Monday, October 8, 2007


The two Scouts in this photo were both stubborn. They argued about everything. If one said the sky was blue, the other one would claim it was azure, and azure was not blue. They argued at camp. They argued in the van. They drove everybody nuts. You can tell that, in the photo, they do not agree on how to build this fire lay.

These two argued so loudly that the Law Merit Badge used them as the case for the mock trial at winter camp in 2004. The loser said the jury was stupid. The winner said the loser’s lawyers were stupid.

Later that year these two came close to a physical altercation—over whose responsibility it was to pick up a notebook that fell off of a picnic table.

The Scout on the left is Paul, our third Eagle. The Scout on the right is Calum, who is currently doing his Eagle project. Last year Paul shipped out with the navy, and there was finally peace in Texas campgrounds!

Last Sunday, Calum gave a testimonial before our church congregation, and credited Paul as his role model and inspiration. I guess sometimes Scouting is working in ways we can’t see!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Since we don’t have a “feeder” pack, recruiting has always been a challenge for us. In our 27 years of existence, only a handful of Webelos have ever visited our troop, even though we have invited them to every type of event conceivable. Most Webelos crossover to the “Pack’s Troop,” the one where you don’t have to buy new numbers for your uniform.

Except for us, this system probably works okay, right? Actually no, our district isn’t very successful at keeping Webelos in Scouts. Some say it’s because they do too much Scout-level stuff while they are Webelos. Sometimes the troop-of-the-same-number doesn’t fit the new Scout’s interests. Sometimes the new Scout quits because there is a conflict between Scouts and other activities. Sometimes the new Scout moves to another area. And occasionally, the troop itself falls apart.

Danny Olivas and Nancy Elliot of Houston’s Pack 266, sponsored by West University Methodist Church, have a new answer for this. The pack invited several area troops, including ours, to a “Meet The Webelos” event, held at their meeting place. It is the first time we have ever been invited to such a thing. Each troop was encouraged to make a 5-minute presentation about their program. Refreshments were provided. A counter that ran along the sides of the room was home for each troop’s display board. A mingle time followed the presentations. Danny promised he would encourage the Webelos to visit the troops.

Our Scouts had a lot of fun mingling with the Webelos of Pack 266. We hope each one of these fine boys finds just the right troop for them and stays in Scouting to Eagle and beyond. Any of them would be an asset to our troop. I hope that it made an impression on the Webelos to know that they were so wanted by the dozen or so Scout troops who attended.

Dan and Nancy, you and your pack have started a great thing here. Thank you!

Monday, September 17, 2007


Today ten of the stories I’ve been telling around the campfire are published in the new book, HAUNTED CAMPS: The Campfire Stories of Scoutmaster B.C. Justice. The details are on the book’s website,

Although these stories are too mature for the Cub Scouts (I was never a Cubmaster), they’re perfect for the 13-and-up crowd that demands more than a joke story or cute parable. Some of them have a moral message, but it’s left up to the reader or listener to figure it out.

On one occasion, after I told the story “Black Stain” at Lost Maples State Natural Area (Texas), a patrol who claimed they were not bothered by the story picked up their tent and moved it right next to the staff tents. Even while doing this they claimed the story had nothing to do with it, but they couldn’t come up with another reason!

One Scout, who is still with us, heard me tell the story “Vernal Pools” at Pedernales Falls State Park. He was a new Scout then. A little nervous, he made it a point to ask his mother if there was such a thing as a vernal pool. Unfortunately, there is. He’s almost Eagle now.

An assistant Scoutmaster, age 23, made a gentleman’s bet with the Scouts he could go to the abandoned bridge in the story “Sheoll Creek” at night. The Scouts followed him there. He got to within a hundred yards of it and decided it took more courage than he could muster.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Recently, as we are now between the birth of Scouting and the birth of the B.S.A., Scouters have been harking back to the beginnings a la Baden-Powell. In one of his 1909 writings, B.P. describes the preferred arrangement of campsites with patrols separated by a hundred yards or more.

