout. The hike, which was incredibly rough as it seemed to go uphill both ways in icy conditions, the conditions for the older scouts being even harder as the ever-changing slope really made things difficult. However, nobody was reported missing from either party, so it can be assumed that everybody survived and made it back to Oyo in one piece.

Following the hike was a LOOOONG period of downtime, during which the younger scouts worked on advancements and everybody began making preparations for dinner, played card games, or sat in front of a fire in their cabins. Mr. S, the predecessor to Dr. Reynolds in the Scoutmaster position, also paid a visit to the scouts and was able to stay through dinner.

The sun was once again setting on the scouts of Troop 281 when the rush really began to be felt and the titular "feast" of FeastFest began to take shape. Each patrol was in charge of one of the dishes in the scouting dinner party:

- The Thrashing Sharks were in charge of the appetizers, and so provided chips with dipping salsa, dinner rolls, and two kinds of salad.

- Even with the misfortune of over half their food supplies somehow not being loaded into the trailer, the Flaming Arrows did make a nice meatloaf.

- Duct Tpe provided one of the main dishes; a "built-it-yourself" assembly-line style burrito in the style of Chipotle Burritos. The choices for contents of the burrito included: cooked rice, salsa, baked chicken chunks, guaquamole, and special quesidilla cheese, all on toasty warm tortilla shells.

-Staff provided a few items of their own: Roast Olive Kalamata, "Johnnybread" (similar to Cornbread), and Green Bean Casserole.

-Lastly, the Kodiaks and the Falcons worked on making an interesting dessert section of the feast. Kodiak made two giant pans full of "Oreo pudding" in both chocolate and vanilla flavors, while the Falcons made two cobblers: chocolate cherry and apple.

After acting-SPL Joel N. caused some comotion in calling out birthday months to decide how the line for food would be formed, everybody was able to dig in and get their fill of the smorgasboard. On a humorus note, a few of the younger scouts tried eating quickly so that they could get dessert first, yet after everybody eventually got some dessert of their choice, there was STILL quite a lot of the Oreo pudding left, from which everybody kept on grabbing a little of throughout the rest of the night. The sounds of cleaning, rain, and more card games replaced the sounds of dining as the troop began getting back into a period of "downtime", the camp operator also making an announcement that the Trading Post would be open for a short time as well for anybody interested. At last, with the dishes mostly clean and with roaring fires back in the cabins, the members of the troop slowly began to go back to their bunks for another night of slumber.

On Sunday morning, packing up was the order of the day. As the troop aimed to return to the church around noon, the two-hour drive factored in meant that departure time could be as early as 10 am. Quick breakfasts were made before the gear was broken down and placed back into the trailer along with the tables and benches being put back into "storage" in the mess hall. Before the troop could depart, however, a quick chapel service (with Mr. Rechtin playing guitar for the singing) was held to close the campout and a cookie provided by Mr. S given to everybody. The snow began to fall as the troop at last began to leave Oyo and embark on the 2-hour trip home.

Upon arriving at the church, the trailer was quickly and efficently unloaded because everybody wanted to go home and enjoy a nice hot shower. When all final troop business was handled, the troop fell in one last time before at last being dismissed, ending FeastFest 2010.

Ben Hallenbeck, Historian

Monday, November 22, 2010

Color War 2010: Silence is golden, DUCT TAPE IS SILVER!

For the weekend of November 19th-21st, the weather may have been growing colder, but the level of competitiveness was only growing hotter by the second, for it was time for Color Wars: Fall 2010! One of Troop 281’s major “signature” events, the various patrols spend a weekend competing against each other through various challenges all in order to claim bragging rights of being the best patrol in the troop…until the next color war, that is.

War was officially declared between the patrols Saturday morning after Flag Raising by the start of one of the most infamous aspects of the campout: flag stealing (where patrols try to steal the flags from other patrols and sneak them to SPL Alex to score a point). Flag stealing was allowed during the entire campout on Saturday, but that wasn’t the only way to win Color Wars. In addition to the ongoing flag stealing, there were periodic challenges that the patrols had to face in order to win points and beat out the other teams. The first set of these challenges was a round robin consisting of the following:

-Caught in the Web: Scouts had to get their entire patrol through different holes in a rope web without actually touching the web. The clock is stopped after all scouts get through (or in the case of only a few scouts, two times), and extra points can be earned by going through more holes off-the-clock.

