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A salute to Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts insigniaOn August 1, 2007, it will have been 100 years since Lord Robert S.S. Baden-Powell assembled 21 boys at the world’s first Boy Scout camp at Brownsea Island in England. That’s quite an anniversary. What a legacy for Baden-Powell. What a legacy for us all.

During the next seven days, Larry and I will both write more about Scouting, but I want to jump right in and tell you something quite personal. Thanks to Scouting, my son knows how to tie knots that stay tied.

That’s right … Knots. He knows which knot is exactly right for the need, and how to tie it. Bends and hitches—oh I don’t know what all—and those knobby knots on the end, if you want one. But he can do a fine back-weave to cleanly finish the end of a rope and put a nice eye on the other end. I have one in my car that he made about ten years ago. It’s just the right size, and we use it all the time.

When he joined the Navy, the knot in his uniform neckerchief looked right from the get-go. In fact, it was so good that someone stole it. Twice. In the spirit of teamwork (and to save money), he taught his fellow fumble-fingered recruits how to tie a classic square knot, and if that failed, he tied it for them. It saved the whole company a lot of grief during basic training because those recruit training instructors are surprisingly fussy about neckerchiefs.

Bowline knot

Bowline knot

He tied a lot of knots during his years in the Navy, and still does: boating, camping, climbing, back-packing, fishing, search-and-rescue. Useful things—knots. It was worth eight years of Scouting, just for his knot-tying skills.

When he took his bride on their first (and only, I think) back-packing trip, he insisted that she learn how to tie a bowline, the easiest and best one for her to learn. “If I fall over a cliff, you’ll use this knot to rescue me,” he told her. He made her practice the knot over and over again—in the dark, behind her back, standing on her head, one-handed, and in a cold shower for all I know. But she can tie a bowline.

Robert Baden-Powell would be pleased.

2 thoughts on “A salute to Boy Scouts

  1. That’s a cute story.

    Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten more knots than I’ve learned, it seems. Why are they so hard to learn without constant practice?

  2. I understand Dave. Clearly you are not getting in enough boating, camping, back-packing, and fishing! Larry has been trying for years to teach me one simple knot … a dolly knot … and I still can’t get it right.

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