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Chippewa29

Left Handed Smoke Shifter

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At camporees, everyone has seen new Scouts get sent out on practical jokes. One that has made the rounds quite often in our area is for a Left Handed Smoke Shifter.

 

While in high school, I was on the swim team and thus developed very good lung power. Sitting by a campfire on a Friday night at a camporee at age 16, I managed to change the direction of smoke (temporarily). Famous as a southpaw in my troop, one of our ASM's said, "you must be that left handed smoke shifter those new Scouts are always looking for." At that point, we all just kind of looked at each other and smiled, waiting for the opportunity to arrive.

 

The next day at lunch, sure enough, two brand new Scouts showed up (their shirts looked brand-spankin new with no stains and a stiff collar) asking for a left-handed smoke shifter. The same ASM heard them and said, "wait a minute, we'll go get him for you." He came and got me and I went back to camp with two obviously very proud young Scouts.

 

As we entered the patrol site, they beemed with pride when they showed their 14 year old patrol leader how they had accomplished their mission after checking with only five troops. The look on the PL's face when he turned around and saw me was priceless. He had absolutely no clue what to say. After a moment of awkward silence, I said "which direction would you like your smoke shifted?" He pointed weakly in a direction and as I went over to their fire, the wind changed direction (by coincidence) and sure enough, the smoke went the direction the patrol leader had pointed. With the jaw of every Scout in the patrol dropped to ground, I started to leave and said "you gentlemen have a nice day?"

 

Does anyone else have a story related to one of the Scouting "urban legends" they could share. I need some new ones as my troop has heard all of my good ones.

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Ahhh, the left handed smoke shifter... an oldie but a goodie!

 

Many moons ago when I worked at Scout camp, I taught Pioneering Merit Badge. Every week, there always seemed to be one Scout who was a disrupter of sorts during class. Wednesday was deemed the Day of Humbling.

 

My buddies at the trading post and waterfront were in on this. I would send the disrupting Scout to the trading post for some "shoreline" that we needed for an important lashing project. (The trading post was not too far away). The guys at the TP were to say "Boy, we're all out, but if you go down to the waterfront, you'll find some there." (This was a fair hike from the TP).

 

When the guys at the waterfront showed them where the "shoreline" was, there was usually a priceless look of "Boy, did we fall for that one!" After they came back to Scoutcraft, we all had a good laugh at their expense, but they usually continued with a little better attitude.

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Oh Boy....

 

I think I know where this is going to land me, but never fearing to tread where angels are afraid to, I have to say this...

 

Whether its looking for a left handed smoke shifter, 50 feet of shoreline, the cannon report, snipe hunt or even praying to the trio of great Indian gods Owa, and T'goo and Siam BSA has one word for it, HAZING and has no place in a troop that purports itself as a safe haven for boys. All this hazing does is set up a climate of, "well you got me and I am gonna get the young kids next year". How kind or friendly is it to set a little kid out in the middle of nowhere watitng for a snipe? Thats cruelty beyond measure.

 

Maybe most kids take it well, but you will get some who are so absolutely humiliated by the experience that they leave the troop and that troop has caused that boy to miss the complete scouting experience. Some may stay, but harbor a distrust of adults for a long time, if not forever. And HAZING by its nature escalates and the adult leaders cannot be everywhere watching what other scouts do to their "victims".

 

I do not approve of HAZING in any shape or form. We are the Boy Scouts of America, a brotherhodd of service directed at our male youth, torturing these youth to prove their worthiness is not in keeping with our goals.

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Unfortunately OGE is right, and scouting has lost part of its sense of humor. This sort of thing can become hurtful hazing and probably should not be encouraged.

 

Anybody seen the keys to oar locks?

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No Eisely, Scouts did not lose their sense of humor, humiliaiton and debasement is never funny, only cruel and crude. Rather than send out kids to look for shoreline or the keys to the oar locks why not just paint "moron" on their forehead for the week end, cause thats the same thing.

 

If you have disruptive scouts you handle them face to face and tell them that they are disruptive and not to behave that way. Sending them away on a wild goose chase only tells them that deceit and cruelty is tacitly approved by BSA

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Hey OGE, I'm agreeing with you.

 

Of course this sort of humor at someone else's expense goes way beyond scouting. Nobody does this sort thing more often or as well as the military. I suspect that green Roman legionairres were sent to the supply room to inquire about hats for the spear heads.

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Eisely

 

My humblest apologies to you, this is a topic that I obviously feel very strongly about. It was never funny, it is always cruel and has no place in scouting.

