• Jim Costa

Jim's Rant For The Day. Down Scouting Memory Lane.

Note: At the age of 22 I was tricked into becoming a Scoutmaster. What was to be cover for a three month's surgery recovery turned into a nine year stint for me. At first I thought I was giving to the boys but later I discovered I learned just as much as they did, and that learning helped me in the workforce. This Rant is more for me. I was on the road for two hours yesterday and began remembering my days as a Scoutmaster. Below are my most fun memories. The goal of Boy Scouting is to shape the boy to be self-reliant first and then grow into leadership qualities (my paraphrase here). Camp-outs are the first time most boys can screw up their whole world for a few days without getting a scolding from their parents. If they dropped their food on the ground it was their problem. If they screwed up they learned from it. If they succeeded they learned from that too. So no matter what, they learned and grew. As long as they were safe I couldn’t fail. After I figured that out I then focused on the boy leaders. First I added a new position for a senior boy to fill, that being Safety. Now I no longer needed to watch over the boys so much. I then eventually realized the more stupid I became the more the boy leaders had to work to save the day. So on camp-outs I erected my camp and then sat under a tree and read my school books. Unless the Senior Patrol Leader himself (the 13 or 14 year old boss) asked me a question, my answer was always “That's a good question but I don’t know. Go ask your Senior Patrol Leader.” It was actually like being paid, although not paid, to be stupid and I shined in that area. About five years as a Scoutmaster I took the troop to the regional summer camp for a week. Upon arrival I was to report to the main office with our Senior Patrol Leader. He introduced himself and me as his Scoutmaster and then he began pushing paper and money. A former scout from my first troop came out of the back office when he heard my name from the introduction. I had not seen Steve in about five years or so. He had just graduated from college, had a job lined up in September as an engineer and had volunteered as an adult leader at the camp for the entire season. I didn’t see him until he hollered “Jim Costa.” I turned and immediately said “Steve, how the devil are you?” He threw his arms up and in an angry manner said “I don’t know . . Ask your Senior Patrol Leader.” He then went back into his office. I was stunned and confused. How could my SPL piss someone off that quick without even speaking to him, I wondered. Steve came back and laughingly said "I have been waiting to see you again and say that to you. When I was in your troop I really thought you were the dumbest person on earth because no matter what the question was you always said that.” We both were dying laughing because as an adult leader his training qued him to the game and I was laughing because I knew that I really was that stupid! It was a great homecoming for both of us. So now my most fondest memory. Those monthly camp-outs were hard when you are young, in love and away from the family. There were times when I questioned if my time was being used properly. Was I really helping the boys; was it worth it? (That was one reason why I studied on the camp-outs. I was double dipping time-wise so I could spend quality time with the family at home). Then I met Jeffery. He was the smallest eleven year old I had ever seen. The boy leaders required that on every other camp-out we would hike a mile into camp. On Jeffery’s first camp-out he appeared with a full pack and pack-frame that hung down to the back of his knees. He had a brown bag dinner in one hand and a heavy strange sleeping bag in the other. He said he got it from his Grandpa. It appeared to be military, was canvass and had a bag sewn into it to hold straw perhaps?. Well, he was then informed he also had to carry a canvas patrol pup tent and its poles plus a cook pot. Being the hard working leader that I was, my place in the column was always in the rear so I wouldn’t be tempted to bark orders in camp. Trust me, Jeffery was the last boy to arrive there as he continually had to stop and retrieve dropped gear. It was fun to watch. One of my rules in camp was to never talk to a new boy until after lunch Saturday. This way he didn’t see me as the adult in charge but rather his Patrol Leader being the one in charge. So after lunch I went over to visit as his patrol just finished filling themselves. I noticed his pack was laying over on the ground next to a tree as though it had fallen over. Some gear was spilled out around it, either by accident or from his excavation. What I saw was two books, a spare set of boots and a family size box of Colgate toothpaste (unopened of course). The conversation went like this: Me: “Are you having a good time Jeffery?” Jeff: “Oh yes sir.” Me: “Great. Have you learned anything?” Jeff: “Oh yes sir.” Me: “Great. What?” Jeff: “Never let my Momma pack my pack!” That ended our conversation as I had to retreat due to laughing my ass off. I realized my time there was worth it. Oddly enough, Jeffery always prided himself in camping with the least amount of gear. He usually filled up his pockets and used a spare pair of jeans fashioned into a pack. He always used a plastic tarp as a tent instead of a heavy canvas pup tent. I don't know why.