-Deliver/Stop the package: Two patrols face off against each other in this game. One patrol, carrying a designated “package”, must deliver it to an adult leader standing at a set location, but the other patrol must intercept and stop the package delivery by tagging the other patrol members.

-Mission: Impossible: A patrol must be able to cut a 3 X 5 notecard into a complete circle that a scout can walk through. The Duct Tape Patrol was able to cut a notecard with enough precision that all four members (and the flag) were able to go through it at once.

-Rope Ladder: Probably the most simple of the challenges, all the patrol had to do was make a ladder from lashing sticks together and retrieve a water bottle placed on the roof of a barn.

These challenges took up the greater part of the early morning and lunch took place in between. After the round-robin, the patrols headed out to the open field for another Color War staple: the firebuilding challenge. All patrols were in a direct race to see which one could build a fire the fastest and burn through a rope tied above the fire first. At first, the challenge seemed like it was over before it was begun, as Greg B.’s fire (for the Duct Tapes) caught fire instantly and immediately burned through the two levels of rope. However, when it was discovered the rope had been of a material that disintegrates at the mere exposure to a flame, the patrol firepans were reset and a new, single layer of rope was put in. The second round seemed to take forever, for while the Duct Tapes once again were the only ones who really had a fire going almost right off the bat, this time the rope was willing to do anything BUT burn though. As Greg constantly added fire to his growing inferno, the heat rose to levels where the aluminum pan the fire was in simply melted away (leaving a big smoking crater) and generated smoke which in combination with the wind blew at every other patrol, making the term “smoking out the competition” humorously appropriate at the moment. Finally, after a solid hour of stoking a fire hot enough to melt metals, the rope finally caught fire and broke after visibly burning for an excruciatingly long ten seconds, giving Duct Tape another victory at Color Wars.

When the firebuilding contest was over, the patrols were given a long period of downtime to work on rank advancement, find hiding spots for the campwide game, or go around stealing flags. After flag lowering, dinner was prepared and served alongside a quickly setting sun, and then under a bright near-full moon, the main event was begun.

The third and final major staple of Color Wars is the campwide game of hide-and-seek. Played in two rounds, the first round consists of the scouts going out within certain boundaries of Camp Achewon and concealing themselves within the forest, the youth staff and adults spending an hour or so then trying to find the scouts. While a majority of the scouts (usually the younger ones) end up being found, the scouts who are not found earn a point for their respective patrols. Then in the second round, the youth staff and adults go hide while the scouts play the hunters. A scout earns two points for their patrol for every adult or youth staff member that they find because there are so fewer of them and to encourage participation in the game. Also, flag stealing officially ends when the campwide game begins because of how easy it is to steal flags compared to earlier in the day. Following the campwide game, the troop adjourned to the chapel, where patrols pitted their various cheers, skits, songs, and whatever else against each other to earn some final points before bed.

On Sunday, things went unusually fast for the Troop, possibly because of the strangely warm weather compared to the past two days. The final catagories for points; the campsite gateway and how clean the campsite was before leaving, were judged before chapel, and then after a quick flag lowering the troop eagerly departed for the church on time. For the record, the Troop NEVER leaves on time on the average campout.

Upon arrival at the church, the trailer was quickly unloaded, gear organized and readied for the trip home, and tents assigned. Lastly, the winners of Color Wars were finally announced, and to everybody’s surprise it was the Kodiaks who finished third, even though they had deliberately tried to loose Color Wars for whatever reason. Falcon patrol placed second, and the Duct Tape Patrol were crowned champions of Color Wars 2010 by a landslide point advantage of at least 20 more than Falcons. This being the last Color Wars that the Duct Tape Patrol would be attending, it was great note to end the experience with, and furthermore a great note that the troop departed on.

Ben Hallenbeck, Historian

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


At the meeting for November 9th, there wasn't all that much to do for the scouts. The most important thing that was on the "to do" list was that the scouts needed to finish the planning and equipment sign-out for the upcomming Color Wars campout. The sheets for these actions had run out before the previous meeting, so more needed to be made.