When we have good, functioning patrols, they naturally pick out an area removed from the staff and the other patrols. But when the individual patrols are weak, they try to establish their area where it’s practically in the staff site or so close to another patrol that the tent ropes cross each other.

At other times we have been so small as to have only one patrol. Though we have tried numerous ways over the years to keep the single patrol motivated, it has never been viable for long.

The patrol in the picture had me fooled. I thought they were not only mentally asleep, but stupid. What I didn’t know is they had been meeting on their own and working on Scouting skills—which vaulted them to near the top in Camporee competition. Now I know that the less I see of a patrol hanging around the staff campsite, the better.

Do you camp by patrols, always?

Friday, August 31, 2007


I wish I could turn back time and visit the Ponderosa again. Yes, the Ponderosa that was the stage set for the television series “Bonanza,” in the town of Incline Village along the shores of Lake Tahoe. We went there in 2000. Sure glad we did that, because it was sold to a condo developer in 2003.

In the morning we boarded a hay wagon hitched to the back of a tractor to make the 2,000-foot climb from the shore of the lake to the ranch. On the way up, they staged a wagon “robbery” and the female bandit “shot” one of our Scouts. It was good for a laugh!

At the top, overlooking the cobalt-blue lake far below, an all-you-can-eat breakfast was served. The cowboy cooking the pancakes had a 30-foot griddle on which he made hundreds of pancakes per minute!

After breakfast, we roamed the “town” (false fronts) of the actual Virginia City from the show. I remember there was a hilarious comedy play out front (I specifically remember one of the not-too-bright bank robbers tried to hide in a privy that blew up. They constantly called the Liberty Bank “Library Bank,” and made many comic references to the greenhorns of California, which is 2 miles away). A world lasso champion dubbed “Coyboy Cal” demonstrated lasso and whip tricks the likes of which I’ve not seen before or since. He could cut a newspaper in half with a whip—right down the fold—while you held it inches in front of your face!

There were farm animals to be petted, and gold to be panned. They had one of those gravity-defying mystery mines. We paid fifteen bucks to have the photo above taken in a photo souvenir place. It was printed while we waited.

On top of all of this, you could take all kinds of photos of yourselves in the actual Cartwright house from the show. I always get a special tingle when I see some place I’ve been in a movie or on TV.

All of this cost us each about twenty dollars. I’m glad I got to share the experience with some of my Scouts!

Some sage advice: while your troop is jetting here and there to do some high-adventure program, you’re missing the best stuff! Take the byway instead and explore some down-home America. It’s not gonna wait around forever.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Last week, a youth leader told me that they had failed to start a Scouting group because the parents thought Scouting was “wussy.” The parents preferred to put their sons in sports.

The strongest, bravest people I have ever known in my life were once in our Boy Scout troop. The young man standing next to the tree in the blog entry below is an example. He was 12 when that photo was taken. By the age of 15, Dale could bench press 480 pounds and burst a tennis ball with bare hands.

But what impressed me most was how he saved a life one night. He heard some commotion in the courtyard of his apartment building, and stepped outside to see the security guard being stabbed by an assailant with a knife. While young Dale didn’t exactly rely on Scout skills, he overpowered and disarmed the attacker and saved the security guard’s life.

Wussy, eh?
By the way, he didn’t seek at medal for that, but his family got a month’s free rent

Sunday, August 19, 2007


This cedar tree used to grace the summit of Sentinel Peak at Sam Houston Area Council’s El Rancho Cima. It was a welcome spot of shade; a place to rest on hot, sunny days, and a place to gather for stargazing in the Texas hill country evenings. The hundred-year-old tree was our gift from God to our camp.

