I guess that I have always been a “Prepper”.
Fifty years ago I joined the Boy Scouts. Of course most of us know the Scout Motto, Be Prepared. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the scouting movement was once asked, “Prepared for what?” His answer… “Just any old thing.”
My Scoutmaster, Mr. Garrison, told us that we needed to keep our backpack packed and ready to go, that some evening he would send out the word and we must report ready for a camp out. There would be a time limit and we must get there under our own power (no parents driving us).
At first this was mentioned at our weekly scout troop meetings frequently, and then less and less often.
But then one afternoon in December the word came down…We were to meet at Mr. Garrison’s house in 30 minutes, packed for an overnight camp out. Don’t be late…no parents driving.
As I pedaled my bicycle up Mr. G.’s driveway I saw him standing there looking at his watch. He waved me by and said to go behind his house. I saw several scouts from our troop and joined the members from my patrol (the Ravens) and waited while a couple more scouts arrived. A short while later Mr. G. joined us.
We were it. No one else would be allowed on this camp out.
The patrol leaders met with Mr. G. and were given directions. Set up camp by patrols and find out what food we had brought. Our USGI pup tent shelter halves were stacked nearby.
Our camp was soon ready, the food collected and the Patrol Leader was reporting back. A couple of the patrols had little or no food. One patrol had enough for themselves. The Ravens had more than enough for the six of us.
A patrol leaders’ council was held. Would the two patrols that were prepared share with the others? I had no vote as Assistant Patrol Leader of the Ravens because our Patrol Leader, Paul, was there.
They all voted to share our food. Dinner would be meager, breakfast sparse, and lunch almost non-existent. That’s okay…after all its only one day; we’ll all be home for dinner tomorrow.
After dinner we played Capture the Flag until time to retire. As I snuggled into my old Army surplus down sleeping bag I felt a contentment, I was in my element.
Morning soon came, and with it a strange quiet. Although we were in the field behind the Scoutmaster’s house there were still several neighbors nearby and we should be hearing noise. My tent companion awoke and we started talking about how warm it must be outside since it was very warm inside the tent.
The tent was warm because we had about eight inches of light fluffy snow insulating our tent. Voices soon convinced us to come out and join the others by the campfire.
Breakfast was prepared and shared, clean-up and other chores were gotten out of the way. A hike had been planned and soon we set out. Most of us were sweating and tired as we got back to camp in a couple of hours.
Next it was time for a service project. Shovels of all sorts were distributed and we attacked the neighbors driveways, saving Mr. G.’s for last.
Lunch was both a little late and meager. After clean-up we grouped around the fire. Mr. G. took this time for reflection. He asked us several searching questions.
Did we learn anything from this experience?
Could we have done anything differently?
Could we have been better prepared?
What unexpected things should we have prepared for?
Was our equipment adequate?
Were we hungry?
Were we cold or wet?
The reflection went on and we saw ourselves as we were, young men trying to do our best in most instances, failing in some areas but also learning from our mistakes.
It was late afternoon on that December day as we broke down our tents, packed up our gear, put out the fire and assembled in our patrols for our closing ceremony.
Our flag was lowered, a benediction offered and the time turned over to our wise scoutmaster.
Mr. Garrison started by telling us a tale of the Pilgrims, of how some chose not to work but to live off of the labors of others. Of how their leader had to make the decision to deny the freeloaders the bounty of the industrious.
Next he spoke of Christ’s love for mankind, and explained sacrifice. The cold didn’t seem so bad as we stood there, a band of brothers, knowing we pooled our resources to benefit each other.
Finally he spoke of his fondness for us and the pride he felt in watching us over the last twenty four hours. We had banded together and helped one another. He had a final request. He needed some help in his basement. There were some items down there he needed help in disposing. Would we help? Would a patrol step forward and volunteer to stay for perhaps an hour or two?
All four of our patrol leaders stepped forward. We’ll all help you Sir. Many hands lighten the load.
And so the twenty or so young men went through the garage and down into the basement where Mrs. Garrison and several of the scouts mothers awaited with a fabulous meal.
As Mr. G. blessed the food he thanked the Lord for the fine young men assembled, for their willingness to participate and to share their supplies with their brethren.