When that was done with, the next activity was something of a surprise: it was the first event for Color Wars! This event was simple: each patrol would be a team, with all patrols competing against each other in a relay. However, instead of simply running around a track with a little stick, here the objective was to tie a specified knot in front of a "referee" before running back to the rest of the patrol and tagging the next person to go off. While one would have expected the oldest scouts, the Duct Tape patrol, to have easily won the challenge, there were only two scouts who actually ran the relay because all the other members were off doing someting more important or being one of the referees for other patrols.

Instead, the winners were, surprisingly, the Kodiaks, who are the second oldest patrol. Runners up were Flaming Arrows and the Thrashing sharks, the two youngest patrols. Points will be awarded to them at color wars for placing among the top three. On the other side of things, the Falcon patrol was told they might be instead getting a penalty because they kept on needing multiple people to tie the knots, having as many as five people up at once.

Because of the relative speed that everything on the agenda had been done so quickly, that left a large timeslot for the game. It was dodgeball, again, but thanks to the large amount of playtime the variant that was played was something new: Zombie Dodgeball!

It's something like this, only in a church, has dodgeballs, and nobody's actually dead

The same basic rules of dodgeball apply: throw balls at other people, avoid the balls they throw back, and if you catch a ball the thrower is out. What changes with Zombie Dodgeball is that in the cases of getting "out"; getting hit with a ball or someone catches the ball you just threw, players instead switch sides. This is a more "playtime-friendly" version in that nobody is forced to sit out of the game at any time (unless they engage in frouned-upon behavior, like usual), they just change teams and keep playing until only one team remains. Obviously, the fact getting hit only changes the people that you play with proved very popular with the scouts, as they do NOT like sitting out of a good dogeball game.

Also, partly because the more-flexible rules allowed it, it was observed that many aspects of the gameplay also went up statistically. With Zombie Dodgeball, it was noted that there was an increase of:

- 75% more headshots

- 33% more "Accidental" hits

-25% more "human hostages as shields" occurances, and

- 100%+ in totally incoherent screaming.

In addition, SPL Alex R. got so into the game that he assumed his new alter ego: "The Priest"

An artist's renditon of Alex as "The Priest" (and yes, that's a dodgeball on fire he's throwing)

After a while, the game was reset to a normal game of Dodgeball when it was realized that there would never be an end to the game because it was too easy to hit people when the threat of not playing wasn't applied. Even with some scouts now doing some benchwarming in "jail", it was still a fun game.

Finally, when the Troop was at last circled up, Johnathan Rholdeder was awarded his Eagle Scout badge, the latest in a long line of Troop 281 Eagles. There is hardly a better way to end a meeting then to set an Eagle Scout flying.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fahrenheit 281?

The first Troop meeting for November coincided with a sudden drop in temperature outside, so in the interest of keeping warm, the skill session for this night was firebuilding. Led by Avery Reynolds and Steven LaCount, the skill session once again largely served more for the benefit of the younger scouts since all the older scouts should know everything that was spoken about in the lesson. That only makes it more amusing that one scout (who will not be named for Internet security reasons) tried to look like a brainiac of fire building when he began reading directly from the Scout Handbook section on firebuilding, even though the skill session was not "open note" so to speak.

When firebuilding lessons were over, the meeting shifted into planning for the infamous "color wars" campout. The main focus of Color Wars is for an intra-troop competition between all the patrols to see who is the best and is worthy of associated bragging rights up until the next Color War. The events usually change every Color War, so only the top-level Troop Officers know what to expect in terms of challenges pre-War.

Lastly, it was time for the game. While it was unsurprisingly once again dodgeball (which until recently had been a very, very rare occurance due to problems in getting the safety net up for the stage), tonight it had been "doctor" dodgeball. The difference in this version of the game is that when someone is "out", they do not go to jail. Instead, they "die" and wait for a special member of the team (designated "the Doctor", German accent optional) to tag them, thus reviving them back into the fight. However, if the doctor is taken out, then no one can be brought back into play unless the doctor gets lucky and catches a ball on the fly, allowing him to go back to "saving" his teammates. It was a nice change of pace, as the little scouts were usually made the medics as they could dodge incoming balls easier and faster than the bigger, crazier older scouts, giving the younger scouts the edge over the older scouts for once in Dodgeball. It was on that nice note that the meeting was ended.

