In all ages there have been scouts, the place of the scout being on the danger line of the army or at the outposts, protecting those of his company who confide in his care.
The army scout was the soldier who was chosen out of all the army to go out on the skirmish line.
The pioneer, who was out on the edge of the wilderness, guarding the men, women, and children in the stockade, was also a scout. Should he fall asleep, or lose control of his faculties, or fail on his watch, then the lives of the men, women, and children paid the forfeit, and the scout lost his honor.
But there have been other kinds of scouts besides war scouts and frontier scouts. They have been the men of all ages, who have gone out on new and strange adventures, and through their work have benefited the people of the earth. Thus, Columbus discovered America, the Pilgrim Fathers founded New England, the early English settlers colonized Jamestown, and the Dutch built up New York. In the same way the hardy Scotch-Irish pushed west and made a new home for the American people beyond the Alleghanies and the Rockies.
These peace scouts had to be as well prepared as any war scouts. They had to know scoutcraft. They had to know how to live in the woods, and be able to find their way anywhere, without other chart or compass than the sun and stars, besides being able to interpret the meaning of the slightest signs of the forest and the foot tracks of animals and men.
They had to know how to live so as to keep healthy and strong, to face any danger that came their way, and to help one another. These scouts of old were accustomed to take chances with death and they did not hesitate to give up their lives in helping their comrades or country. In fact, they left everything behind them, comfort and peace, in order to push forward into the wilderness beyond. And much of this they did because they felt it to be their duty.
These little-known scouts could be multiplied indefinitely by going back into the past ages and reading the histories and stories of the knights of King Arthur, of the Crusaders, and of the great explorers and navigators of the world.
Wherever there have been heroes, there have been scouts, and to be a scout means to be prepared to do the right thing at the right moment, no matter what the consequences may be.
The way for achievement in big things is the preparing of one's self for doing the big things--by going into training and doing the little things well. It was this characteristic of Livingstone, the great explorer, that made him what he was, and that has marked the career of all good scouts.
To be a good scout one should know something about the woods and the animals that inhabit them, and how to care for one's self when camping.
The habits of animals can be studied by stalking them and watching them in their native haunts.
The scout should never kill an animal or other living creature needlessly. There is more sport in stalking animals to photograph them, and in coming to know their habits than in hunting to kill.
But woodcraft means more than this. It means not only the following of tracks and other signs, but it means to be able to read them. To tell how fast the animal which made the tracks was going; to tell whether he was frightened, suspicious, or otherwise.
Woodcraft also enables the scout to find his way, no matter where he is. It teaches him the various kinds of wild fruit, roots, nuts, etc., which are good for food, or are the favorite food of animals.
By woodcraft a scout may learn a great number of things. He may be able to tell whether the tracks were made by an animal or by man, bicycle, automobile or other vehicle.
By having his power of observation trained he can tell by very slight signs, such as the sudden flying of birds, that someone is moving very near him though he may not be able to see the person.
Through woodcraft then, a boy may train his eye, and be able to observe things that otherwise would pass unnoticed. In this way he may be able to save animals from pain, as a horse from an ill-fitting harness. He may also be able to see little things which may give him the clew to great things and so be able to prevent harm and crime.
Besides woodcraft one must know something of camp life. One of the chief characteristics of the scout is to be able to live in the open, know how to put up tents, build huts, throw up a lean-to for shelter, or make a dugout in the ground, how to build a fire, how to procure and cook food, how to bind logs together so as to construct bridges and rafts, and how to find his way by night as well as by day in a strange country.
Living in the open in this way, and making friends of the trees, the streams, the mountains, and the stars, gives a scout a great deal of confidence and makes him love the natural life around him.
To be able to tell the difference between the trees by their bark and leaves is a source of pleasure; to be able to make a bed out of rough timber, or weave a mattress or mat out of grass to sleep on is a joy. And all of these things a good scout should know.
Then too, a good scout must be chivalrous. That is, he should be as manly as the knights or pioneers of old. He should be unselfish. He should show courage. He must do his duty. He should show benevolence and thrift. He should be loyal to his country. He should be obedient to his parents, and show respect to those who are his superiors. He should be very courteous to women. One of his obligations is to do a good turn every day to some one. He should be cheerful and seek self-improvement, and should make a career for himself.
All these things were characteristics of the old-time American scouts and of the King Arthur knights. Their honor was sacred. They were courteous and polite to women and children, especially to the aged, protected the weak, and helped others to live better. They taught themselves to be strong, so as to be able to protect their country against enemies. They kept themselves strong and healthy, so that they might be prepared to do all of these things at a moment's notice, and do them well.
So the boy scout of to-day must be chivalrous, manly, and gentlemanly.
When he gets up in the morning he may tie a knot in his necktie, and leave the necktie outside his vest until he has done a good turn. Another way to remind himself is to wear his scout badge reversed until he has done his good turn. The good turn may not be a very big thing--help an old lady across the street; remove a banana skin from the pavement so that people may not fall; remove from streets or roads broken glass, dangerous to automobile or bicycle tires; give water to a thirsty horse; or deeds similar to these.
The scout also ought to know how to save life. He ought to be able to make a stretcher; to throw a rope to a drowning person; to drag an unconscious person from a burning building, and to resuscitate a person overcome by gas fumes. He ought also to know the method of stopping runaway horses, and he should have the presence of mind and the skill to calm a panic and deal with street and other accidents.
This means also that a boy scout must always be in the pink of condition. A boy cannot do things like these unless he is healthy and strong. Therefore, he must be systematically taking exercise, playing games, running, and walking. It means that he must sleep enough hours to give him the necessary strength, and if possible to sleep very much in the open, or at least with the windows of his bedroom open both summer and winter.
It means also that he should take a cold bath often, rubbing dry with a rough towel. He should breathe through the nose and not through the mouth. He should at all times train himself to endure hardships.
In addition to these the scout should be a lover of his country. He should know his country. How many states there are in it, what are its natural resources, scope, and boundaries. He ought to know something of its history, its early settlers, and of the great deeds that won his land. How they settled along the banks of the James River. How Philadelphia, New York, and other great cities were founded. How the Pilgrim Fathers established New England and laid the foundation for our national life. How the scouts of the Middle West saved all that great section of the country for the Republic. He ought to know how Texas became part of the United States, and how our national heroes stretched out their hands, north and south, east and west, to make one great united country.
He ought to know the history of the important wars. He ought to know about our army and navy flags and the insignia of rank of our officers. He ought to know the kind of government he lives under, and what it means to live in a republic. He ought to know what is expected of him as a citizen of his state and nation, and what to do to help the people among whom he lives.
In short, to be a good scout is to be a well-developed, well-informed boy.