A severe thunderstorm blew the beloved tree down in May, 1985. It was God’s will, but some could not accept that. Within the next couple of years, the council bulldozed a road to the top of Sentinel Peak, leaving a large, ugly scar. Then they stuffed the top of Sentinel Peak with dynamite and blew a hole in the top big enough to swallow a car. After adding some soil, they planed a nursery tree in the hole. It survived less than a year, so bigger one was planted. This one was deliberately girdled by someone and consequently died also. I think they are on tree number 4 or 5 now. None of them measures up to the original, however.

The troop that blew up the top of Sentinel Peak received kudos for their conservation project. That’s right—conservation project!

Would you agree this is conservation? Sometimes our troop has been assigned “conservation projects” at camp that are questionable, like damming up creeks and destroying trees. I think that the goal of conservation should be to preserve the land and limit man’s impact upon it. Planting trees to control erosion, removing trash, installing erosion breaks on trails, and so forth—that’s conservation. With the top of Sentinel Peak no longer solid limestone, it’s destined for accelerated erosion. We could have served the environment better by installing a plastic tree.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


An article about Scouting “expanding the tent” to include immigrant youths prompted discussion on the Boy-Scout-Talk list yesterday. In the article, they state that the Boy Scout council in Framingham has 150 immigrants in their soccer program.


I can’t help but wonder if Boston is going to do what our district did a decade ago. Here follows the story of how a short-sighted chase after corporate donations for “at risk” Scouts ended up leaving a bitter taste…

We tailored our program to serve an immigrant population back in the '80s to accommodate the shift in demographics of the area we serve. At that time, no Spanish literature was available--we had to translate everything. The boys were bilingual, and did most of it themselves.

The youths we recruited turned out to be great Scouts. Many of them did not enter this country legally, but they had no future in their former country and wanted to become Americans. These boys were naturally outdoor people, naturally physically active, expected to work to pay their own way, and reluctant to take charity. Our first Eagle didn't have legal status, so it was an extra hassle because we didn't have a SS number for the application. We had a good thing going--these fellas won many district events and set a council record for camping, 58 nights under canvas in a single year.

So what happened? Our council came along and created "urban" units for "at risk" boys in direct competition with us. We were told not to approach our local schools any more to seek new members. The "urban" boys were given everything--uniforms, camps, even personal equipment--with our FOS money! And the result after a decade of this was hundreds of Hispanics on the district rolls, with very few active in the programs. And they were not real programs, bypassing the advancement requirements the district felt were inconvenient!

We really want to have some of the local Hispanic boys back. But they are not going to even look at us when they can get a free ride in the competing "urban" units. Sometimes I think even Boy Scout councils themselves do not put Scouting ethics into practice, and the result poisons the Scouting environment.

I'm not sure whose tent is expanding. Some members of our unit developed a commercial targeted at Spanish-speaking parents, promoting Scouting as an alternative to the gang culture so rampant here. (The picture above is one of the storyboard shots from the commercial.) National in Irving approved the commercial, the local Spanish TV stations agreed to run it no charge as a P.S.A., and a local TV station agreed to produce the commercial for the Boy Scouts. Incredibly, our own council didn't want to do it!

So I wonder what is really going to happen in Boston. Are they going to bring diversity to the traditional units there who provide a great program already? Or are they just going to sign up a bunch for show and put them in a "separate but unequal" tent?

Please tell me again why we can't give those 150 soccer boys a REAL SCOUT program.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Scoutmaster Steve of Troop 68 in Melrose, Minnesota, posed a question about Eagle conferences on his Scoutmaster’s Blog today. Some of the replies spoke of Eagle Scouts “aging out” after their Eagle Court of Honor.

In our troop, however, becoming Eagle is like being saved. You can’t be “saved” and then not change your life as a result. You cannot earn Eagle, you become Eagle. And that requires a Scout of unselfish character, whose focus in all of life is helping others. He cannot be helpful in Scouts and be a jerk in school and be a real Eagle.

The young man pictured above, Luis Gonzales, is a real Eagle. He lifts people up. He encourages people. He continued his service in our troop after we awarded him the Eagle medal, after he was 18, to train new Hispanic adults who were starting new troops, and to write a Spanish commercial to promote Boy Scouting. He still visits me about once a month.

