Lost in the wilds? Become a Girl Scout
Editor’s note: Jane Stebbins is on vacation. This is one of her favorite columns from the “olden days.”
We couldn’t have been more stunned when our daughter announced she wanted to become a Girl Scout.
My husband and I, after all, are tough mountain folks. We weren’t keen on the idea of our daughter learning how to polish silver, get stains out of jeans and darn socks. We want her to know how to light a campstove in a howling wind, find her way home using only a compass and the public bus system and bring home paychecks that will help us live out our last days in high-falutin’ style.
That’s all we ask.
Girl Scouts, she argued, has changed so much from the days when I was not only forced to wear makeup, but get up on a stage and, dressed as the sun, awaken all the pretty flowers from their long winter sleep.
Girl Scout leaders these days teach kids – boys and girls – how to light campstoves in howling winds, she said. They can learn how to find their way home using only a compass and public transportation. Our daughter is not, however, sold on the bringin’-home-the-paycheck-for-Mom-and-Dad idea.
We figured a couple of good horror stories would be all it would take to get her to change her mind.
For instance, my husband said, he was in Boy Scouts for three years – and never earned a badge. Granted, he made it his life’s ambition to not earn a badge; at the end of three years, leaders decided he probably wasn’t cut out for Scouting and booted his butt.
Throwing cherry bombs in Porta-Potties had nothing to do with it, he said.
Every year, Boy Scouts all over America participate in the Pinewood Derby, an event that angered me no end. While my brothers carved blocks of pine into sleek racing vehicles, we girls were delegated to the sidelines to cheer them on. Life does not get more dull than practicing to be a trophy wife.
My husband received his block of pine, little wheels and weights with which he was – with as little supervision from his father as possible – supposed to craft his own faster-than-fast racing car. Instead of bonding with his father, my husband decided to utilize his creativity to the limit. He attached the wheels to the rectangular block and entered his car in the race. A block with wheels.
He was promptly disqualified and reprimanded for his lack of effort.
He refused to participate in Proper Scouting Badge Projects because “they didn’t do anything cool.”
There is no badge, he said, for bomb-making.
Nor is there one to test one’s ability to float downriver in an abandoned refrigerator.
Umbrella-jumping off a roof is not in the curriculum.
Neither is training attack dogs.
“Girl Scouts is different,” my daughter said in a voice I can only describe as “mincing.” “It’s fun, and we learn all kinds of cool stuff.”
Figuring it was one of Life’s Lessons she’d have to learn the Hard Way, we signed our little girl up for Scouting.
The first weekend out, they learned about first-aid. Not just putting bandages on owies, but treating people for hypothermia and lancing boils. They learned about traction and blood pressure and head injuries. Cool stuff.
The next time out, they learned how to catch fish – without a pole, line or rod. They took said fish and cooked them over a fire they’d made using one of the girl’s eyeglasses and some dry grass.
The following week, they dug snow igloos, learned how to conserve their warmth and use a compass and find their way out of the wilderness. This winter they used snowmobile parts to survive a cold night outside, climbed ice for fun and profit and made wardrobes out of things they found in the backcountry.
This is useful stuff! This is the kind of stuff I wanted to learn when I was a Girl Scout!
But no. I was kicked out, after two years of failing to earn a single badge. They didn’t offer badges for Doorbell Ditch, salting snails or burning stuff with magnifying glasses. Sneaking out the fire escape as my part came up in the annual spring play didn’t earn me any points, either.
I do wish I’d paid more attention during the lessons about fund raising. The way these girls do scouting, it could have become my retirement nest egg.
Jane Stebbins is a staff writer for the Summit Daily News.
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