Ben Hallenbeck, Historian

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Return of Moosehead One

At the most recent Troop meeting, it was time for the Personal Management skill session. Personal Management is an Eagle required merit badge that does take at least 3 months to complete (and it can't be rushed like other, simpler merit badges), so it's best for scouts to earn it early on to get it out of the way. To earn a merit badge, one requires a merit badge counselor, and former Assistant Scoutmaster Bill Ossman is a counselor for that badge, the original member of the "Mooseheads" (the nickname given to the Assistant Scoutmasters) and an all-around awesome guy to know. Mr. Ossman returned to visit to the troop and presented the skill session for the scouts. Keeping the atmosphere constantly filled with an air of humor with his duck jokes, Mr. Ossman nevertheless stressed the importance of the badge and covered all the basics that a scout needs to attain it, such as how small expenditures on small snacks and "girlfriend-things" can turn out to be a very large expenditure over time. He also gave out a little test beforehand for scouts to check and see how much they knew about personal management in general (Turpin Scouts could get extra time, according to him).

When Mr. Ossman finished his wonderful skill session, there was an unusually long period of time left in the meeting and only the game still remaining on the "to do" list. As such, dodgeball was quickly set up and an extra-long match was played. Everybody who participated all got in one good shot, but the undisputed juggernaut of Dodgeball certainly is SPL Alex R., who might as well have been pulling Matrix-like dodges as he hurled dodgeballs at his opponents. Even so, the game had been enjoyable enough that everybody left the meeting with a smile, or at least a few bruises.

Ben Hallenbeck, Historian

Friday, October 15, 2010

Survivor 2010 pictures by Tom Carlson

Getting lost

On the trail

Break time

Signalling for help?

Setting up camp

Home sweet home

Returning to civilization

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finding Scouts in a Cornmaze

It was time for another one of the new "fun nights" that have been added to the monthly schedule for Troop 281, so in the sprit of the harvest seasons the scouts went off to go check out a nearby corn maze at Farm Haven in Kentucky. Getting there took a little while, and there was some initial confusion as to how the heck we were supposed to get from a church parking lot to the farm (due to all the signs pointing to the farm not being lit), but eventually the group made it up to the farm.

After the adults paid the admission price for everybody, the Scouts raced across the open field to the entrance of the maze, eager to loose themselves within the tall corn stalks. A watchtower of sorts was located quickly, but as several scouts climbed up the ladder it was discovered the hatch was locked. Some scouts kept trying to get up the watchtower to see what little they could of the maze while others left on their own to actually try to get out of the rows of corn. It took a while, but everybody did get out okay. (At least, we're pretty sure all the scouts got out alive.)

After the corn maze was over, the Scouts moved on to the barn where there was a small petting zoo with goats, bunnies, chicks, and kittens. Most of the remaining time on the farm was spent playing with the animals, especially the kittens

Unaware that the scout is onto him, the kitten tries to go for the kill.

After having lots of fun at the corn maze and with the animals, it was time to go. Some of the scouts stayed for a meeting about Philmont, while the rest headed back to the cars to take the somewhat long ride home.

Troop 281 would like to thank the owners and operators of Farm Haven in allowing the scouts to come and enjoy their corn maze and petting zoo.
-Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

More Corn Maze Pictures from Tom Carlson

The other submission for Oct. 12, 2010 was photoed, written and laid out entirely by our troop Historian, Ben Hallenbeck. I couldn't resist posting the following pictures, submitted by an Assistant Scoutmaster as well. Thanks Tom Carlson. (Editor)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Survival Tactics

This past meeting (10/5/10) happened to be the first one held in the month of October, which is usually the time when all sorts of scary things start to happen, such as pumpkins suddenly appearing outside of houses and Kings Island advertising the heck out of its “Halloween Haunt” once again. In the spirit of being scared, it seems natural that the camp out for this month is the (in)famous “Survivor” camp out, which most of this meeting was focused on planning out.