Luis doesn’t have to be this way. He could beat up Oscar De La Hoya if he wanted to. But he had to have a good heart to become a real Eagle, as he will always be. Real Eagles are not fickle.

On the Scouting trail, I occasionally meet a young man who was awarded the Eagle medal early, say, at the age of 13. Sad to say, though they wear the insignia, you will know them by what they do—vulgar language among friends, boasting, an arrogant air of entitlement—that tells you they are yet self-centered.

I only have 3 Eagles to my credit in 27 years of Scouting, but I sleep well knowing that these 3 are real Eagles, whom I can trust as my best adult friends.

Both our council and the National B.S.A. push leaders to rack up more Eagles because the increasing numbers look good. Is this good for Scouting, or short-sighted?

Did your troop ever award a Scout the rank of Eagle only to have regrets later? Would you send a Scout to an Eagle board of review if you knew he did not conduct himself like a Scout outside of your troop?

Monday, August 6, 2007


The mercury reached 97 today in the Bayou City. In spite of global warming, this summer has been cooler than any I can remember. Yet every time August or September rolls around, I wonder why I am still living here!

Fourteen years ago today I took this picture at sunset. We had hiked up Cascade Canyon and over Hurricane Pass over the last two days, spending the night at Sunset Lake on the west side of the Tetons. We had already worked our way over much deep snow, but we weren’t prepared for what lay between Sunset Lake and Death Canyon. We became stranded right where this photo was taken, and had to camp in the middle of the trail!

Years later, I learned that 1993 was a record year for snowfall in the Rockies. Six feet had fallen on the Tetons at the end of July—just one week before we hiked over. Even with the hardship, it was all worth it. The Teton trip is still the most memorable of all my 17 high-adventure trips to date.

What’s your most memorable summer getaway?

Saturday, August 4, 2007


Arturo is the boy on the left. This was his very first campout, a backpacking trip to Lost Maples Natural Area in the Texas hill country. The year was 1985.

You see, Arturo was special because he was the first Scout who joined our troop who did not speak English. He had only been in this country for a month or so, just enough time to pick up his first English words. He got them from a Michael J. Fox movie, “Teen Wolf.”

It happened when we were heading home, just after we turned south on FM 1623 from Stonewall, Texas. (insert “Jaws” theme here) Suddenly he pushed his fingers up into his hair and, like an exited toddler, announced his brand new words…Teen Wolf! And he sort of looked like a teenage werewolf!

Everybody started laughing, so he did it again. And again. I started laughing, too, so I pulled off the side of the road. The side doors of the van popped open and the passengers spilled out onto the grass—ROFL, except it was RIGL (rolling in the grass laughing). It was very contagious, and we were parked there over 20 minutes before the effect of Arturo’s first English words had run its course.

We’ve had a few ROFL spells since, but have yet to top this. What’s the funniest thing that ever happened in your troop?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


At least in Troop 1197 it does.

It begins with Patrol Leader Training, where we give each patrol leader a set amount of this “Funny Munny.” We get most of it back by auctioning off the food items that leader can use to cook with on PL training weekend. They will earn some of the dough back depending on the quality of food they serve. They will also win some back by winning games which are part of our training process.

For the rest of his term, the SPL hands out Funny Munny for things such as uniform inspection performance, participating in a service project, recruiting a Scout, advancement, and so forth. The TLC decides how much dough will be given and for what reasons.

At the end of the leader’s term, the Funny Munny accumulated by each patrol is counted, and the winning patrol gets a prize. It may be a campout where they don’t have to work (staff cooks and cleans for them) or a day trip to somewhere fun.

This out-of-the-box idea has been around our unit for years. A decade ago, the patrols were awarded colored yarn to hang on their flag. Later, we used fake coins made out of those key tags which have an aluminum rim. The advance in computer technology allowed us to mint Funny Munny.

