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