Of course the bedraggled Boy Scouts had learned something on the three-day backpacking trip. They didn't look as vigorous when they returned as when they left, and they seemed dirty and disheveled, but they had stories to tell about the adventure because they had been with leaders who had taught them.
The excursion wasn't just a vacation in the back country. It was a time to learn geology, geography, and to experience nature. No school class had ever met at night to study the constellations or had gathered edible plants for an evening stew. It was also a time to learn about cooperation and self-reliance, both at the same time. It was a time to learn about stinging nettle, mosquitos, and deer flies and to learn to lie about how good food can taste when cooked out of doors where it can be seasoned with grit and gnats along with pepper and salt.The leaders learned, too. They learned not to be too worried about the Scout who shows up for a back-country trip with only three foil- wrapped frozen pizzas to last for three days of meals. Despite thoughts by the leaders of possible food poisoning or starvation, the Scout who had looked forward to a three-pizza, three-day subsistence looked to be in as good condition as any of the other Scouts. He looked as good as those individuals who had forgotten jackets, lost socks, broken tent poles and fallen in water at least once each day. He had still covered the same 21 miles of trail in the Uinta Mountains as the others. The truth of the matter is that he looked a bit better than most of the others. His cuisine had apparently agreed with him.
The first night out the pizza-eating Scout began to carefully warm a slice of Canadian bacon with cheese in a small covered frying pan he had borrowed from the assistant Scoutmaster.
The kid had even forgotten to bring utensils. The pizza soon sizzled over the glowing coals of the open fire. The crust browned up nicely, and the aroma rivaled morning sausage and eggs in a campground. It looked especially good next to the trail mix, gorp and dehydrated soup of some of the other Scouts.
"Can I have some of your pizza?"
"I don't have very much."
"I'll pay you when we get back."
"Since you're my friend I'll trade you some."
"What do you want?"
"What do you have to eat?"
The trade was made and repeated until all three pizzas were eaten that first evening and good meals assured for the rest of the trip.
The Scout who brought the pizza really didn't like it that much but managed to barter for meals for himself. He finished the three-day camping trip without carrying any food in his pack, without cooking any meals except the frozen pizza, without washing a dish, without even having to carry a frying pan and without contracting giardia. He ate with a different Scout each meal as the guest of honor and even earned this same privilege with leaders who had also enjoyed the first night's delicacy.
This Scout may never earn his cooking merit badge, but he has certainly learned to eat well while camping. Perhaps there should be a merit badge in resourcefulness.
There has to be an educational message here. Perhaps some questions are in order. Where did the Scout learn resourcefulness or how to manipulate? Was this in any of his teacher's lesson plans at school? Is it part of the Scouting program? Is it something that was intentionally taught by anyone? Should it be taught?
It seems this skill, whether desirable or not, is one of the life skills that is often not addressed directly by anyone. It isn't part of the formal school experience; parents don't seem to plan its teaching in the home; the Scout program has not made it one of the 12 Scout laws.
Perhaps it is one of the skills that we should specifically address in the school curriculum. It may be as basic as the three R's or as dangerous as not memorizing the county seats of Utah.