Throughout the years, this has been a good motivator and a good tool for an SPL to have in his bag of tricks. Please share unique program ideas your troop uses!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


This picture is not some tropical paradise. It’s in Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch in southwest Texas!

When the topic of Texas camps comes up, Buffalo Trails gets more than it’s share of attention. It’s even advertised occasionally in Scouting magazine.

Then: I first attended this camp in 1972 as a boy. I hated most of it. The campsites had no shade, so they were uninhabitable in the 110+ degree heat. The trading post was a wooden shed. I do remember the new dining hall had the luxury of a swamp cooler, and local performers came in to entertain us during the noon meal with popular music.

Later: In 1992 we attended the camp with my current Troop 1197. The campsites had not improved, but the creek was running and you could actually go swimming right out in back of our tent. It was still hot in the daytime, but we awoke to a windstorm about 3:00 every morning. A series of horns positioned along the canyon blared out reveille (from a cassette tape) at six in the morning, but by then, one of the camp donkeys had already found our tent and licked our faces.
The staff was so over-trained that they were afraid to have any fun. This was good for merit badges, but meant that other activities suffered. There were no skits or songs at the campfires. There were no contests of any kind. I found out that the reason was the troops in Midland would carry the rivalry too far, quarreling with each other back home long after summer camp ended. (Boy, I’ll bet 1990 or 1991 must have been out of control.)
The Horsemanship program was great that year, so we came back after camp was over for a special cavalcade. We had the whole camp to ourselves. They left plenty of food ready-to-heat in the dining hall walk-in. With only 14 participants and 4 staff, the pool was never crowded!

Recently: A couple of years ago, the troop visited BTSR again. Every troop in camp that week was from Houston (not their council), so some of the “big troop” problems we have at home migrated there with us. Shelters had been added to the campsites. The MASH-style PA system was silent. The troop next to us tried to take over our campsite, the other campers were noisy until well after midnight, and some idiot (boy) kept taking pictures of other boys in the shower. None of this was BTSR’s fault. But the staff promoted drinking in their offensive campfire skits. Some of them were drunk during their “party” on Thursday night, and somebody smoked pot in the campers’ bathroom during closing campfire.
Our boys expected a great Horsemanship program, so they signed up for the merit badge. They only rode a horse for 5 minutes inside a small pen. Not so exciting. On the other hand, Climbing Merit Badge was the best I’ve yet seen, using a real cliff wall for rappelling.

What do you like or don’t like about this Davis Mountains camp?

By the way, don’t be fooled by the picture. It’s the Notch, of course, but the photo was taken in 1992. It doesn’t normally look like that!

Monday, July 30, 2007


What’s worse than a Haunted Camp? How about a Horrible Camp? See if you can top this one:

Although we paid a site reservation deposit a year in advance, we arrived to find another troop in our site. The council booked more troops than sites.

The staff took our older boys under their wing and coerced them to perform skits at the campfires as staff. The troop was unable to perform skits at the campfires because our leaders were with staff!

The staff at this camp participated in “vendettas” whereby they conspired to fail all boys from selected troops on their merit badges.

…it gets worse…

The aquatics director disobeyed the “no diving” signs at the pool and cracked his head on the cement. He went to the hospital and didn’t return.

The trading post did not stock required projects for Basketry or Leatherwork Merit Badges.

Campsite “raiding” and thefts happened daily.

One of our older boys, who then thought he was camp staff, began punching other boys in the face. The camp refused to honor my request to send him home.

…and the coups de gras…

After campfire on Friday night, the boys had been told (yes, the entire camp) that they were to go to Sentinel Peak for a program and NOT bring any adult leaders. The staff gave them beer!

Where was this dystopia? Our own council’s El Rancho Cima, summer of 1988. It took 3 years for the council to investigate our complaints and make an apology. Thank God things change!