Before the planning could begin, Greg B. held a skill session on making survival shelters that would be necessary if stuck in the middle of nowhere for a multitude of reasons, one of the biggest being to keep oneself warm at night without a tent or sleeping bag. This was very important for the new scouts, who probably haven’t had to make survival shelters before, as well as the older scouts in the idea that this skill session was a “refresher” course on how to keep their butts dry over two cold October nights.

After shelter building 101, the scouts separated into three different groups according to how they were going on the Survivor camp out to plan. For those reading who do not know what the Survivor camp out is, the term “camp out” doesn’t apply so much as does “where several scouts (and maybe a hapless Scoutmaster or two) are almost literally dumped out of a car in the middle of nowhere and left to survive on their own for two days in the wild with nothing but the ten scout essentials, some plastic lining for drum barrels, and the clothes on their back.” Parents of the newer scouts need not worry, as the actual “Survivor” portion of the camp out is restricted to those scouts who are at least First Class. Anybody who is not First Class will not be left to fend for themselves; rather they will get tents and be able to bring enough food for the weekend. Oh, and plenty of willing adults will always be around along with at least one older scout for protection and for working on requirements. In a change from the usual way Survivor is held, the two scouts in each tent will share individual grubmaster duties (i.e. one handles the food for lunch, the other will take care of dinner, etc.) with everybody having to cook over an open fire as opposed to using propane stoves, all in observation of making things a little more “survival”-like for the young scouts but not to the point where they’re using each other to fight off rabid bunnies (see inset picture). The third group was of scouts who weren’t going on the camp out for various reasons of varying legitimacy.

As the planning came to a close the infamous “thing” came out of the quartermaster’s office for a few rounds of “Swing the Thing”. Things started off well, but towards the end some of the newer scouts kept on jumping back into the game despite being rendered out more than enough times. As a round of Swing the Thing cannot be finished until only one person is left standing, this prolonged the game and rendered getting “out” a moot point, so much so that SPL Alex eventually called the game for that reason. With the troop settling down, final announcements were given and everybody circled up. During the Scoutmaster’s “minute”, the scouts demonstrated somewhat remedial counting skills to go with the lack of geometry skills when some people got confused in a reciting of the ten scout essentials. When everybody finally got back on track, the meeting closed with the all-at-once-clap and it was off to home.

-Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honoring Achievements

At last week's court of honor, the scouts and their parents gathered at the church to attend the tri-seasonal get-together (there is no CoH in Summer). With everybody bringing some sort of treat to put on the conncessions table in the back, everything was set for a nice night.

SPL Alex R. welcomed everybody to the CoH to get things started before handing off the microphone to Noah R. for a slideshow on the National Jamboree. Most of the attendees at the CoH had not gone to the Jamboree, so it was an interesting insight into one of the biggest Scoutting events ever. After the Jambo slideshow, Alex resumed the microphone for a quick slideshow about the various eagle projects that had been done this year, one of the hardest requirements for the Eagle Scout rank.

Following the slideshows, it was time for the presentation of the various badges. Merit Badges, rank patches, and some special presentations were all given out to those who had earned them. A few of these were to scouts who either had left the troop for various reasons or were not in attendance that night, so they will be delivered to the proper scout in due time. To close the meeting, Dr. Reynolds had his Scoutmaster's "minute" and Andrew B. performed the closing benediction. With the formalities over and done with, everybody headed back to the treat table to eat sweet things as if it were Thanksgiving and not heeding the fact that everyone would have sugar hangovers in the morning.

-Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Equipment 101

At the most recent meeting after the new scout induction campout, it was time for some boards of review. However, for the majority of scouts who didn’t/couldn’t get a board of review, it was mostly a presentation on troop equipment handling and care. Considering that various articles of equipment were supposed to be returned that night, it was very appropriate.

Led by Brett C., the presentation covered everything and anything that a scout needed to know if they wanted to take out an article of troop equipment. For the new scouts, it was a quick way to bring them up to speed as to how campouts were usually planned out, while for the older scouts it was a much-needed refresher for those who had forgotten what the three bins in the patrol box were there for (answer: how the cutlery and most cooking equipment is cleaned for the next meal). All throughout his seminar, Brett tossed out little Dum-Dum suckers to those who answered questions right that resulted in a little chaos created when Greg B. tried catching all the Dum-Dums in mid-air. The intention of the presentation was clear, however: if a scout doesn’t take care of the equipment, it hurts not only them but also the entire troop.

