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Issue 469 – January 5, 2016

In response to THE MANTOOTH BONE segment I published on December 31st, I’ve heard from a bunch of Scouts about wanting more!

Here’s one…

I just read the excerpt about Eddie and I showed it to our troop. They agreed with me and they want to know the rest of the story! (Fawn Walden, Western Tennessee Area Council)

And another…

Hi Andy,


Here’s another summer camp bullying experience still vivid in my mind…

I was 15 or so at my last summer camp 40 plus years ago. Wayne, one of the Scouts in our troop, was doing Lifesaving merit badge. Back in those days, he had to do an in-water “rescue” of one of the counselors. This staffer was very uncooperative with the younger Scouts, to the point of being a bully. Wayne was about five feet tall, but full of piss and vinegar, so much so that, in school, he chose to switch from trumpet to the Sousaphone in 7th grade—smallest Scout guy in the troop and the band, and he chose the Sousaphone—‘nuff said. Anyway, after being almost drowned for the umpteenth time unsuccessfully pulling the counselor out, Wayne came to other Scouts for advice. We were one of those “wrong side of the tracks” sort of troops, but our schools were wrestling powerhouses (our high school regularly took the state championships in wrestling). We told Wayne we’d go with him and make sure this counselor gave him a fair shake in the pool. So the five of us go with Wayne to the pool, and he points out the counselor—a big muscular guy, probably 185 pounds, with thick black curly hair…all over his chest. After seeing him, we huddled up with Wayne and coached him: “Get in close, get the biggest handful of that chest hair you can, and twist like there’s no tomorrow. Keep twisting until he goes limp, then pull his butt out.” Wayne tells the guy he’s ready, the guy smirks and jumps in. Wayne jumps in and goes after him. Didn’t take him very long to get a good handful, and twist away. The counselor made a sound like a moose in pain, and Wayne pulled him around on his back, and towed him out like a little lamb. Of course the counselor wasn’t real happy with Wayne, and said he cheated, but the group of us told him, “All’s fair in getting a victim out of the water, so now sign him off!” Deed done, Wayne got his merit badge. One of our group then told the counselor, “And, don’t be picking on the little Scouts. Do it again, maybe we’ll all come down here and try for that merit badge.” (Jeff Stone)

Great story—Thanks!

I had a similar situation as a Scout… the Lifesaving counselors would jam you underwater and literally push you down so far they’d stand on your shoulders and send you to the bottom (we did our “rescues” in about 20 feet of water). I learned two things:

Anybody does that, you grab his foot and pull him straight down with you.

If he struggles when you’re doing the cross-chest carry, jam your thumb straight into the softest part of his armpit. He’ll stop messing with you instantly!

Like Wayne, you don’t “out-fight” ’em, you out-smart ’em!

So folks, here’s the deal… I’m just about done with the final edit and THE MANTOOTH BONE—a tale of Scout Eddie Starling, his adventures and misadventures in the sorriest troop in town, Max, his Eagle Scout but sort of goofy much older brother, Riley O’Malley, a feisty, self-aware girl you definitely don’t mess with, and a Scoutmaster who maybe committed a murder…or not… Running through the story is a deep hurt Eddie’s feeling, that he and his father must come to grips with. And you’ll find out just what the “Mantooth Bone” really is!

If you think you’d be interested in the novel let me know. It’ll be sensibly priced and thoroughly readable whether you’re ten or a hundred.

Just shoot me a quick email with “Mantooth” in the subject line and “I’m interested” as the message, and we’ll see where we go from there!
I was recently asked about prayers at troop meetings and events (e.g., “Scouts Own” services while on camp-outs, and so here’s the result of what I’ve learned, which may be useful to you…

The BSA’s Declaration of Religious Principles can be found in several locations online. Foremost is this affirmation: “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing an obligation to God.” The BSA further states that “The Boy Scouts of America…is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward…religious training” and “…In no case where a unit is connected with a church or other distinctively religious organization shall members of other denomination or faith be required, because of their membership in the unit, to take part in or observe a religious ceremony distinctly unique to that organization or church.”

However, while the BSA “…does not require membership in a religious organization or association for enrollment in the movement,” the BSA nevertheless “…does prefer, and strongly encourages, membership and participation in the religious programs and activities of a church, synagogue, or other religious association.”

I have it on the authority of an ordained Christian minister that the wording of a prayer is purely optional by the prayer leader, so long as it honors the twelfth point of the Scout Law in “respecting the religious beliefs of others.”

All Scout troops—whether church-sponsored or not—have available to them the positions of Chaplain (usually a registered adult) and Chaplain Aide (a Scout), and information on the responsibilities of each is likewise available online (

All Scouting units you have a wonderful opportunity waiting right around the corner: Scout Sunday in February (check online for the actual date, which can vary by faith or denomination).
Dear Andy,

Why are Merit Badge Applications called “Blue Cards”? (Beth Bell, Troop Advancement Chair, Central Florida Council)

They’ve just sort of “always” been blue and printed on card stock…even over 60 years ago, when I was a Scout. My guess is that it’s simply a nickname that stuck. That’s about the most help I can be on this… Maybe you might want to check with a Scout memorabilia expert or museum (you can find these folks online)…

Thanks, Andy. The scout who’s asking is actually wondering more about the history of the name “blue card.” His guess is that somewhere in military history, like Army ROTC maybe, “blue cards” were used in an advanced leadership training program, or maybe it’s just that it was the available color of paper when merit badge applications began printing. Can you give us more insight? (Beth)

For your answer, go here: Merit Badge application – MeritBadge.Org

Although I can tell you that, back in the early 1930’s they were white card stock (I have a couple of my father’s from that era), and some time over the next 20 or so years were re-printed dubbed “Blue Cards.”
Dear Andy,

Is it specified somewhere how often a troop committee must meet? If so, what’s the reference, please? I’m asking because I’ve heard monthly, every other month, and also at the discretion of the Committee Chair with the chartered organization’s consent. Obviously, it can’t be all of these, so I’m trying to find the definitive answer, if there is one. (Tom Scarpelli, MC, Tidewater Council, TX)

First, check the BSA’s TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK. In there, I believe you’ll find that troop committees work best when they meet once a month at a regularly scheduled time and place. Most troops hold committee meetings at the same location as the troop meeting, selecting the meeting of the month farthest away from the troop’s major outing-of-the-month, in order to make sure that all necessary arrangements not handled by the Scouts themselves (e.g., tour permit, campsite reservation, outfitter fees if any) are taken care of sooner rather than later. This once-a-month arrangement also allows for three (minimum) committee members available at least once a month for rank advancement boards of review for the Scouts.

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 469 – 1/5/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


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.

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