Why kids sign up to be Scouts: “New Scout on the Old Trail”


It’s something I’ve seen in a thousand kids. Why do they sign up to be Scouts?

Girl or boy, it’s the adventure they sign up for. Parents like the idea of a kid learning how to be a good citizen, but the kids like the adventure.

It’s an old story, it turns out. Browsing images at the Library of Congress, I came across this one.

"A New Scout on the Old Trail," "Put her there, Pard! You do us proud." Image by Crawford Will, June 5, 1912; published by Keppler & Shwarzmann
“A New Scout on the Old Trail,” “Put her there, Pard! You do us proud.” Image by Crawford Will, June 5, 1912; published by Keppler & Shwarzmann

It’s a color print drawn by Crawford Will (1869-1944), for Keppler and Schwarzmann, a print company in the old Puck Building. Published on June 5, 1912, two years after Scouting got going in the U.S.

According to the description from the Library of Congress, the image shows a young Boy Scout coming out of his tent and meeting “Davy Crockett, Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack [Omohundro], Kit Carson, California Joe, [and] Dan’l Boone.” Better, that group of frontiersmen welcome the new Scout as one of them.

Know what? With just a bit of luck, that’s what a Scout gets: A lifetime of adventure. Scouting, I went all over Utah, and got to the wilds of New Mexico at Philmont National Scout Ranch. Scouting got me a job chasing air pollution in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, got me a job tramping New York and canoeing the Adirondacks. As a Scout leader in four different councils I’ve camped long term in Colorado and Tennessee, Texas (a lot!). Scouting opened doors for me all over Washington, D.C., and gave me a boost on jobs in policy and journalism. Scouting delivered good adventures to our sons and my wife who joined one son on an 86-mile trek at Philmont.

I’ve been to those places haunted by Davy Crockett, Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, Kit Carson, California Joe and Daniel Boone, and I’ve learned what they did wrong as well as what they did right.

More than once we’ve arrived at a camp at dusk or later, pitched tents, gone to sleep — then awakened in the morning to see young Scouts coming out of the tent and realizing they are on a big mountain, next to a grand lake, deep in a forest, in redrock country — somewhere adventures happen every day.

Like that young Scout in the picture.

Its the same for the girls in Scouting, too.

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