Friday, January 20, 2017

Jack Scott writes

Lake of the Lost Fisherman 

There is a Yankee saying
that August and winter
are Maine’s two seasons.
I had driven north of August
into the land of hypothermia.
I had a summer sleeping bag,
more to keep the bugs off
than the cold at bay.
I could lay me down to sleep in it,
a pretzel in the tent or in the car
and pray for sleep to come
and there to dream, if possible,
that I was warm again
and my eye was well.

With the heater on,
hiding from reality,
I knew, of course,
what must be done,
and as well, who had to do it.
The time had come for fire,
its reinvention,
but firewood first,
dry firewood in the rain -
dream on -
possible perhaps, but difficult,
perhaps necessary.
If I considered options clearly
like any good Boy Scout
(which I never was)
the first step was obvious.
I began by searching
down the empty beach,
gathering on the way back
twigs and branches, soaking wet,
and observations.
Wet or not, I had a plan
based on what I’d seen
and visionary logic.

The lake was on my right,
some sodden driftwood on its shore.
On the left, a cliff which had eroded
and, over time, lost trees
pulled down by the elements.
Some had been felled by campers,
smart enough to bring chain saws,
cut their own firewood
leaving: logs and brush.
The logs seemed to be all heavy,
but some were within my means
to drag or carry.
Their outsides would be wet,
but inside: dry wood and kindling
for someone with a hatchet,
someone just like me.


  1. The Boy Scouts, the world's largest youth organization, was founded in 1908 by Robert Baden-Powell (born Robert Stephenson Smyth Powell; when he was three his father [Baden Powell, an Anglican priest who held the Savilian Chair of Geometry at the University of Oxford who had 14 children in three marriages] died, and his mother [eldest daughter of admiral William Henry Smyth] styled the family name Baden-Powell in order to set her own children apart from their half-siblings and cousins. He served as senior aide-de-camp for his uncle Henry Augustus Smyth, the governor and commander-in-chief of Malta, while also working as an intelligence officer. In 1884 he published "Reconnaissance and Scouting." During the Second Matabele War in South Africa he developed many of the ideas that led to the Scouting movement, fostered in part by the American scout Frederick Russell Burnham, who introduced him to woodcraft; much of Bunham's teachings were summrized in Baden-Powell's 1903 "Aids to Scouting," a summary of lectures on military scouting to train recruits to think independently, use their initiative, and survive in the wilderness that was adopted by many teachers and youth organizations. [In 1931, Burnham dedicated Mt. Baden-Powell near Los Angeles, California; to him; in 1951 the adjoining peak West Twin ("North Baldy Mountain") was reanmed Mt. Burnham.] He organized the Legion of Frontiersmen to assist the regular army in the Second Boer War; although instructed to maintain a mobile mounted force on the frontier, he amassed stores and a garrison at Mafeking, where he was besieged for 217 days. During the siege, the Mafeking Cadet Corps of white boys below fighting age stood guard, carried messages, assisted in hospitals, and so on, freeing grown men to fight; he did not organize the Cadet Corps but used their example in developing the Scouting movement. After the siege was lifted, Baden-Powell was promoted to major-general and became a national hero.

  2. He went on to organize the South African Constabulary before returning to the UK to take up the post of inspector general of cavalry, reforming reconnaissance training and giving the force an important advantage in scouting ability over continental rivals. In 1907 he held a demonstration camp, the Brownsea Island Scout camp, attended by about 20 boys, and wrote "Scouting for Boys" describing outdoor activities aiming at developing character, citizenship, and personal fitness qualities among youth. It was published in six installments in 1908 and became the fourth best-selling book of the 20th century (150 million copies). In 1909 he held the first Scout Rally at The Crystal Palace, attended by a number of girls dressed in Scout uniforms who claimed to be "Girl Scouts." In 1910 he and his sister Agnes Baden-Powell formed the Girl Guides, and he was allowed to resign from the army after being left on the inactive list without command and his efforts to rejoin at the outbreak of World War I were ignored; war secretary Herbert Kitchener said he could find several competent divisional generals but no one who could carry on the work of the Boy Scouts. However, the intelligence office promoted the myth that Baden-Powell was engaged in spying. In 1920, the 1st World Scout Jamboree took place in Olympia in West Kensington, and Baden-Powell was acclaimed Chief Scout of the World. By 1922 there were more than a million Scouts in 32 countries; by 1939 the number of Scouts was in excess of 3.3 million. He was created a baronet in 1921 and Baron Baden-Powell of Gilwell in 1929 (Gilwell Park in Essex was the International Scout Leader training center.) He gave guidance to the Scouting and Girl Guiding Movements until retiring at the 5th World Scout Jamboree in 1937. Though Germany banned Scouting in 1934 as "a haven for young men opposed to the new State," in 1939 Baden-Powell noted in his diary: "Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc. – and ideals which Hitler does not practise ." The Nazis listed him in the 1940 "Black Book" of people slated for detention following the planned conquest of the UK. Many biographers have suggested that he was repressed homosexual. He died in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1941. His cottage there, Paxtu, on the grounds of the Outspan Hotel owned by Eric Sherbrooke Walker (Baden-Powell's first private secretary and one of the first Scout inspectors) is a Scouting museum. His gravestone bears a circle with a dot in the center, the trail sign for "Going home" or "I have gone home."


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