As I remember we were all pretty solemn as we ate and thought about our adventure. We soon departed on roads cleaned by the county crews.
I pushed my bike home those two miles, wondering when our next emergency camp out would be. Would I be better prepared? Could I help the other Ravens get ready?
I learned some lessons that weekend and a lot of them have stayed with me. This event took place in the early-mid 1960s, around 1963. Those were times of worry, the Cold War was at its height, Berlin, Cuba, and Vietnam were making news. In school we had Nuclear Drills. Civil Defense Shelter signs were on many public buildings.
My father was career military and in the evenings I sometimes overheard my parents talking when they thought we were watching television. Our family moved a year or two later to a house that had a bomb shelter.
As my life has progressed I have experienced different levels of preparedness. At no time in my sixty plus years have I felt a stronger need to “Be Prepared” than now.
The Lessons I Learned that Weekend
LESSON 1-As I said, Mr. G. spoke of this camp out several times a month for several months in a row. He told us what we needed to do. We needed to have our backpacks packed with everything we would need for a weekend cam pout called at a moments notice.
LEARNED- two things:
- Listen and pay attention to people and events around you. Just because people stop talking about a danger doesn’t mean it ceases to exist.
- Always have a GOOD or Bug out bag ready. My brother in law was career USAF and always had a duffle bag packed in his closet ready to go at a moments notice.
LESSON 2- As the weeks and months went by our scoutmaster said less and less about the cam pout He would review our plans only when a new scout would join our troop or someone would ask a question about it.
LEARNED- Pay attention to what is going on around you, prepare and do not lose faith. Do not let your guard down.
LESSON 3- As I arrived at Mr. Garrison’s house I saw him in his driveway looking at his watch. We only had 30 minutes to reach our destination (his house) with our gear. If we weren’t already packed we could not get there in time. I found out later that he turned away a scout driven by a parent, and several who arrived late.
LEARNED- Be ready, do not hesitate, follow those leaders in which you have faith.
LESSON 4- Our patrol leaders were told to see how much food we had and if we would we share.
LEARNED- Be generous with your brothers (and sisters), it will not hurt most of us to miss a meal. Always have more supplies than you think you will need.
LESSON 5- We had a heavy snowfall that night (at least it was heavy for the area in which we were).
LEARNED- Expect the unexpected. Weather is unpredictable. We recently experienced severe storms here in southern Ohio, had many trees downed and were without grid power for five days (but that story is for another time).
LESSON 6- After our hike and before lunch we were expected to participate in a service project, shoveling driveways for the neighbors.
LEARNED- Always be willing to help your neighbor. Mister Garrison did not ask us to shovel his driveway. We WANTED to do it for him. Serve those around you and be willing to allow others to be blessed by serving you.
LESSON 7- Mr. G. took the time to get us to reflect upon the weekend.
LEARNED-The reflection time allowed us to see ourselves, our faults and our strengths. After any experience or situation take the time to play “Did Good- Do Better”.
LESSON 8-Our Scoutmaster’s prayer.
LEARNED- Be willing to seek blessings for yourself and others. Be thankful. Have an attitude of gratitude.
Was this the event in my life that made me a prepper? Was I always prepared for life after this? The answer to these questions of course is no.
This camp out, the wisdom of Mr. Garrison, the lessons learned were only stepping stones. Being prepared is not a place or a destination; it is a journey, a trek, a goal that will never be satisfied.
I have tried to pay back to scouting and Mr. Garrison the valuable lessons I gained in Scouting. It is hard. Many scouts (people) don’t get it. But many do. I have been a scoutmaster four times. I have over twenty years of experience trying to help young men get the point of being prepared. My three sons are Eagle Scouts. One gets it. I won’t quit working with the other two.
Continue your preparations. Stay the high moral ground. Never give up.
Lord Baden-Powell answered the question, “Be prepared for what?” His vision over 100 years ago has helped literally millions of scouts with their lives.
His answer again was “Be Prepared for just any old thing”.
It is said that Learning from your own mistakes is a sign of intelligence, but learning from the mistakes of others shows wisdom.
Be wise. Prepare for just any old thing.