When that was done with, the game for the night was unusual compared to the usual meeting game fare. This night, it was Tug-Of-War. There was no clear favored side in the multiple matches played, as most of the older scouts switched sides one time if not more. Eventually, the end of the meeting came and after forming some sort of egg-shaped attempt at a circle (the scouts still aren’t that great at basic geometry, evidently), closed the meeting in the usual giant clap.

Ben Hallenbeck, Historian

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Ceremony of Fire and Ice Cream

It is a tradition within Troop 281 to hold an induction ceremony on the first campout of a new scouting year. All newcomers to the troop, be they be fresh out of Cub Scouts or coming over from another Boy Scout Troop, must go through this ritual in order to become part of the troop. However, the newer scouts are kept in the dark about what the ceremony actually is right up until they must take a part in it. This way, there is a feeling of really joining something that is experienced by the new scouts that is more than just signing a bunch of papers in the places specified by their parents.

Beginning in the late afternoon of September 17th, the scouts gathered at the church parking lot to pack up the trailer and head off to Camp Achewon; Troop 281’s own private camping area (used with permission from Mr. Schimpf, who owns and maintains the land). Upon arrival, Brett C. gave a figurative demonstration of how to use the infamous “Green Monster” bucket, the only form of a toilet that was available to anybody who was camping at Camp Achewon that weekend. When that business was taken care of, the Troop proceeded to unload the trailer at the necessary places in order to get all the patrol campsites set up before lights out. The Thrashing Sharks; all of them new scouts to be formally brought into the troop, camped within the boundaries of the Staff campsite because none of them are First Class rank.

The next morning, there was a bit of a mix up when it came to flag raising which resulted in the Duct Tape patrol having to perform it twice. Following the second flag raising, all the scouts began a round robin between four stations all over camp. While two of them were of basic skills (fire building and knot tying/lashings) meant more for teaching the young scouts than the older ones, the other two were actually just helping the adults construct outhouse-like shelters where the Green Monster could be used with a better degree of privacy. One of these shelters was to be built near a trail junction easily accessible from the farther scout campsites while the other was located near the existing pee-tube within the Staff campsite. The round robin was finished about noon, at which point the scouts returned to their respective campsites to have lunch before engaging the rest of the day’s activities. For the older scouts this meant prepping the “chapel” area for the ceremony later that night. Weeds had to be cut, new neckerchiefs had to be readied, and the center fire pile filled with a large structure of firewood intended to burn very, very hot (this last bit is critical for reasons to be later discussed. There was only one year where the fire did not burn as hot at the proper time, so the resulting punishment for the scout in charge of that fire was forced to stand in front of it for the entire ceremony, enduring all of its heat. (That scout did not go on this year’s induction campout.) The younger scouts spent this time working on rank advancement and other things. Dinner was served sometime around 6, followed by flag lowering, and then a small period of time before the final preparations for the ceremony were in place and things could begin.

It had gotten dark by the time the signal was given to Noah R.; the Troop Guide, that the time had come for the new scouts to become fully part of Troop 281. After sending a signal back to an unseen gathering in the chapel, Noah gathered the Thrashing Sharks and led a pre-planned trek designed to leave an impression on the new scouts. As the Troop Guide led on, the entourage passed Ben M. waving semaphore flags in a pattern, which spelled out “A-C-H-E-W-O-N” before Noah stopped the Sharks on a path above the chapel. From here, the Sharks saw their parents sitting around a large fire and the older scouts of the troop standing around said fire in a circle, almost as if they were witnessing some kind of dark cult where the members wear tan uniforms instead of brown cloaks. After a brief moment of Noah reading off what Cub Scout pack each member of the Thrashing Sharks had come from, they were led down to the trail directly leading to the chapel. From here, a few of the adult leaders took individual scouts by the right hand and led them down to line up right before entering the chapel.

