The 13th point of the Scoutmaster's Law reads, "A Scoutmaster is ... hilarious." Humor is a necessary skill for those who work with youth. And it must be developed, like the art of storytelling, the skill of knot tying, or the science of neurosurgery. A warning though. A joke is funny only when it teaches a Scout to laugh. If a Scout is singled out, embarrassed, scared, or made fun of, the Scoutmaster has failed.
Before your next trip, remove the label from a can of sweetened condensed milk, and dent it with rock so it looks old. Slip away from the boys, and partially bury the can along a river bank. Later, take the boys hiking to this area, and "find" the can.
It's important to get them guessing what is inside: beans, soup, fruit cocktail, etc. They can also guess how old the can is. Then make your move. Ask them if they've ever had mountain ambrosia. (If they have, get the recipe, I'd like to try some...) Take the can back to camp and immerse it in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes (The water keeps the can from exploding). Explain that boiling will kill the germs and crystallize any sugars in the can's contents, or something ridiculous like that.
While it is cooling, start daring the boys to be the first to try it. When cool, open the can and start peddling its contents.
(The sweetened condensed milk, when boiled, turns into a sweet pudding, excellent for dipping apples and bananas in.)
One Scoutmaster related the following joke that his boys played on him during a 50 miler. His pack seemed unusually heavy after their midmorning break, but he put it on and encouraged the boys as they marched along. No matter how tight his hip belt was, the pack continued to nearly break his back.
Soon, one of his Scouts asked what the problem was. The Scoutmaster said his pack felt ten pounds heavier, but couldn't figure out why. After a half an hour of increasing agony, the same Scout thoughtfully offered to take ten pounds from the Scoutmaster's pack, for a price. The Scoutmaster would have to forfeit his twinkie at lunch that day.
Knowing that he couldn't go on, he consented. The troop halted while the Scout opened his Scoutmaster's pack. There, under the top flap, was a huge rock that must have weighed at least 15 pounds. The Scout had slipped it into the pack during the last rest period!
A camp staff member added this hike to a summer camp's list of recommended troop outings. It included the following description:
"NEW THIS YEAR! 3 miles up old Mt. Timpanooke we discovered several large hot springs near the iron mines. Bring your swimsuits and plan on spending a fantastic day swimming, diving from the rocks, and relaxing in Timpanooke's Iron Springs!"
When the troop arrived, they found about 10 old box spring mattresses spread out in a small meadow. The sign read "Welcome to Iron Springs!"
Rulon Skinner, a legend Scouter in his own time, directed the High Uintah Camp in Utah for a number of years. In discussing "hazing", he relates the following story.
He was walking through camp late one evening and overheard some Scouts in a tent. One of them was older, and he was scaring the other boys in the tent with a wild tale about a bear that was reported to be loose in camp. Mr. Skinner worried about the younger Scouts in the tent, but didn't want to barge in.
As the story progressed, he got an idea. He could see the silhouette of the older boy leaning against one wall of the tent, so he stepped up right behind the boy. At the story's end, the tent grew quiet as each boy contemplated his fate that night. Mr. Skinner suddenly stomped with both feet and then took a hand and grabbed at the boy's back through the tent wall. he claims that the boy jumped right out of his skin. The younger Scouts were no longer the fools.
A new Scoutmaster worried about his troop's tradition of taking new Scouts on snipe hunts. Snipe hunts usually ended with an embarassed, scared Scout who wanted to leave the troop. He knew the tradition wouldn't stop with a lecture alone, so he and his wife dreamed up the following scheme.
At the meeting before their monthly campout, he brought an encyclopedia and talked about snipes. The Scouts thought he was setting up the new guys for the joke. But what he really wanted was for the older Scouts to know what a snipe might look like.
The Scoutmaster met secretly with the new Scouts just before the campout, and told them the truth about snipe hunts. Then he gave each of them a frozen cornish game hen from the grocery store.
That night when the younger Scouts were given the honor of "holding the bags" for the catch, they ran to get their pillow cases which contained cornish hens.
After 20 minutes of waiting, the young Scouts returned to camp, "snipes" in hand. The Scoutmaster, who'd established himself as the snipe expert during the last meeting, confirmed their quarry. Snipe hunting just wasn't so funny after that.
On a snowy winter campout in Maryland's Broad Creek Scout Reservation, a Scout told the rest of his troop that he was going ice fishing. They laughed, because the few fish that were in the lake wouldn't even bite in summer.
But the boy insisted, so the troop followed him down, and watched from the bank as he chipped a hole in the ice and dropped his line in. After about five minutes, he pulled out a 25 inch trout! A minute later, he pulled out another one. When he brought them back to shore, the troop couldn't believe their eyes.
The joke? He purchased the fish at a meat market before camp, and hid them in his coat while he hiked out onto the ice.
The next year, a lot of holes were chipped in the ice...
A Varsity Coach struggled with his new team on their first backpacking trip together. None of the boys would use the cat hole he'd dug away from camp. On the third night of the trip, he decided to do something a little unorthodox. (If you don't like cat hole humor, please skip this.) So he put a large spoonful of peanut butter on his boot.
The boys were around the fire, he walked into the light, sat down, and propped his boot up near the fire for everyone to see. Looking down he "noticed" the substance on his boot, "Oh, that had better not be..." he started as he stuck his finger in it, and then stuck it in his mouth to test, "all right! Who didn't use the cat hole?!"