Surrounded by their Cub Scout mates standing statue-stiff presenting the Boy Scout Salute, six youths in green T-shirts marched smartly toward the three flag poles. A junior staff member followed close behind in lock-step. At the proper distance from the flag staffs, they were called to a halt. From there they were given the command "Retrieve the Colors." In smart precision, each scout took his preplanned place; as the flags were lowered by one, the other reached and gathered his respective flag into his arms preventing it from touching the ground. In the distance, a trumpet sounded "Taps" signaling the end of another day at Day Camp. Together, the young scouts folded the flags and presented them to the scout master for storage until they would be raised the next morning.
Standing at a stiff military brace, junior staff members and adult advisors watched the day's ending ceremony. Holding the scout salute rock steady, their faces radiated with the pride that only parents and advisors can understand. They were watching the creation of a foundation of reverence, respect and appreciation for the flags of their country, state and organization in the younger scouts while witnessing those qualities being confidently displayed by the junior staff. They know that they are watching the future leaders of the communities from which they came, their state and nation. So ends each day of Cub Scout Day Camp at Camp Mahonegon.
While preparation for this week's Cub Scout Day Camp began soon after the conclusion of last year's activities, physical preparation began for this year's camp on June 17 when the adult advisors began preparations for the arrival of the Cub Scouts at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.
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ARRG MATEY — Every day, scouts enjoyed learning and growing with fun centered on a pirate theme. Swashbuckeling Cub Scouts learned about water safety, K-9 operations and many other areas.
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LEARNING LAUNCH PAD — Campers were able to work their science muscles when they designed and launched their own water rockets.
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WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE — Pandemonium reigned supreme between classes on Water Day as everyone took aim at others with the purpose of soaking the nearest rival.
"As is the case nearly each year, a few always show up early, usually around 7:30 a.m. before we're ready for them," Camp Director Lesa Jordan said. "That's OK, though - that tells us that the youngsters are looking forward to a week of learning."
Volunteer Joan Propst, vice president of Academic Affairs and provost at Alderson-Broadus College, spends one week of her annual vacation helping at the day camp.
"The second day of camp, Tuesday, is always a day of some anxiety," she said. "We know that if we have the same number of boys return on Tuesday, our first day of camp was as success, a good indicator that the rest of the week will also go well. If we have a drastic drop in attendance, though, we begin asking ourselves what we had done wrong on that first day.
"Things are looking good," she said on Tuesday afternoon, "because our attendance was just as good today as it was yesterday."
Nearly, if not, all of the adult leaders have or have had children pass through Cub Scout Day Camp. Many of the younger adult advisors are Eagle Scouts who return and serve as adult advisors.
Before or shortly after camp opens it goes through a rigid inspection by a person appointed by Boy Scouts of America who makes sure the camp meets the health and safety standards established by the BSA at the National Camp School. Keith Butt of Logan, Ohio, preformed the inspection this year as he has done for the past several years. He provides inspections, or visitations as he prefers to call them, in West Virginia, Ohio and in Ontario, Canada.
"I have enjoyed 60 years of scouting and I look forward to these visitations each year," Butt said.
Brenda Jackson, owner and operator of Trickett's Hardware in Elkins, and Steve Clingerman of Morgantown plan the programs. Jackson is responsible for developing the programs for the Cub Scouts and Clingerman develops the instruction programs for the Webelos.
While the Boy Scouts, known at the camp as the Junior Staff, teach the vast majority of the learning sessions, the use of BB guns and archery is taught by Maj. Mark DeBord, Trooper Roy Moss and Sr. Trooper John D. Jordan of the West Virginia State Police.
"The Boy Scouts are the backbone of the program," said Propst. "They are the ones who teach the Cub Scouts the many and varied technical and social skills that they learn here at the camp."
When asked why the Boy Scouts were so in demand to teach the learning sessions, Propst said, "The younger boys look up to and admire the older boys. They admire them in their uniforms and want to be like them - they want to emulate them, not the adults."
Propst related a story about an incident that occurred a couple of years ago that personifies the mission of the day camp. "The mother of a Cub Scout called one day wanting to know what we were doing toward the advancement of her child's skills and learning as a Cub Scout," Propst said.
"I'm not sure I understand your question," Propst replied.
The woman went on to say that all her son talked about when he came home after a day at camp was how much fun he was having.
"I thought the kids were there to learn scouting and acquire new technical and social skills," she said. "It seems that all you're doing is letting the kids have a good time."
