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Issue 61 – Mid-October 2005

The first October column led off with a letter from a Cub Scout parent who considered their family’s language usage standards superior to those of Scouting because the word “heck”—a word tantamount to swearing, they said—is used in some songs Scouts sing:

“In my home, it’s considered a curse word, and when my son’s Cub Pack sang a song with it in it…I found it was in very poor judgment for the leaders to teach the children this song…The Boy Scouts should not be letting the lowered standards of our society corrupt the way they are leading our children. We spoke with our Cubmaster, and she replied that our child could either not be involved in the campfire or not attend the campout. Why should our child miss out on the fun because he has higher standards than his Cubmaster?”

You all had a bit to say about this, and the next letters do a pretty good job of summing up your points of view…

Dear Andy,

God help the parents complained about the word “heck” in Scout songs, if they were to ever read the Bible! My gosh! The words “damn” and “hell” are used any number of times! They’d be shocked beyond recovery! (George Bratz, Miami Valley Council, Dayton, OH)

Hi Andy,

With reference to the question about the use of “heck” in songs and the like, I think the first reaction has to be “get a life.” These parents should also disconnect from the Internet if the word “heck” is so offensive. According to Google, there are 24,000,000 web pages with the work “heck” showing up once or more. Geez! Putting on the “Commish hat,” I’d say this: In everyday usage, “heck” probably doesn’t mean much of anything to anyone. Though it started as a euphemism for hell, its slang use has come to have a life of its own and you probably should judge the word in its contemporary contextual use. Most people would agree that a cuss-word is one that is intended to be deliberately offensive due to its fowl nature or meaning. When we read the word “hell” in the Bible, we probably don’t assume that the author was cussing. When a minister talks about hell in a sermon, the use of the word is not cussing. In the context of these songs, there’s no intent to offer offense or to engage in cussing. Anyone can decide to be offended, of course, even when no offense is intended, and that’s a more serious problem than singing a song with the word “heck” in the lyrics. (M.B.)

Dear Andy,

This has been a rare problem, but as a unit leader at many levels I could often see some folks squirming when certain words or phrases were uttered by the “innocents.” Granted, it’s impossible for every parent to censor every word, song or skit at every campfire, but as a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Commissioner, whatever the hat, it’s certainly not my job to censor, but I do screen these songs as best I can. For the most part, you’ll find them at Philmont, hear them at National Camping School and summer camp as well. In fact, I’d also go so far as to say it’s not and never will be my position to force anyone’s morality on an entire unit. I’d say that the leader who gave the boy the option to stay or avoid is best. The “concerned parent” could point out the word in a family discussion and then decide what they feel is right, while recognizing other’s rights to use the word in an expressive form. Heck, there are far more serious words that I’m more concerned with than “heck.” (Phil Malone, ADC, Simon Kenton Council, OH)

Hi Andy,

I think that Pack has new song leaders… or they can sit down and keep their opinions to themselves. (Roy Giles, Cornhusker Council, NE)

My own consideration on this subject is that teaching one’s children that “heck,” “golly,” “gosh,” “jeepers,” “gee-whiz,” “darn,” “dang,” “dad” (as in dad-gum-it), and so on are tantamount to “curse words,” even when used in non-inflammatory, non-blasphemous contexts borders on—if not an exercise in futility—silliness. But I’m very much more concerned about folks who are teaching their children that their values are somehow superior to others and that the values of others are somehow inferior to their own, instead of teaching them that values can and will be different, person-to-person, culture-to-culture. This misguided practice can have the unhappy result of producing children who may very well have long-term difficulties with peer relationships and who may well grow into adults with significant and potentially harmful societal intransigence. I’m sure these people believe they’re teaching their children a superior way to live, but they overlook that “live” is an anagram for evil and “superior” is an unforgiving and murderous body of water. As for the Cubmaster who offered the option of non-participation in the particular event in lieu of total non-participation in the overall Scouting program, my hat’s off to her for providing a most sensitive and cooperative solution and avoiding throwing out the baby with the bath-water.

