Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I had to decide under which topic to include this.  Training?  History?  Working with Kids?   When do we REALLY start "working with kids"....   when they are our kids....   

Personally, I can relate to this very item, which I cribbed off a Facebook page (with the author's permission).   Growing up, our country home included a 55 gallon drum set on bricks, in which my job was to BURN our trash.... Responsibility.... 

Nelson R. Block on Youth Training…..

Scout buddies – 
Once again, I present this essay in honor of this day:
I have good thoughts when I take out the trash.
One of my chores at home when I was a boy was taking out the trash. It was a final remnant (together with Boy Scout campouts) of my American pioneer heritage. My parents had grown up in an age when chores for city kids still resembled farm work, because even in the first few decades of the 20th century, urban families might have a horse, a goat or some chickens to be cared for or coal to be loaded for a stove. By the middle of the century, when I grew up, kids in the North might still shovel snow. But in San Antonio, chores mostly included mowing the grass, raking the leaves, feeding the dog, and taking out the trash.

I learned a lot from this endeavor. Before the age of plastic trash bags, we lined the kitchen trash can with newspaper. If the newspaper leaked and the trash can was dirty or oily, it had to be cleaned before being lined. Caring for the trash can had to be done neatly because it was a jobsite Mom saw 20 times a day.

Dad’s inspection came on the other end of the process. The garbage had to be dumped entirely in the metal garbage cans that sat on the other side of the backyard fence in our alley, on a homemade wooden platform. If a strong wind picked up some trash as it was being dumped, I had to chase it, because no one wanted to litter their neighbor’s yard. The garbage can lid had to be affixed tightly, to keep out cats and varmints.

My training in refuse engineering came in handy when I became a Scout, because our patrol campsite had to be kept clear of garbage. We got a jumpstart on the process by rinsing our wet trash through a homemade sump. This was when Scouting taught maximum-impact camping, and the sump was a hole in the ground covered with twigs and leaves. We then took whatever would burn and threw it into the fire, which was another, larger excavation into the Earth’s crust – our patrol always had a deeply dug fire pit, further protected from igniting the surrounding rocks and cactus by a wall of the Hill Country’s finest limestone. Trash thrown on top of a bed of oak coals in this furnace would be quickly incinerated.

It was only when I was inducted into the Order of the Arrow that I came to understand the deeper significance of what taking out the trash was all about. Here I saw that the Scouts and Scouters I admired were all part of the clean-up process. The lodge officers, camp staffers and the adults to whom I looked up stayed around at the end of the program to clean up, while doing a post-mortem on the activity. At other times a young Arrowman might be ignored or shoed away, but at the end of breakfast at the Spring Fellowship, when you asked the college kid who worked in the dining hall if you could carry out the trash, you got thanked. And then there were those rare moments when you could catch the camp ranger or the cook – his wife – cleaning up, and would be able to tell the guys back in the troop that “Uncle Duder” spoke to me this weekend. I left out that it was just to tell me where the toilet bowl brush went when I was finished.
Years later, I learned that the Order was founded on such an experience. Urner Goodman’s Troop 1 in Philadelphia was camping in 1914 on Treasure Island, the birthplace of the Order the next year. Scout Billy Clark was helping a friend, in a situation described by Dr. Goodman many years after the event:
"One time during our stay there, one of our charges came down with a minor sickness. There was no medicine, no hospital on the island at all. So he had to stay in his tent and he had to be taken care of carefully. Billy volunteered to be our live-in nurse for the two or three days he had to be there. And he did a good job of it.
"Came to a crisis however the next morning. It had rained during the night. Now, there is a vessel used in hospitals they call a bedpan. And it was time to take that to the latrine and Billy, of course, cheerfully took on the assigned visit. However, in going from the tent to the latrine carrying this thing, he had a little upset. It was the wrong kind of bath, to be put lightly. But Billy got up smiling from it all, if you can imagine. Now, that’s the picture of cheerful service."

As the years passed, I learned that life had many such experiences, often exemplifying the old adage that “No good deed goes unpunished.” I entered the legal profession, and spent a great deal of time cleaning up the messes other people had made. Fortunately, most of these did not require a shower to be rid of their memory. Since I took to this work – after all, I had been training for it since my youth – I even did it on a volunteer basis. I became the council attorney, where one finds an amazing number of people who want to take advantage of a charitable organization serving youngsters.
Antiquity pays its nod to taking out the trash. 

In the Bible, Deuteronomy, 22:13, 14, the children of Israel are admonished that soldiers should have a latrine outside the camp and cover it. The fifth of Hercules’s twelve labors was to clean the Augean stables, which he did by diverting a river to carry away the waste of thousands of horses and cattle.

Modern times, too, have those who made their mark by cleaning up after others. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his adult life scrubbing away at things that other people did not want to touch, like poverty, racism and injustice. On April 4, 1968 he was shot while in Memphis, Tennessee – helping support a strike by African-American sanitary workers.
Something to think about, next time you take out the trash.
Nelson R. Block © 2021

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...