Dispatches From Medicine Mountain Camp

My boys just got back from Scout Summer Camp at Medicine Mountain in South Dakota. I always look forward to the “dispatches” that come from the Assistant Scout Master, Jeff Bradley. His writing transports me there and his droll humor brings me joy.

Enjoy …

Dispatch One

The following dispatch is from a sleep-deprived Assistant Scoutmaster and does not reflect the management of Troops 171 B and G and most assuredly not that of Scouts BSA.

Seventy-plus people—Scouts, Scoutmaster staff, parents, and drivers—for Troops 171 B and G made the drive to Medicine Mountain Scout Camp. We arrived one day before camp opened, the better to get situated and squared away. We have the primo campsite, the one closest to activities and overlooking the lake.  With 33 boys and 17 girls, we are the biggest troop here of the 200 Scouts in camp. The next largest troop has 22 members, and some troops have as few as three or five. 

Here on Monday morning, some 20 troops from all over the country are present. The farthest one came from Florida, flying into DIA and camping at Camp Patiya before making the drive north. The 16 members of our 171G troop attract attention; we have observed only one other girls’ troop here. The Nebraska troop next to us told us that their sponsoring church would not allow them to launch a girls’ troop. We hereby give a big shout-out to Grace Commons, our sponsor for 69 years, for their support of our girls and Scouting.

The first postcards are on their way home. Here are some highlights:

“I swam in a freezing cold lake for the swim test for kayaking.”

“I felt homesick last night but am holding on. I miss you and I love you.”

 “Hi guys! How are you doing? I’m at a camp right now so this is the only way I can contact you. I miss you guys!”

 “Hiiiiii! There’s this postcard contest thing at my Scouting camp and we can win prizes or something so now I am writing to you. My hand is also really cold, so excuse the handwriting. There’s a loooooot of  bugs and they’re really annoying. I’m also really scared because I hate fish. They’re there, but you don’t know where. Anyways, I’ll see you when I get back.”

Prizes for the postcard contest were generously donated by ASM redacted and parent redacted.

Scouts are amusing themselves. We have a meadow at our campsite, and here Scouts from both troops and all ages play a lively game combining dodge ball and tag. Scouts also play Magic and various card games.

They are also learning to cook. Food is provided by the camp. Scouts walk to the commissary and return bearing plastic milk crates of food. The food is then distributed at our campsite to our four boy patrols, two girl patrols, and one adult patrol and then the fun begins.

 The opening campfire was a night to remember. The setting was a stage just off the lake with bench seating up the hill. A fire pit on the stage had a fire in its depths. Amid boisterous skits, some so old they were performed on the Ark, the camp staff invited Scouts and adults to come up on the stage one at a time to play air guitar to “Don’t Stop Believing.” We saw nothing to rival Angus Young, but one member of 171B delivered the most jaw-dropping air guitar performance of all time.

Scout redacted took his turn with his “guitar,” and at the peak of his performance fell backwards into the fire pit. The audience massively inhaled. Logan had instant reactions enough to extend his elbows and catch himself on the firepit edges so as not to fully fall into the pit. A quick-thinking staffer yanked him out. Thank goodness, redacted was not injured, although portions of his shorts melted. His performance, however, was seared into the memories of the entire audience.

Scouting is about creating memories, and this one pegged the meter. We’re planning for happier memories in the week to come. Stay tuned.

Dispatch Two

The following dispatch is from a sleep-deprived, unshaven Assistant Scoutmaster and does not reflect the management of Troops 171 B and G and most assuredly not that of Scouts BSA. 

On Wednesday, Medicine Mountain Scout Camp closes, and campers depart for local attractions. Troops 171B and G departed for nearby Sylvan Lake, where we swam and enjoyed the day. Ten younger Scouts completed a five-mile hike to fulfill a requirement for Second Class. Late in the afternoon, we motored to Custer, South Dakota.

H. L. Mencken once wrote that “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” This sentence should become the motto of this touristy town.