In the arena of Reader Responses, I’ve received another comment about that Jamboree “Merit Badge Cop”…

Dear Andy,

Doesn’t it state on the merit badge counselor’s application: “As a merit badge counselor, I agree to follow the requirements of the merit badge, making no deletions or additions, ensuring that the advancement standards are fair and uniform for all Scouts”? I think you’d have to consider that the Merit Badge Cop was saying that the standards weren’t uniform and fair for all Scouts. Or, Andy, are you going to play a word game and say that the advancement standards are all the same? Well the simple fact of the matter is that a Scout who was privileged to have attended the Jamboree didn’t have the same standards as a Scout who remained home. Thus the standards were not fair and uniform for ALL Scouts. Sorry…On this one I have to go with the writer and not Andy, which comes as a surprise to me, for Andy is “Numero Uno” when it comes to application of fair standards, repeatedly reminding us Scouters that we’re not free to add require-ments to advancement, nor set numbers for “active participation,” nor to “fail” Scouts in Board of Review. Simply put, Andy, we’ve all seen “merit badge mills” at Camporees, Jamborees, Summer Camp! (Jack, Northern New Jersey Council)

There’s no question but that adhering to the precise language of a requirement, whether for a rank or a merit badge, is critical—It’s not only the issue of fairness that’s at stake here, but also the principle that, whether a Scout’s from Portland Maine or Portland Oregon, he has the same knowledge and skills on that subject or requirement or rank as every other Scout. In the case of our “Merit Badge Cop,” however, he made no mention of requirements, per se, but instead his issues had to do with time—his position was that insufficient time was being spent on requirements. Where he would prefer to take hours with a Scout on a simple requirement of, say, “demonstrate proper CPR technique” (I just made that up for the sake of this conversation, by the way), he felt that someone who could accomplish this in a few minutes was in violation of some unwritten rule that says we have to bore the Scout (if not ourselves) to death! My position’s never wavered: Requirements are requirements, period. However, I equally believe that we’re not in the business of re-testing ad nauseum.

Now, on to new letters…

Dear Andy,

I’m told that there’s a national theme for the upcoming Blue & Gold Cub Scout banquet; however, I’m unable to locate it on any website. Am I misinformed? (Tina Kelley)

The “national theme” for the Blue & Gold has been the same from the beginning: It’s a birthday party! Baden-Powell was born on February 22, 1857. Scouting was founded on February 8, 1910. The Blue & Gold is a celebration of both of these, and that’s why it’s held in February! That’s also why “Scout Week” is in February!

Dear Andy,

I’ve “heard” that in the Webelos II year, wearing the blue uniform is no longer an option–The boys “must” wear the tan-and-khaki. Checking the BSA national website, all printed references I could find, and other online references, I can’t find any verification of this. Of course, the speakers all swear to their veracity, but somehow they just can’t seem to remember where they heard it or read it! Similarly, it was stated at a recent adult leader training course that hatchets (the ones with the hammer-head on the back, as opposed to hand axes) are prohibited, according to BSA policy. Here again, the trainer couldn’t back up the “BSA policy” statement with anything solid. I’ve spent too many years in Scouting and other large organizations to pay much heed to people who tell me what “policy” is, but just can’t seem to find a copy of it to show me. Nevertheless, I check anyway, in case they might be right—just for once (I’m still looking for that one time!). (Jeffrey Slater, WDL, Shenandoah Area Council, Winchester, VA)

Dontcha just love Scouting folks who have to prove how smart they are by telling somebody else about some obscure Scouting “rule” that they just can’t seem to back up with anything? Yeah… me, too! These are often the same folks who’ll tell you that “in this Troop, the uniform is…” or other nonsense the reveals more about their misguided little minds than how “informed” they think they are. Let’s answer both of your questions, with some real facts…

Go to — that’s the BSA Supply Division website — and you’ll find this statement: “Webelos uniforms can be based on the Cub Scout or Boy Scout uniforms. Before buying, check with your Cubmaster to determine which uniform to purchase.” (Yeah, like lots of people, they spelled “Webelos” wrong, and I’ve corrected it, here.)

For your second question, read the GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING booklet, and you’ll find that although it talks about knives it’s absolutely silent on the subject of axes, saws, and other woods tools. End of story.

So, when somebody says something about some obscure rule, there’s nothing wrong with your simply saying, “That’s interesting…Please show me in writing where it says that.” If they can do that, that’s a good thing and you’ve learned something. But don’t be holding your breath while you’re waiting!

Dear Andy,,

My understanding is that a Charter Organization Representative (COR) may also hold other positions in a Troop, such as advancement chair, treasurer, etc. Am I correct in this thinking? We’re a small troop (25 Scouts) in a rural community. (Floyd Forman, SM, Troop 13, Southern NJ Council, Farmingdale, NJ)

A member of a unit’s committee – the chair or any other member – can also be the COR. In fact, this is often done because a member of the chartered organization is usually involved in some way with the unit itself (usually in a registered position) so the combination is a natural one. But, you do want to make this a dual position on the committee side of the equation, and not let this job fall to the Scoutmaster or an ASM – they have enough to do!

Dear Andy,,

I’m a long-time fan of Green Bar Bill. He used to write a column called “From the Campfire of Green Bar Bill” that was great for boy leaders. Do you know if those articles have ever been put into book form? (Gene Henderson, UC, Great Trail Council, OH).

