Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Boy Scout Fourth of July

By Rob Watson

For those who may not know, Boy Scouts is an organization made of a core of paid professionals. Their job is to organize the various units and recruit adult volunteers to run the units. A good portion of their money comes from the United Way and other charitable organizations. Each unit ( Cub pack, Scout troop, Explorer post) is sponsored by a local civic volunteer organization or church. Sometimes the sponsor will have more than one or all of the above. Most nations have their own Boy Scout organization, making Boy Scouts the worlds largest free youth organization.

I joined as a Cub Scout at the age of 8. I progressed through the ranks and earned my Eagle badge a few weeks before I graduated from high school. (for those who may care, the Eagle badge is one of THE markers for future success... All 7 Mercury Astronauts were Eagle scouts.) During my first semester in college I found a Boy Scout troop near campus and joined as an assistant scout master.

The highlight of each scouting year is 'Summer Camp'. One of the problems with getting every boy to summer camp is baseball Little League. The kids don't want to miss the games, so they skip camp. The other problem is money. Our scoutmaster was an exceedingly clever fellow. He became a Little League coach and drafted all the scouts onto his team. For game night the parents came and hauled the kids over for the games and back to camp again. For money, he recruited the kids of the richest family in North Louisiana... Problems solved. It was quite unusual for even one of our boys to miss summer camp.

About the summer before my fourth year of college, we took about 100 boys to Summer Camp with us. Friday night is the closing campfire for summer camp. The awards are presented, songs are sung, etc. When I woke up that Friday I realized it was the Fourth of July. On asking the folks in charge, I discovered there were NO plans for celebrating the day... Sad for an organization dedicated to God and Country.

I asked if they would mind if I could 'cook' something up. "Sure" was the response from the head guy. I figured, with a hundred kids, I should be able to get something going. One of the staff took me to the library of a large, nearby city. There I found a one act play on the debate over the Declaration of Independence. I made several copies and headed back. At camp I handed the copies to the Senior Patrol Leader, a kid of about 16 and told him to "Make it Happen"

In the mean time word got around camp that things were in the works and I was approached by a member of the Louisiana National Guard. It seems he had, with him, a 'supply' of flares,  hand-launched star shells, and a few simulation hand grenades, along with a very large American flag.

It went like this: After the regular events of the final campfire, an Indian Chief announced the play. As the actors paraded onto the set, a simulated grenade went off out in the lake, with a big bang, a flash and an impressive column of water. Five seconds later a second went off nearer to shore, then one went off at water's edge. These were followed by a flare igniting the logs for the campfire.

As the play reached its climax, rolecall of the colonies voting YEA for independence, across the lake, 10 flares ignited to illuminate the huge American Flag, while the sky was illuminated with exploding star shells.

Thanks to a dedicated 16 year old kid and the Louisiana National Guard, I have heard that was the best Fourth of July they ever had at Camp KiRoLi.

( only trained adults handled the fireworks)

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