Sometimes, when the weeks at camp fill for year after year, the camps forget who the paying customers are. No Scout or Scouter should have to put up with this kind of thing. It’s okay to go out-of-council once in awhile!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


By the year 1990, we were weary of our own council camp and nearby councils’ summer camps. I don’t remember how we found out about Camp Don (Golden Spread Council), or even why the boys chose that camp to try.

Golden Spread is a much smaller council than Sam Houston Area. Less than 200 Scouts attended camp. Camp Don Harrington is in the upper part of Palo Duro Canyon, where it is sheltered from the Texas panhandle winds; where cool air settles in as soon as the sun goes down.

Camp Don was the first camp that had YooHoo chocolate drink. They offered some other things I haven’t seen since:

When you checked into camp, they gave you the vinyl patch keeper and a camp patch, pictured above. They came with a small booklet. By meeting the requirements in the booklet, you could earn a number of segments during the week. When the requirements were met for a segment, the trading post would sell you the segment for 5 cents, and there was a stapler there so you could give yourself instant recognition. The segments encouraged you to visit the program areas and participate in everything Camp Don had to offer. Both boys and adults could earn segments. For instance, you could earn the Vespers segment by attending one of the camp’s vesper services and holding one for your own unit. You could earn the one with the flag on it if your unit volunteered for a flag ceremony. Others were more individual, like archery or handicrafts.

Other smart things this camp did included paying 5 cents at the trading post for an aluminum can (to keep litter under control) and renting fishing poles for a dollar a day.

Often summer camp becomes bogged down with tired programs, mundane merit badge classes, and worn-out campfire fare. Sometimes I remember an old program or an old skit that deserves to be born anew for the Scouts of today. Camp Don’s patch segment thing is an idea with merit.

What unique ideas have you seen at summer camps? What camps have impressed you with program and staffing?

Sunday, July 22, 2007


When I was a Boy Scout, back in the days of 8-tracks and lava lamps, we used to spend our idle hours on the bus or around the campsite sharing bits of pop culture. I remember we spent weeks trying to figure out the meaning of all of the lyrics in Don McLean’s “American Pie.” The script for the movie “Monty Python & the Holy Grail” was a sure-fire conversation starter well into the ‘90s.

Then something happened. I call it “nichification.” It’s the fallout of 400 channels and 100 Internet radio stations. There’s almost a niche for everybody in the country. All this bandwidth gives us freedom from having to entertain ourselves with whatever everybody else is watching, but the downside is that we find ourselves alone in our niche.

Ever gone to a theatre and watched a movie by yourself, then found out no one you know saw that movie? What good was it if there’s no one to discuss it with? Sharing our experiences with others brings us into the community. And it’s nice being part of the community—your friends, your church, your city, your Scout troop and patrol.

Today’s music scene is a nichification disaster. All of those people walking around with iPods in their ears rudely shut out the community surrounding them. So much mediocre music exists now that the odds against two people knowing the same new song are approaching certainty.

Now I’ll admit that the hype served up around American Idol is annoying. But I have to give it credit for bringing a little “community” back to the music scene. If a song is featured on that show, there’s a pretty good chance you can have a conversation with somebody about it.

Our Scout troop is talking about going together to the Simpsons Movie this weekend. We haven’t been to a movie as a troop in years—primarily because of nichification: they can’t agree on what to see. But for the last 17 years, the Simpsons has provided that common thread that entertains our Scouts. Everybody loves the Simpsons. Scouts even make up Simpsons trivia questions to pose to each other.

Thank you, Matt Groening & Company! Your parodies, characters, sound bites, and gags entertain us while we are Scouting far away from the television.

Okay, your turn…
What’s your favorite Simpsons one-liner? Mine are the sage advice from Homer: “Trying is the first step toward failure!” and Marge’s admonition that Homer “couldn’t predict six o’clock at five-thirty.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


It’s so often that bit of silliness that makes a high-adventure trip so memorable.

On our way to the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado, we made a stop at Alabaster Caverns in Oklahoma. The caverns were closed at that time while a new lighting system was being installed, so the boys would not have the usual pictures as souvenirs.