"I explained that that was our mission - helping the kids learn in a fun-filled environment," Propost said. "That was one of the greatest compliments I ever received. It was the confirmation that the Junior Staff and the adult advisors needed to let us know that our programs were working and successful."
There is no wasted time at camp. The activities begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 3:30 p.m. with the flag lowering ceremony. The time in between is packed with instruction and entertaining interaction with fellow Cub Scouts, the Junior Staff and adult advisors. The classes include the proper handling and use of sporting arms through the use of BB guns, archery, scouting skills, citizenship, photography, nature such as the identification of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, geology, communications, first aid, crafts, geocaching, the use of global positioning satellite navigation, cooking and many others.
Wednesday is water day - the day when everyone, Cub Scouts, Junior Staff and adult advisors get wet. While there are rules-of-the-day to be adhered to, few if any are exempt from a dunking. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest is equipped with a modern-day water gun - a liquid dish detergent bottle or a variation thereof. Dousing, squirting or just plain bombardment of others is allowed only at certain times within designated hours. It is not permitted while classes are in session and at other times deemed inappropriate by the junior and/or adult staff. Other than the fun of dousing fellow campers, there are water games including a dunk tank, water rockets and water slides. According to the adult advisory staff, it is the most anticipated day of camp other than the closing activities on Friday evening, which are of special interest to the second-year Webelos.
Friday's activities do not get under way until 2 p.m. and conclude at 9 p.m. Soon after the opening ceremonies at 2 p.m., the second-year Webelos begin the long and exhaustive hike to Eagle Rock. On reaching the summit they hear and see through interpretive acting the true story of Chief Buckongehannon. The purpose of the exercise is to teach the young scouts about the life and times of the Native Americans in the area prior to the arrival of the Europeans and the origin of Camp Mahonegon.
This ceremony is reserved exclusively for second-year Webelos and is, according to staff members, the most anticipated ceremony of the camp.
"Once a scout becomes a Webelo they start asking, 'Can I go to Eagle Rock this year?'" Jordan said. "We have to tell them, of course, that this ceremony is only for second-year Webelos. It is, if you will, the graduation ceremony from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts."
Propst said that becoming used to the outdoors and being involved with many scouting activities is difficult for some of those starting out in scouting.
"Many of them have never been in the outdoors beyond their backyard," she said. "The camp gives them the opportunity to participate in activities that can only be done outdoors and many of those activities are totally foreign to many of them. It's amazing to watch how quickly they adapt to this new and sometimes strange environment."
When asked why she spends so much of her vacation time each year at the camp, Propst said, "It's the joy of working with children - watching them grow from fledgling Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts"
Jordan echoed basically the same sentiments. "It's all about the excitement in watching Cub Scouts grow and mature into Boy Scouts, knowledgeable, responsible and responsive young men."
Jordan has been involved with scouting since 1997 and is a registered nurse at Alderson-Broadus College.
This is the 33rd year that Clayton Tenney, a teacher at Buckhannon Middle School, has been director of the Junior Staff. When asked why he spends his summer vacation at the camp, he said, "It's the joy and excitement of working with the young Boy Scouts that make up the Junior Staff. It is my job to help prepare them for their teaching roles here at the camp. It is my job to ensure that they are mentally prepared and have the leadership training needed to teach the subjects they have chosen to teach and that they have all the teaching aids required to do their job. They are here to learn, too, and it gives me great pleasure to know that they will take most of what they learn back to their respective troops where they will use there newly gained skills to help the younger scouts in their troop."
Ben Propst, a 14-year veteran of scouting, is the only paid staff member at the camp.
"It's my job to see that the Junior Staff and the adult advisors have what they need to make the camp run," he said. "It's difficult to put into words the satisfaction one enjoys by being able to work with such a talented group of Junior Staff and adult advisors. I'm fortunate, indeed, to be able to have such a great job."
Each year the camp has a different theme - this year's is Pirates. Themes are planned six years in advance so that if a Cub Scout were to attend the camp each of his eligible years he would not attend one with the same theme. Next year's theme will be The Jungle.
According to scouting officials, this is the 35th annual day camp of the Highland District, which is composed of Barbour, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur counties. The camp encompasses approximately 375 acres of pristine forest located on the Middle Fork River two and a half miles south of Corridor H. Officials also noted that there are approximately 4 million youth and adult advisors involved in scouting in the United States. BSA is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year.