As a Boy Scout, I used to read Green Bar Bill’s column in BOY’S LIFE as soon as each new issue arrived (“Whittlin’ Jim” was my other favorite)! What a great Scouter… What a great HUMAN BEING! If you Google “William Hillcourt green bar” you’ll find all sorts of wonderful entries.

Hi Andy,,

Do you know of any great “Crossover Bridge” patterns? We have a new Pack craftsman who’s willing to build things, and I’m interested in finding a pattern for a small curved bridge. (Deborah Spears, Longhorn Council, Argyle, TX)

I checked with our webmaster, Mike Bowman. Here’s his suggestion…

We probably don’t have a blueprint design. Instead, we have a lot of descriptive ideas like those in:

She might want to search our site with the terms “crossover bridge” – she’ll get about 50 links to various articles in Baloo’s Bugle, ceremonies, and other places.

To this, I’d add that the most important elements are not necessarily the design of the bridge but, rather, the ceremony itself and – even more important – having ALL of your Webelos Scouts graduate into one or more Boy Scout Troops right then and there!

Dear Andy,,

What’s the recommended procedure for selecting a new Scoutmaster? Is this position appointed by the COR, it elected by the unit committee and/or by the ASMs, or a mix of all of the above? I thought I saw it in a BSA training course that, because the Chartered Organization is responsible for the group, this position would be an appointment by the COR. Is this true? I’m asking because our own Troop Guidelines specify the appointment or election of every Troop position EXCEPT Scoutmaster! In the past, it’s usually been appointment by default—the one who got appointed was the only one who wasn’t screaming No or the slowest to run from the room when the topic was brought up! J Seriously, we hope we can find someone qualified to do the job who also has the time and desire. Thank you for being there…especially for this sort of thing. It’s nice to have someone to ask who knows the rules and procedures but who doesn’t know anyone in our Troop! Because the nature of this decision is delicate, I didn’t want to have to ask our Commissioner or other District people—this can get so political. (Dayna Williams, Troop 113 Secretary)

Usually, a Scoutmaster is identified and selected (not “elected”) by the Troop Committee with the cooperation and ultimate endorsement of the Chartered Organization. ASMs are, ideally, “Scoutmasters-in-training” and the incumbent SM has trained them to take over when he’s no longer able to serve the Troop. Strictly speaking, yes, the Chartered Organization is “responsible” for providing a Scoutmaster. However, from a practical (and also “legal”) perspective, it’s as I first described.

And here’s some good news: The BSA has actually developed a process for identifying and recruiting key volunteers, like a Scoutmaster. Contact your District Executive (he or she will be working out of your council’s service center) and just ask for the brochure on recruiting volunteers (you don’t have to explain why, if you think this might get “political”). Read it. Get any clarifications you think you need before implementing it. Then GO DO IT. Follow the plan it describes, and don’t get “creative” and try to change it—Do it just the way it’s laid out. It WORKS—I guarantee that!

Hi Andy,

I’m a single mom of three children and I need to know something… The Cub Scout Pack that I’m about to enroll my son in (at the “Tiger Cub” level) has a rule that ALL parents must attend every meeting with their son. That would mean that my two daughters would have to go along with my son and me. At sign-up, there were several other Cubs’ sisters there as well. The whole idea behind why I would like him to be in Cub Scouts is to get him away from “the girls” so he can develop friendships with boys his own age, as there are none who live in the neighborhood where we live. Is there any other Pack in my area where a parent doesn’t have to attend every meeting?

Our son’s father doesn’t live nearby (making it impossible for him to fill in), and he was actually perturbed when I asked if he would be willing to go on the campout with the Pack. His attitude is that if I can’t make all the activities, then our son shouldn’t be in Scouts. Can you even imagine my heartbreak for our son. I just don’t know what my options are for my little boy. I did have him in martial arts a couple years ago, but one day happened to coincide with a day his father was to pick him up, and he made such a fuss about the traffic that our son said he no longer wanted to be in martial arts. I knew that was a lie, but it was later—after talking several times—that I came to understand what was really taking place: To “make Daddy happy,” he quit a sport he loved and was very good at. I do have to find something for my son—and I was hoping it could be Cub Scouts—because otherwise I do have the concern that he’ll get his need for attention and interaction fulfilled in less positive ways. (Caroline, Austin, TX)

I’ve been a single parent myself, and my heart goes out to you and your children. Luckily for me, I had only one child to care for during my single-parenting time. I can’t even begin to imagine what you’re handling! You have my admiration for your efforts. Yes, I agree with you that the soul of a child cares less for whether the attention needed is positive or negative, so long as it’s gotten, and you’re definitely facing a challenge.