We showed up at the local Pizza Hut and, by prior arrangement, we took over the place. Twenty-one pizzas were consumed, washed down by untold gallons of soda—and a smattering of salad. What few civilians remaining in the pizzeria were agog. Thus fueled, we spent 30 more minutes in town and then returned to camp for a frenetic evening of games.

Yesterday six younger Scouts, ably directed by redacted, lowered the three flags in a ceremony before the entire camp. They responded to military-level “Right Face!” and other calls from a leather-lunged camp staffer and accompanied by a bugler. They did us proud.

Immediately after, a team from each troop competed in the Rumble in the Mountains competition, a series of physical challenges and various Scout skills. Out of 20 troops on site, some of whom did not compete, Troop 171G placed third. Kudos to them.

Two nights ago, one of our Scouts experienced a camping horror story. At about four A.M., he awoke to the realization that a live bug had taken up residence in his ear. Displaying amazing presence of mind, he carried the tweezers from his Swiss Army knife to his father and asked his pere to extract the six-legged occupant.

This proved impossible, so off to the local ER they went. There the staff administered Lidocaine to the insect, causing it to cease all movement, then extracted it with needle-nosed forceps. The bug—it was a half-inch long June Beetle—was confined in a bottle where it was turned over to the patient. The Scout and dad came back to camp and recounted their tale to one and all. From that point, the phrase “I want to put a bug in your ear” disappeared from our lexicon, and all tents have been subsequently zipped as tight as possible.

We have only two days remaining in camp. Classes resume tomorrow, and some Scouts are already expressing sadness that the week is coming to an end. We have had a wonderful time so far, and look forward to rounding out the week and coming home. 

Dispatch Three

The following dispatch is from a sleep-deprived and unshaven Assistant Scoutmaster and does not reflect the management of Troops 171 B and G and most assuredly not that of Scouts BSA. 

 All week, the girls of 171G have braided each other’s hair in order to help withstand the rigors of dirt and dust and exertion. Today one girl decided to go further. At her invitation, two other girls, using the small scissors on multitools, cut her ponytail-length tresses to an approximate length of one inch.

 Another girl, who had been planning to cut and donate her hair to cancer patients, was inspired to follow suit. Her shoulder-length hair was shorn by the same crew. This degree of hair cutting is a first in the 69-year history of Troop 171. 

Casey also underwent a haircut, but nothing to the extent of the girls.

 A Scout is clean. The camp provides two shower houses near us, one with hot water and one without. The cold water shower, the closest one top our campsite, has a sign admonishing bathers to limit showers to five minutes. The water is so nippy that bathers get wet, then turn off the water, soap up, then rinse off. So far, no one has had the courage to go the full five-minute limit.

 Tonight several Scouts headed out for Wilderness Survival Merit Badge, which consists of spending the night outside away from everyone else and with a minimum of equipment. Participants can take items that will fit in a day pack, but no tents. This is one of the more challenging merit badges, yet one whose successful achievement becomes a point of pride.

 Six more Scouts have volunteered to take down flags tonight. They followed commands and did a great job.

 The postcards continue:

   “Hello Mom, last night was the worst night of my life. I got 30 minutes of sleep and that was in a car. I’ll tell you more later.”

   “Dad, we did capsizing in kayaking today and it was really fun! I also earned archery and the kayaking badge.”

“Today I had 8 slushies, which is pathetic from yesterday (11 pieces of pizza, 13 slushies, a Peace Tea, and a family size of skittles.) Loving it here. See you soon!”

    “Dear Mom and Dad, Somebody already broke 2 toes and someone else had a bug in his ear, so we are off to a great start.”

One Scout sat down to dinner this evening when a bird conducted a bombing raid on his patrol. The Scout’s plate, complete with food, endured a direct hit, causing the Scout to jettison his meal. He had to rush off to the flag ceremony and leave immediately after for Wilderness Survival. When his fellow Wilderness Survival camping mates realized he had had no dinner, they fed him with food from their own supplies. After dinner also brought on the Scoutmaster Splash, wherein redacted and your humble narrator had to line up with one dozen other poor devils and jump into the lake—three times. The contest was rigged; we were competing against Scoutmasters who looked like corn-fed Sumo wresters. The next time redacted and I have to compete in a splash contest with such chaps, we have resolved to enter as Siamese twins.