When all the Sharks were lined up, the circle formed by the older scouts was opened up one by one as an older scout announced they would open the circle for a certain new scout, taking that scout by the left hand and instructing them to grasp a rope in front of the fire. Eventually, only the new scouts were left standing in a circle around the fire, at which point Scoutmaster Dr. Reynolds revealed to them that both white and red paint had ended up on their palms (the rope that the Sharks were holding was intended to actually prevent inductees unaware of the paint from wiping it on their clothes). As the ring of scouts stood around the ever-increasingly hot fire, the various symbolisms found within Troop 281 were explained to everybody in attendance. After what must have seemed absolute torture for the new scouts, having to listen to all the symbolism revelation and being forced to stand in front of a sweltering fire, they were presented with their official Troop 281 neckerchiefs and at last allowed to sit down, even though the only seats left were barely farther back from where the new scouts had been standing.

After some more ceremonial talk and a presentation of a single acorn to each Shark (the Smotherman and Ross twins getting twin acorns), Dr. Reynolds thanked everybody for coming and announced it was time for the ice cream. While the only flavor of ice cream was vanilla, there were many, many kinds of toppings and so everybody left the chapel happy and ready for bed.

In comparison to the events of the previous night, Sunday morning was uneventful. Camps were taken down, gear hauled to the pickup points where they would be loaded onto the trailer, and the finishing touches placed on the pseudo-outhouse in the Staff campsite. At last, about 12:30, the Troop pulled away from Achewon and headed for the church, where Brett took an iron-fist approach in making sure the patrols told him what materials they needed replaced. When all was taken back into the scout room or set aside to be taken home, the troop was dismissed one last time and everybody began heading for home.

Ben Hallenbeck, Historian

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Invasion of Coco Key

Quote of the meeting: “Oh my god, the water main just broke!” – Will C.

The meeting of September 14th was not a “typical” Troop 281 meeting, to say in the least. Instead, it was the first of a monthly series of “fun meetings” that have been scheduled into the troop calendar, a practice started this year. To kick off this new trend, the destination for the 14th was the Coco Key waterpark and resort, up in Sharonville, Ohio. Several scouts carpooled from the church and arrived around 7:30, but scouts who could get there on their own could get in as early as four in the afternoon. After paying the $10 entry fee, it was just a short walk through the arcade to get to the resort’s main attraction.

While most of the indoor waterpark was scaled more for smaller kids, Coco Key was still a very fun experience for all the scouts. There were a few other people there, namely a couple of kids and their parents, but for the most part the entire waterpark was open for the scouts. The biggest thrills could be found towards the back of the waterpark, where no less than four water slides offered different wet and wild rides to guests, two of them twisting into absolute pitch black darkness from start to finish. Another popular area was a sort of pool where water basketball could be played or scouts could attempt to cross a balancing bridge that constantly moved and easily threw people off balance. A slow-moving “river” in the middle of the waterpark offered a more relaxed ride (with the occasional jet of water from above, just to keep things interesting), and lastly the hot tub was explored by a few of the younger scouts because it had an accessible outdoor section accessible through a waterway running through the wall.

However, like all good things, the 9:00 closing time seemed to come faster than it did, and so the scouts had to pack up and change into dry clothes if necessary before leaving for the cars and heading for home. Everybody was in agreement that it had been an exciting time at Coco Key, though, so hopes are running high for the next big “fun meeting” that’s in store for everybody!

-Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to Normality

At this previous meeting, it was time to get planning for the next campout; the new scout induction at Camp Achewon. While the main events would be the exact same as they always would be (namely the giant fire pit and ceremony), the service project this time around will be making outhouse-like structures where the Green Monsters (bucket toilets) can be used so a little more privacy can be given. The procedures for getting the patrols planned were the same as always: everybody who is going has to pay $10 to the grub master, a menu must be decided upon, an equipment checkout sheet must be filled out, and then playing the waiting game for all the other patrols to finish. That previous step took a fair bit longer than usual, but the younger scouts are probably still getting used to planning their own campouts so it can be overlooked.

Eventually, everybody finished up and was ready for the game. To the scout's delight, it was the troop-favorite: dodge ball. Evidently, the guys in charge of getting the dodge ball net up (required so that balls don't fly into the stage backdrop put up by the church) have gotten it down to a science, so dodge ball can be played a little more often. However, it was a fierce match, and only one round ended up being played because SPL Alex called a jailbreak, letting all the people who had gotten out come back into the game. When the game was done, there were some few final announcements for other activities such as Noah Rechtin's Eagle Project, and then Mr. Marquez called up the Patrol Leader of the Thrashing Sharks patrol to try out the Marshmallow Crossbow, the same one that failed horribly at the previous meeting. This time, however, Mr. M had brought fresher marshmallows, and as a result the marshmallow that was shot out of the crossbow went VERY far (about 30 or so feet), to the delight of everybody in the room. It was on that high note that the Troop formed as close to a circle as possible (which was pretty good considering how geometrically challenged the troop is) and closed the meeting.

-Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Scouts Are at it Again!

After an eventful summer that included such memorable events as the Summer Camp at Friedlander and the 2010 National Scout Jamboree, the time had come for Troop 281 to begin another scouting year. The meeting started off on what could be said to be a bittersweet note, as several scouts had left the Troop over the summer for various reasons, but with the newer scout patrols still having many of the scouts who had formed them there doesn't appear to be any omen of low attendance for Troop 281's future.

Tonight also marked the start of Alex Rye's term as SPL, to which he quickly started to perform his job by having all the scouts overcome their inability to grasp advanced geometric shapes and form a half...something out of the benches for a presentation. After some technical difficulties (question: how many scouters does it take to fix a malfunctioning slideshow projector? Answer: at least five) Alex got the ball rolling by breaking down the schedule for the year to come. One of the biggest changes to the old style was that each month there would be a "fun" meeting, such as Coco Key Waterpark for September 14th. The usual suspects were still on the schedule as well: the "Stuff-your-face-full-of-food" Courts of Honor, the monthly campouts, all the familiar aspects of the Troop 281 schedule that have become familiar to everybody.

When Alex was done, Dr. Reynolds came up and did a presentation about Philmont, dropping the occasional reference to the fact there were still open spots on the crews for the upcoming high adventure trip. Anyways, the slideshow presented pictures of the Reynolds' previous trip to the (in)famous Philmont Scout Ranch a few years ago and Dr. Reynolds narrated. The scouts of 281 were treated to pictures of the Philmont sign (which was covered in hanging, worn-out hiking boots), a twin-seated toilet that was found on the trails, and Avery R. kissing an anvil because he accidentally hit it while trying out blacksmithing at Philmont as well. While the pictures were magnificent, it was only a taste of what it was like in person according to Dr. Reynolds at the end of the slideshow.

By this point, it had gotten too late for a game, so after a failed demonstration of a marshmallow crossbow due to old marshmallow ammo, the popcorn order sheets were announced to be pick-upable after the meeting was closed. Demonstrating that their knack for not being able to form an actual "circle" at the order to "circle up" had been lost over the summer (although this time got pretty close to being an actual circle), the scouts crossed hands like they have so many times before, and in closing the meeting had begun another adventure (and mishap-filled) year of scouting!

-Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4 Color Guard

On Independence Day, Troop 281 provided Color Guards for the church's traditional services and for the Cincinnati Pops at Riverbend.

Steven L., Avery R., and Elliot H. prepare to present
the colors to the church.

Presenting the colors during "America the Beautiful".

Steven L., Greg B., Avery R., and Brett C. practice onstage at Riverbend.

Stepping into the spotlight during a drumroll.

The Scouts meet Nick Clooney (picture taken by his wife, the mother of George Clooney...)

The flags of the 5 military services are presented while their anthems
are played and members of each service stand to be recognized.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Dear readers,
Thanks for reading. We've ALL had fun this week (year?).
Merit badges and advancements were the LEAST of what we've learned.

This may or may not be the last blog entry for the week. Check again Sunday when you review it with your son. (He's not seen it yet.)

Scroll through the blog again over the last two weeks:
  • in case you missed something
  • for copying, remembering, or reminiscing
  • remember, if you have the login and password, history CAN be rewritten (Editing this blog can often be messy and we have to make corrections.)

Speaking of history, help us write the next chapters. It will be an adventure. We promise.

Nick R. (Editor)

P.S . See you tonight.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Three long time amigos after the OA Brotherhood Ceremony

Great cobbler, Brett

I can see all next year from here.

Lakeview sunset. Wow!

MHX1 and Noah R. work on a merit badge.

The blog editor being interviewed for Communications merit badge.

One match award attempt

Happy Birthday Gunnar!

Lakeview in the morning.