My granddaughter Amanda Birkby has just joined the Boy Scouts of America. Changes in their membership policy allow girls to be in all-girl troops. Hers is troop 329, sponsored by the Edmonds, Washington, Methodist Church.
Reports so far are glowing. Her father, our youngest son Craig, is an assistant Scoutmaster. He is making sure the girls have plenty of outdoor activities. They have been hiking and had a two-night camping trip. They’re also getting ready for a spring break trip to Zion National Park in Utah. It’s a great start to her Scouting career.
Her activities reminded me of the years I was a Den Mother long ago. Craig had just had his eighth birthday. For gifts, he received a Cub Scout shirt, a cap, and neckerchief. All he needed was a Cub Scout den to join.
Neither of the dens in Sidney had room for another boy, though. The town’s Cub Master asked if I would lead a new den. Some of Craig’s classmates were also looking for a den to join.
I thought my schedule was too busy to take on another project, but I hated to see the disappointment in Craig’s eyes. I agreed to do it, and I am so glad I did.
Quicker than you can say the Cub Scout motto "Do your best," I had ten boys coming to the basement of our home. On that cold winter day, Den 2 of Pack 77, Sidney, Iowa, was born.
We painted bears and lions and wolves on brown paper grocery sacks. Each boy printed his name on his bag and slipped it over the back of his chair. That fun project gave me clues as I learned the names of the boys.
In the months to come, our projects progressed through charts of birds and making nesting materials, hummingbird feeders, and plaster casts of animal footprints. We planted seeds. We made kites and had a kite-flying derby.
We pledged allegiance to the flag, gave the Scout promise, and played many wild and noisy games.
I learned which of the boys were determined workers and which ones let off energy by fooling around. I had a boy who liked to make weird faces and one who jumped up and down a lot.
During a program feature to learn about Mexico, we memorized some Spanish words, learned some traditions and games including having a piñata, and discovered that tacos need to be cooked before being eaten.
When the weather warmed, we played outdoors. We built campfires in the backyard where we roasted hot dogs, toasted marshmallows, and made s’mores by adding graham crackers and chocolate bars.
Years later I was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room in Shenandoah. A tall gentleman came in, smiled, and greeted me warmly. "I’m Frank Hammons and I know you," he said. "You were my Den Mother. I have never forgotten all the things we did and how much being a Cub Scout meant to me." We talked about his business and his fine family.
In downtown Sidney I used to see Jeff Penn, another who had been one of my Cub Scouts. He always greeted me by saying, "Hello, Den Mother!"
A Scout adventure Jeff remembered well was a winter camping trip called a Freeze Out that happened when he was Boy Scout in my husband Robert’s troop. The boys went to Manti Park in eastern Fremont County and pitched their tents.
If the weather was warm during such an outing, it was considered a failure. A Freeze Out was supposed to be cold. Jeff remembered that the time he went was extremely cold.
The tents were made of canvas and did not have floors. Robert brought some bales of straw in his pickup and the boys spread the straw on the ground under their sleeping bags for insulation. They made it through the night, though Jeff got too close to the campfire in the morning to warm up and the toes of his shoes began to melt. Maybe that is an adventure that gets better over time.
I am pleased that I had the opportunity to be a Scout leader. By being a Den Mother, I was a part of the Scout organization. I wouldn’t have missed that for anything.
Now Amanda has a chance to enjoy much that Scouting has to offer. Her brother Nick was very happy to have been a Scout and went on to earn the rank of Eagle. Perhaps Amanda will do that, too.
Here is an excellent beef recipe that would be just right to prepare for Scouts returning from a camping trip, or a hungry family any time.
Red and Green Steak
2 cups beef cut into cubes
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups water
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup green pepper, sliced
1 cup tomatoes, quartered
1 Tablespoon corn starch
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup water
Brown the meat in hot oil. Add water and the bouillon cubes, cover tightly and simmer slowly for 1 hour or until the meat is tender. Add the green pepper and the tomatoes. Salt lightly and simmer for 5 more minutes. Blend together the corn startch, the soy sauce, and ½ cup water. Add into the meat mixture and cook, stirring gently, until the sauce is thick. Serve over cooked rice.