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Issue 69 – Fruit Salad, Christmas Trees, & Generals

Several longstanding Scouting friends wear 15 or more “square knots”—all properly placed (even with the colors in the correct direction), with no duplicates where there should be none, and with no inappropriate embellishments or incorrectly placed badges anywhere else on their Scouters’ uniforms. No “parents pins” on their collars or pocket flaps; no “temporary patches” above the right pocket (where just Jamboree patches are supposed to go) and no “phony baloney” interpreter strips there, either. No double-position patches on their left sleeves, and nothing but the World Crest above the square knots—not even a march of service stars! Although most could, they don’t even wear multiple “devices” on their Scouter’s Key square knots.

Yet they’re frequently accosted by such disparate and derogatory terms as “fruit salad,” “Christmas tree,” “Mexican general,” “Russian general,” and so forth.

Here’s the curious part: The folks accosting these devoted, loyal, and achieving Scouters with such terms invariably have considerably fewer square knots than those they disparage.

To top it off, these same folks don’t even have a clue that they’re directing ethnic insults at those in the Mexican and Russian military, and insulting our own military—particularly officers—as well (only enlistees attempt to make fun of officers, revealing more their own pettiness in such attempts).

I’ve also been an unfortunate witness to salaried Scouters at both the council and regional levels who make it clear that they think less highly of those who wear their accomplishments than those with what we used to call “Wood Badge uniforms.” A pity. And silly. After all, who created these recognitions? None other than these folks’ employer: the BSA. Seems a lot like “let’s bite the hand that feeds us” to me.

Why would this be? Is it truly a worthy attempt to tone down Scouters who have achieved a few things along the way as volunteers? Does this put them in their proper place? Does it help them understand that they’re overdoing it? … What?

Some accusers will tell you that “Scouting’s for the boys…we shouldn‘t out-shine them.” Or, “This intimidates Scouts.” Or simply, whadda ya want to show off for?” Other will tell you that it’s a carry-over from the military and has no place in Scouting.


In the first place, youth—especially those of the male persuasion—look up to and respect achievers. Show me a Scouter who has earned little or nothing, and I’ll show you a unit of Scouts that doesn’t earn much, either. Show me a pastor or rabbi who doesn’t inspire his flock and I’ll show you a pretty empty house of worship. Show me a sports coach with a history of losing seasons and I’ll show you an unemployed coach.

Further, wearing one’s accomplishments is hardly restricted to Scouting. Visit any meeting of Rotarians, Freemasons, or other civic group and you’ll see lapel pins, ribbons and aprons denoting accomplishments.

Now certainly, there can be silliness. The wearing of “Brooklynese” or “Klingon” interpreter strips, an OA flap and button ribbon, multiple QU patches, and so on often reveals more about the wearer’s inadequacies if not ignorance than accomplishments. Curiously, those who indulge in this practice usually have no or very few square knots. To them I say: Cut it out – you’re fooling no one and you’re deluding yourself.

To my thinking, if you’ve earned Scouting ranks or awards or received recognitions that are symbolized by square knots, wear them. And, for those of us that don’t have them, it’s time to remember that until we have, we really have nothing to say.

The immortal Casey Stengal said it: “If you’ve done it, it ain’t braggin’.”

So, if you’ve got ‘em, wear ‘em; if not, shut your mouth till you do.

Happy Scouting!


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

(Special Edition: Fruit Salad, Christmas Trees & Generals – Copyright © 2006 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


  1. Get Your Knots On! | The NetCommish - November 30, 2011

    […] ranks or awards or received recognitions that are symbolized by square knots, wear them.”  (Fruit Salad, Christmas Trees, & Generals)  As leaders, we set the example by wearing the awards that we’ve earned and encourage our […]