Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Scout Is Helpful

When I was a young Boy Scout, we had among our troop equipment an interesting contraption that allowed us to make rope.  It had been constructed by an earlier adult volunteer using old lawn mower gears.

The geared contraption was strapped to a scout using a long leather belt.  There was one main larger gear that was set in motion using an inline hand crank that was usually turned by the scout wearing the belt.  That main gear turned four small gears, three of which had hooks welded onto them.

We would run two strands of natural fiber twine from each hook to a distant point, to which the strands of twine would be fixed.  We would multiply the desired finished length of the rope by three and station the scout with the belt that far away from the fixed point.

At least one other scout was needed to run the 'crow's foot,' which was an iron peg that split at the end so that three prongs could be used to separate the three groupings of twine strands.

As the crank turned, the twine strands twisted tightly together.  The scout wearing the belt used his weight and strength to keep the strands taut throughout the process.  When the twisted strands started to bind on each other, the scout manning the crow's foot would confine the twisted strands to the part of the rope closest to the crank.  He moved away from this point as the rope became tighter.

When the rope was as tight as we could get it, scouts would whip each end to prevent unraveling and then cut the rope loose from the geared hooks and the fixed point.  It took some serious work, but only a few minutes for scouts to make a useful rope using twine.  Every scout I knew loved to have a piece of rope they had made themselves.

Our new scoutmaster, Al Parks signed the troop up for a rope making booth at the council's Scout-O-Rama.  That was a council-wide event that was aimed chiefly at Cub Scouts and leaders, but where Boy Scout troops and leaders could also get ideas from other troops.

One warm Saturday in May, our troop spent the entire day helping Cub Scouts make their own ropes.  We quickly discovered that few of these younger boys had sufficient strength to keep the rope taut and turn the crank.  We provided lots of assistance for hours.

At the end of the day when the Cub Scouts were gone, we weren't finished.  We had to disassemble our booth, load the stuff onto a trailer, haul it to the owner's lot, and unload it.  It was late in the day by the time we got home.  We were tired and had given up an entire Saturday that could have been spent in other pursuits.  But somehow we felt pretty good about the whole thing.

Al explained to us that this good feeling was part of the magic of helping others.  We felt good because we were being and doing good.

A scout is helpful.

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