Undaunted, Paul, Brian, and Dayle bought these cheap plastic “power rings” that were in the Alabaster gift shop. Where I might have bought a useful postcard or an item of real Native American craft, boys are not so discerning. What kind of power this dollar’s worth of plastic scrap lends the wearer, I’ll never be sure, but the boys did “battle” with the rings far into the next state.

After our backpacking portion of the trip, we spent a relaxing day on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The train climbs from Durango to Silverton, where it makes a 2-hour lunch layover before returning. We ate lunch in a historic hotel in Silverton, where some of the boys ordered their first buffalo burgers.

While waiting for the food to arrive, 17-year-old Paul came from the restroom and approached me with this puppy-like pleading look on his face.

“Mr. K,” he said, “I dropped my power ring in the toilet!”

“What do want me to do about it?” I asked. It was clear that he expected me to go in there and get it.

“I didn’t realize until it was too late,” Paul explained, “but if I flush it, the ring might go all the way down!”

Poor, poor Paul! We all had a good laugh. Oh what kinds of favors the Scouts expect of their leaders! This time Paul would just have to say goodbye to that ring.

Someday we’ll go to Alabaster Caverns again and buy Paul another ring… then send it to him at his Navy A.P.O.!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Boy Scout Adventure: Solving the mystery of the Marfa Lights

Folks shopping for young adult literature without lewd content may want to give THE GHOST OF MOUNT CHINATI a try. This short, innocent novel reads like a Saturday Afternoon Special on PBS. It is an old-fashioned story, reminiscent of that nostalgic Leave it to Beaver and Lassie fare from decades past.

The main character, Corbie Ransom, has an unusual name. But he is an unusual kid, too. Corbie is a Boy Scout—an exceptional Scout at that—relocating to West Texas from California. He makes new friends and a few enemies as well. The events that follow are confined to a handful of simple, stereotypical characters, who talk in stilted speech. Reading this as an adult, it seems unrealistic, but I think younger readers will care more about whether the plot moves along than whether the characters talk in contemporary slang.

LeCroy holds the reader’s interest well in this book. Any boring, dead parts have been edited out, leaving a lean story. A surprise twist ending wraps it up into a neat package, but still leaves tidbits here and there for the reader to ponder on. This book is not really about ghosts. But it is a satisfying little adventure, worth the read.

Visit the the publisher's website for the book's description.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Here’s one of those situations where the boys temporarily bypass the literal interpretation of the 11th point of the Scout Law. But that’s okay.


There was a surprise waiting for us at Camp Urland (Three Rivers Council, Woodville, TX). A recent flood had washed out the dam. What had been a perfectly good fishing and canoeing lake was nothing but a slippery, slimy mud pit. Canoeing was off of the schedule. In addition, the weather that January weekend was chilly and drizzly. Apparently whatever else the Senior Patrol Leader had planned was no good in rain.

When I was a boy, we would have sat around in our tents playing cards and complaining about the weather. But not these guys! They started a game of “Follow the Leader” in the empty lake—jumping, sliding, and tumbling after each other, through all of that muck. After more than two hours of this, they came back to camp covered in so much mud they looked like giant chocolate bunnies. Thank goodness the camp had cold water showers in each campsite!

I do not remember anything else about this campout. I suppose it was well worth getting so unclean, just so that this outing would be memorable.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Although, basically, the Boy Scout program has a great safety record, there remain those situations that make us Scoutmasters nervous.

When I was a new leader, I found that the first time any boy tried to use an axe was unsettling. It was hard to look! But you have to teach them, and it takes practice. After a year or two, I became a seasoned leader, so I was no longer haunted by axes.

I am now a grizzled leader, having been through untold numbers of mishaps (not disasters), so I don’t get excited very easily. Calmness is a real asset in an emergency. But the one thing I am still nervous about is lightning.

