Sunday, January 14, 2007

Order of the Arrow: Assignment #7

I gave the assignment this time to me and my sisters. We are to each write about something we did before junior high with a friend or friends that when you look back on it, you say, "That was so Kellogg!"

I had to have been one of the least confident Boy Scouts in the history of the organization. Especially when I was eleven and twelve years old, I had little to no confidence in doing things with my hands and in Boy Scouts that included building a fire, putting up a tent, preparing a canoe to go out on the lake, or lashing together pieces of driftwood to build a raft, or, for that matter, lashing anything.

As a consequence of my lack of confidence, I relied heavily on Kenton Bird for help in doing scouting things. Kenton was a genius. He was the smartest kid in school and I had come to believe that if I followed his instructions, he could figure out anything that needed to be done. I like Kenton a lot, still do. He was a very good friend. Still is. And I depended on him to get me through our Boy Scout camping excursions.

At the end of the sixth grade, the now defunct Idaho Panhandle Council of the Boy Scouts of America in North Idaho organized a camping/trail clearing excursion on the David Thompson Trail. This was forty-one years ago and I'm not quite sure where we were. I'm thinking it must have been in the Selkirk Mountains. Almost had to be.

But here's what I do know: it was a Wilderness Survival Outing. It was an outing that would help meet certain requirements for the Wilderness Survival merit badge. Being a Wilderness Survival Outing, we were not allowed to bring tents. We brought plastic sheets and were required to construct lean-tos out of this plastic and natural materials around the site where we assigned to camp.

I had asked Kenton to be my lean-to mate. I knew I'd be lost in all areas of lean-to construction. I just didn't understand the lashing of poles and creating the right slant or any of that. I depended on Kenton.

I don't know if Kenton knew how much I was relying on him. Nonetheless, we erected a lean-to. Now, here's what I can't remember: I can't remember if it rained while we, as troop members erected these shelters, or if it started raining after dark.

Here's what I do know: out lean-to was not sufficiently slanted for the raindrops to run right off our shelter. Ours had a sag. The sag filled with water. The water broke. On a cold, late spring, North Idaho night, Kenton and I got drenched.

Our scoutmaster's pickup truck was nearby. I can't remember if we both got in it, but I know I did. Our scoutmaster must have known we were in trouble, because he let us in the truck and turned on the cab heater.

The next day was much better. We hiked the David Thompson trail and we did some light work helping clear the trail. We continued in Wilderness Survival mode, carrying our packs and eating very little.

That evening, the troops of the council gathered in a huge circle around a large campfire for a tapping in ceremony for the Order of the Arrow. I had no idea what was going on, only that scouts and men dressed in Indian costume were walking up to certain individual scouts and tapping them firmly on the shoulder three times: one (pause) (pause) two (pause) (pause) three. Then they were taken away.

Suddenly, a man dressed in loin cloth and with a ceremonially feathered head dress was standing in front of me. He looked stern. He raised his open hand slightly over his shoulder and tapped me three times. Two scouting-aged guys took me by the arms and led me away to where other guys who'd been tapped were gathered.

We were told what to do. We had to remain silent for the next twelve hours. We would be having an intiation into the Order of the Arrow in the fall at Camp Easton.

We had been voted into the Order of the Arrow by our fellow troop members.

We were honor campers.

I nearly barfed with guilt.

Looking back, I think of this as such a Kellogg moment. In Kellogg, I always felt in the dark about things. I just didn't seem to know what was going on in the bigger world and so I was often caught off-guard.

In this case, I was naive about Wilderness Survival camping.

I was clueless about the Order of the Arrow tapping in ceremony.

The scouts from Coeur d' Alene always seemed more worldly, more knowledgeable.

I felt inferior.

Only in Kellogg, I thought, would a scout who spent half the night in his Scoutmaster's pickup on a Wildnerness Survival Campout be elected to an elite group of scouts, chosen for their skill at camping.

Kenton was tapped in a year later.

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