 

Again, sometimes the passion clouds the senses, I do apologize

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OGE- I definitely agree with you about not having hazing in the Scouts. I've always been one who believed it wasn't fun to play a joke on someone unless they could get you back. Also, I've never allowed hazing to occur in any form in my troop (fortunately, that has never been a problem for us). Looking back, I'm sure that the reason why the adult in my troop sent me back with those two young Scouts is so that trick wouldn't be played anymore. When I first posted this subject, it wasn't meant as a thread for people to post the best practical jokes they had played over the years. It was meant as a humorous thread for people to relate stories about the infamous Scouting "urban legends" we hear about over the years and if they ever had any encounters with them.

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Well, Again

 

I am sorry Chippewa29, I saw your posting and then the Chief's talking about the shoreline story and I reacted with passion. I re-read your posting and see that you were the left handed smoke shifter.

 

I have seen scouts terrified to return to camp because they couldnt find a sky hook, or stayed by their post on a snipe hunt until dawn and saw trust in adults utterly destroyed.

 

 

Sister Mary Elizabeth always said I should increase my reading comprehension, I guess she was right

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As long as we are on the subject of hazing, what is the attitude about camp fire skits? Many skits derive their humor from making an individual, for lack of a better word, a goat for the trick. Having seen a lot of skits over the years, there are many that are mean. But what is the harm in the old "ugliest man in the world skit?"

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Having a boy who can be sensitive to this kind of stuff, I understand and agree with OGE. However, I'm not quite as passionate about it. Every comedian will tell you, "You have to know your audience". To me, this includes the "victim" of a practical joke. I have three sons. My youngest may well take offense to this kind of humor. He is very proud and doesn't like anyone to belittle him, even in a joke. The other two would enjoy the joke regardless of which end they were viewing it from. As is true for most things in life, one can go too far. I think the Scoutmaster and SPL should keep an eye on this kind of thing and be sensitive to the fact that not everyone enjoys a "good joke". Still, I don't view every practical joke as a form of hazing. Common sense should prevail...The "joker" should be held accountable when he crosses THE line. The "jokee" should be able to discern the difference between an obvious attempt at good-natured humor and something hurtful. The Scoutmaster and the Troop leadership should be watchful and act appropriately. Yet, I wouldn't label all attempts at humor, which takes advantage of someone's naivety, as hazing. One should be able to laugh at oneself. If a boy is never able to do this, I would be concerned. This can be a sign of low self-esteem. A boy who views himself positively can usually handle a practical joke.

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With respect to skits, it is a common practice in planning campfires, for a senior scout, or adult, to screen proposed skits. This is where this line can be drawn. Adults can also set the tone for practical jokes too, and establish boundaries that become part of the culture of the troop. My own personal rule for such humor is to ask the joker how he would feel if he were the jokee.

 

A year and a half ago I had a camp stool buckle under my weight. It was a really cheap item. It buckled, but did not break. I was able to straighten the legs out, and place it by the campfire. When my own son sat on it, it collapsed completely. This was a harmless joke, regardless of who might have sat on it. It would be a dreary day for scouting when we can't do this sort of thing.

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Sorry Rooster,

 

There is no room for humiliation or degradation in Boy Scouts, if you choose your victim wrong and scar the kid emotionally, what do you say, oops sorry?

 

I can not sanction any kind of hazing or "practical joke playing" done on scouts, no matter how "good-natured" it is.

 

Now, as far as the ugliest man in the world skit goes, I have only seen it done with adults as the foils and have no problem with that but would not tolerate it done to a scout.

 

 

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Hazing? Honestly? I agree more with Rooster. As long as "everything in moderation" is observed, i dont think that it is harmful. As a 16 year old SPL, i have seen just about everything, good and bad, in the youth of scouting. I have been sent for somokeshifters ect., and i have sent others for them. Being able to laugh at yourself and take a joke is a sign of character. In the same vein, you cant make him the butt of the whole weekend, as long as everyone is treated with dignity and respect in the end, its all good. Scouting is a place for BOYS, we always talk about boy run, this is what boys do. I am the chapter chief for the OA in my district and I run the annual Tap Out, (gasp! you cant Tap Out anymore) I dont buy into that " you cant touch another boy, thats hazing. But theres certainly no open palmed slaps, and we dont break collarbones like back in the 60s. There is a line that some people cross, but the vast majority of it is innocent, and you cant condemn everything as hazing in one broad sweep.

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