When the troop was young, we were camped one weekend in an established campsite, a clearing among the trees. Around three in the morning, this unforecasted storm came out of nowhere. It wasn’t like we were naked to the weather on top of a mountain or anything. As risk management goes, we were camped in a relatively safe area, in canvas tents and not near the tallest trees.

The storm had not taken Risk Management Training. It did not care about our safety. Several times during that storm, I felt my hair stand on end a few seconds before the lightning bit right in to the ground between our tents. Prayer was the only form of risk management available, and I assure you, every one of us used it!

As some unfortunate Scouts in Utah learned in 2005, you can never be 100 percent safe from lightning. Those Scouts were hit while they were inside a wooden shelter.

As you head out on another Scout adventure, what risks worry you the most?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Once every so often I find myself having to sort through pictures looking for something, and stumble across places I miss.

Sam Houston Area Council’s flagship camp is El Rancho Cima, a Texas Hill Country camp along the Blanco River between Wimberley and Blanco. When we were a young troop, we camped there often. From our campsite in the Horseshoe Bend section, a mile walk took us to this little oasis in the otherwise arid scrubland. Nicknamed “The Bathtub,” it reached a depth of about ten feet. Cold water from the Frio Spring upstream came in the other end, which formed a gentle slope that made for a gradual walk-in for those of us older folks who need time to adapt to chilly water. Scouts have no such requirement, and after the lifeguards had checked for debris, they were eager to jump in from the ledges above.

The picture was taken in 1983. All that remains of the Bathtub today are the rock ledges. Frio Spring was dependent on an aquifer whose water table has since been drawn down. Silt filled in the pool, and now mature trees have grown in the silt. The Bathtub has gone completely dry.

To those of you from the Houston area—surely we weren’t the only troop that knew about this place… .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Our second Eagle Scout, Max, took Computers Merit Badge at Camp Post in 1996. Computers weren’t as commonplace then as they are now, but the ranger there had it set up so every Scout could have hands-on experience. That week, Max developed a passion for computers.

Max signed up for one of the first computer courses offered in our school district that fall, encouraged by his experience at camp. They spent week after week learning the history of computers—you know, how they took up a whole building and so forth. Then they practiced on a cardboard keyboard. Finally, at the end of the semester, they were introduced to an actual P.C. But they weren’t allowed to USE it!

Thanks to a camp ranger who cared enough to offer a real computer class, Max went on to work for Compaq just before HP bought them out. He now uses those skills serving in our navy, where he services weapons guidance systems.

Have you ever had a merit badge begin a Scout’s career?

Monday, July 9, 2007


Some time ago, I made a decision to feature Boy Scout characters in my first novel, VIOLENT NIGHT. Now that I’m about to release my second book, HAUNTED CAMPS: The Campfire Stories of Scoutmaster B.C. Justice, I’m confronting the need to build an Internet presence.

So I set up a MySpace page. Talk about swimming in shark-infested waters! It’s like Las Vegas the time we took Scouts there (I’ll detail that in another entry)—a den of vice and filth. I searched for the keyword “Scout” and found a hoard of entries putting down the B.S.A. as well as the leaders and boys who participate in it. Page after page. It’s discouraging. But I bravely put up my profile anyway. Although I put that I am there for friends and networking, what I get is friend requests from women trolling for a date. Did they look at that mug on my profile? (Likely not.) Anyway, now I could “search for a friend” by looking for people with Scouts in their profile. I found ONE. It was ME!

I haven’t seen any television advertising for the Boy Scouts since that one with delinquents trashing an alley back in the ‘60s. It’s up to us to build the image of our program. So I am making it my personal mission to publish entertaining stories about Boy Scouting—in my books, on this blog, on other people’s blogs, and MySpace, too.

By the way, putting your profile on MySpace is free. It’s kind of lonely being the only Scouter in there. I could use a few Scouting friends to help spread the message—especially to that young MySpace crowd—that Scouting is about making a difference instead of wasting your life!