Yes, Tiger Cubs need to attend their Den meetings with a parent—that’s a key ingredient in the program itself. Some Dens accommodate siblings by having an “extra parent” available to more-or-less “baby-sit” them. Have you spoken with the Den Leader (who more than likely is a Mom, just like you!) about your dilemma? That’s sure where to start! But, if this can’t resolve itself, you might want to check out other Packs in your area by contacting the service center of your the Capitol Area Scout Council. Call 512-926-6363 and ask for the District Executive that serves the town you live in. Describe your situation and ask for any suggestions. Yes, your son does deserve male peer relationships, and my hat’s off to you for reaching out on his behalf!

There is good news, however, and it’s not that far away – A year from now at the most, the Cub Scouting program changes from that of the Tiger Cub program, and parents are NOT required at every meeting!

Dear Andy,

A correction… You said, in a recent column: “Only a National Jamboree patch is permitted above the right pocket; only an OA flap is permitted on the right pocket flap; only a rank badge is permitted on the left pocket; nothing is permitted on the left pocket flap; and only the world crest is permitted above the left pocket of a Boy Scout’s shirt.” Sorry, not correct. In addition the National Jamboree patch, World and/or International Jamborees, interpreter strips and Venture or Varsity strips are worn above the right pocket, along with name tag. Moreover, Cub Scouts now have a flap-shaped outdoor activity award that’s worn on the right pocket flap. Those not wearing OA flap patches wear their name tags on the right pocket flap. On the left pocket, in addition to a rank badge (for youth), the Powder Horn and Kodiak medals are worn. The following can be worn on the left pocket flap: The Emergency Preparedness Award pin, the Sea Badge pin, and the Ranger bar. Knots, service stars, and Venturing ribbon bars are worn above the left pocket. Now, if what was being said was restricted to Boy Scouts, some of what is noted above doesn’t apply. But a lot does. (Michael Brown)

Much appreciated! Of course there are more options than I stated at the time, and I’m remiss, I suppose, in not describing each and every option. You’ll note, however, that my response to the particular question asked was on-target, if not a more “universal” answer. For all of the minutiae, read the INSIGNIA GUIDE, published by the BSA.

Hello Andy,

I earned my Eagle 23 years ago, and was an Assistant Scoutmaster in Jacksonville, FL. I’d like to get back into Scouting as a Merit Badge Counselor. Can you tell me what Troops are in the northwestern part of Gainesville, FL, where I live now? I downloaded the BSA Adult Volunteer Application, but apparently I have to be registered with a local unit. (Scott Crosby)

An Eagle Scout who’d like to get back involved in the greatest youth movement in the world? Wow! That’s FABULOUS! To be a Merit Badge Counselor, you need to be a registered member of a local BSA council (not a specific unit, like a Troop or anything), and you’ll fill out two applications—the one you’ve already found (BSA ADULT VOLUNTEER APPLICATION) and your local council’s MERIT BADGE COUNSELOR APPLICATION (they’re different from council-to-council, so don’t bother looking for a “general” one on the Net). Actually getting started is pretty straightforward. Go to and on the right side of the home page, in the purple block, you’ll see the words, “sign up for Scouting.” Click on that, and then enter your information. Then click “submit,” and it’ll take you to a brief description of each Scouting program. At the bottom of that page, you’ll see this clickable blue-underlined text: “local council service center.” Click on that, enter your ZIP code and hit the “Find Local Council” bar. This will take you to the name, address, phone, and URL of the council that serves the area you live in. First, check out their website, just to get a sense for what they’re all about. Then, call them up, tell whoever answers what town you live in, and ask for the District Executive who serves that town. When connected, ask the DE for the name and phone number of the Merit Badge Dean (if they have one) or the District Advancement Chairperson (If the DE offers to take your name and have someone contact you, accept the offer!). Then, tell ’em what Merit Badge(s) you’d like to counsel, and the rest will happen pretty quickly. By the way, annual registration fees are waived for MBCs!

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner and need to get access to the 2005-2006 Roundtable Planning guide. Do you know where can I find this information online? (Dan Williamson, Ft. Monroe, VA)

Even if you do find the 2005-06 BSRT Planning Guide online, are you really prepared to download and print over 70 pages? Wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot easier, and cheaper, to just buy one for a few bucks at your local council’s Scout Shop? If that’s too far away, contact the BSA National Supply Division at 1-800-323-0732 or


Keep on keepin’ on!


Got a question? Send it to me at – (Please include your Council name and home state)

(Mid-October 2005 – Copyright © 2005 Andy McCommish)


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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