For the first time in decades, Scott Miller is not with us at sumner camp. He did so much work to arrange classes for the Scouts, and we have benefited from his hard work and preparation. His Scout spirit with us, and we think of him every day.  

Friday is our last full day at camp. We will complete classes, then do a deep cleaning of troop stoves and other gear prior to packing up for our Saturday departure. While Scouts are eager to get home, they are savoring the happy days with each other. Tonight we celebrated three birthdays with pineapple upside down cake cooked in three Dutch ovens. Good times!

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Dispatch Four

The following dispatch is from a restored Assistant Scoutmaster and does not reflect the management of Troops 171 B and G and most assuredly not that of Scouts BSA. 

Friday marked a burst of activity as Scouts in 171 B & G wrapped up summer camp. Final classes took place, and Scouts did a deep cleaning on all of our gear. Scouts were offered the opportunity to swim one mile in the lake. Scouts redacted, redacted, redacted, and redacted completed the challenging swim, as did 171G Assistant Scoutmaster redacted.

That night brought forth a campfire for the entire camp. Several of our Scouts performed skits, and this time no one fell in the fire. Whenever anyone got close to the fire pit, the camp staff hovered nearby. They even played Johnny Cash singing “Ring of Fire” during the show. 

Postcards will continue to arrive this week, presuming that the Postal Service hieroglyphics experts are up to the challenge. Prizes for the postcard contest were generously donated by redacted and ASM redacted.

Now it can be told. Sometimes Scouts drop candy wrappers on the ground at camp, and when this happens a leader will pick up the offending trash and quietly pocket it. When Scouts assemble in a circle, the leader will ask some version of this question: “Who likes Skittles?”—or whatever the name of the candy. When a Scout raises a hand, the leader responds with “Oh, then this Skittles trash must be yours” and presents the wrapper to the Scout. Everyone laughs. The quicker cats catch onto this scheme right away, but other victims fell for it throughout the week. We hope with this practice that Scouts will not litter and will always Be Prepared for deceptive offers. 

Below are the credits for this 171B and G production. We could not have pulled off a week at camp without these people. When you see them, please thank them.

The following parents spent all or part of the week at camp: redacted

Scott Miller helped Scouts work out their camp schedules and provided all manner of help prior to, during, and following camp. Adult Committee chair redacted lent levity and moral support. redacted volunteered for days at the Camp waterfront on behalf of our troop and all other campers.

The following Scoutmaster staff were present: redacted. redacted, a nurse, was a particularly valuable team member for our Scouts and the larger camp. Indeed, the Camp staff tried to recruit her to stay for the rest of the summer.

redacted, 171B alumnus and father of two Scouts, performed yeoman service all week, tirelessly assisting Scouts, recruiting and training two superb flag ceremony teams. His son and daughter introduced the Scouts to Sprout Tag, a game that combines tag and dodge ball that became an immediate hit—so to speak.

Alas, we said goodbye to some troop members. redacted are moving to Atlanta, and redacted left camp headed for their new domicile in Vermont. We will miss them, and hope they find good Scout troops in their new homes.

When the opportunity to launch a girls’ troop in Boulder arose two years ago, we had no idea if girls would join, whether or not they would like Scouting, and how well they would function. Summer camp proved that inviting girls into Scouting was a triumph. Troop 171G members succeeded in everything they did: camping, cooking, advancement, and all other aspects of Scout camp. They set good examples for our boys and demonstrated to every other troop at camp that girls thrive in Scouting.

And if anyone ever needs a haircut performed outdoors with multitools, they can make that happen. 

Next year’s summer camp will take place June 18-25, 2022 on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in northeastern Utah. Here our troops run the camp ourselves; we will be the only ones there. This is the camp that Scouts like the best, but it depends on an outpouring of volunteers.

If you’d like to help teach merit badge and other classes, if you’d like to see Scouts achieve great things, and if you’d like to have fun and camp with a great bunch of adults, this is the camp for you. Please put it on your calendar.

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Dispatch Five

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