The Perfect Gift at the Perfect Price



Many new Eagle Scouts—or their parents at least—like to buy thank-you gifts for Scout leaders who have made a difference along the trail to Eagle. Similarly, many people who attend Eagle courts of honor like to bring along a Scouting-related gift. is full of gift ideas to fit any budget, but it’s not the only source for great gifts.

My favorite source: eBay. As I write this post, eBay has just over 158,000 items for sale in its Boy Scout category. Most of those items are patches, but there are also thousands of pins, posters, flags, uniforms, mess kits, and books.

Rather than page through 158,000 listings, I recommend that you start in the Scout book category, which lists “only” 6,800 items. There you can find some great bargains on vintage Scout handbooks, Scout fiction titles, and other books that many Scouts and Scouters would love to have. Here are a few examples from auctions I found that were about to end with no bids (meaning you could probably win with the minimum bid):

  • 1947 Handbook for Scoutmasters ($4.99; shown above)
  • The Banner Boy Scouts Snow Bound ($9.50)
  • 1948 Handbook for Boys ($9.99)
  • 1958 Fieldbook ($7.99)

Of course, you have to wait for auctions to end to purchase some items, but others have (somewhat inflated) “buy it now” prices that may be just the ticket if your court of honor is coming up soon. And while you’re visiting eBay, pick up a bargain book for yourself, such as 1937’s The National and World Jamborees in Pictures ($29.99). If you’ve played any role in getting a young man to the Eagle Scout rank, you’ve earned a reward!

PDFs in Your Pocket



Remember books? In many quarters, printed books seem to be going the way of the 8-track tape. The good news is that they’re often being replaced by ebooks, which are portable, searchable, and weightless.

For me, a trip to the library these days usually means logging in to my library’s website and downloading some ebooks to the Kindle app on my iPad. But my iPad holds more than library books. It also holds two important Scouting publications: the Guide to Safe Scouting and the Guide to Advancement.

How did they get there? Every Kindle device and app comes with an email address–something like When you email a document to that address, it ends up on your Kindle device or in your Kindle app. Compatible file formats include .pdf, .doc, .docx, .rtf, .txt, and more. (For complete details, see this help page.)

Since Kindle apps are available for both iOS and Android devices, there’s no reason for any smartphone-carrying Scouter not to have access to these key Scouting publications at meetings and on outings. And you can find many other useful documents with this search string in Google:


Add in your troop handbook or other troop-specific documents, and you’ll have a handy little library in your pocket or backpack.

Oh, and a not-so-shameless plug. Both The Eagle Court of Honor Book and The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook are available as Kindle books! Click the book titles above for details.

Eagle Courts of Honor Are for the Birds



Back in my district executive days, my roundtable commissioner had a great saying: “If it’s not for the boys, it’s for the birds.” Whenever Scouters started complaining about how the council was spending money or who had received the District Award of Merit, Dan would use that saying to remind everybody that none of those petty details mattered as long as boys were benefiting from Scouting.

Dan’s saying is especially apropos when it comes to the Eagle court of honor. Your honoree should be the center of attention, and the spotlight should rarely stray from him.

At one court of honor, for example, I watched as the master of ceremonies introduced a parade of presenters, describing each man’s tenure in Scouting and detailing all the things he had done over the years. These introductions were interesting and impressive—but they were also totally out of place.

Remember: if it’s not for the Eagle, it’s for the birds.

Put on Your Air Force Gloves



I learned a new term at the Philmont Training Center last week: “Air Force gloves.” That’s what members of the other armed services call the pockets on Air Force uniforms, the implication being that airmen do little but stand around with their hands in their pockets. (That must make flying fighter jets challenging, but I digress….)

So why were we talking about Air Force gloves? Because I’d introduced the concept of HIP, a leadership term that stands for “hands in pockets.” Here’s the idea: if you as a troop leader or parent approach your youth leaders with your hands in your pockets, you’re much less likely to interfere with what they’re doing.

Imagine, for example, that your troop instructor is having trouble teaching the sheet bend. If you approach him with your hands free, you might be tempted to take the rope from him–and take over his responsibility. With your hands in your pockets, however, you’re limited to less invasive verbal coaching.

So the next time you arrive at a troop meeting, put your hands in your Air Force gloves and leave the leading to your youth leaders.

How do you make youth leadership work in your troop? Post your ideas below.

For Crying Out Loud



I’m writing this post in an airport gate area as a toddler and a preschooler melt down a few seats away. I feel their pain; airports can make me grumpy, too.

At an airport, a fussy toddler or crying baby is just one noise among many. At an Eagle court of honor, he or she can be a major distraction. A great way to avoid such distractions is to offer babysitting. Recruit a few volunteers to babysit and include a note like this in your invitations: “Nursery services are available, so please support our wonderful volunteers who are ready to assist you and your young children.”

Where could your volunteers come from? Check first with your Scouts’ sisters. You may well find a few girls who babysit already, who have completed the American Red Cross’s Babysitter’s Training Course, and would be “like totally bored” sitting through a Scout ceremony.

If you’re holding the court of honor at a place of worship, check with the folks who run the nursery for other ideas. They may well have a cadre of babysitters that you could enlist.

The Mark of a Great Leader



How can you identify a great Boy Scout leader? You can’t go by age. You can’t go by gender. You can’t even go by the number of knots on his or her uniform.

Instead, the best mark of a great leader is the question mark.

Let’s say you live in Florida and your patrol leaders’ council decides it wants to go ice fishing (not a typical activity in the Sunshine State). If you simply say, “No, that’s impossible,” you shut down your youth leaders’ creativity, limit their horizons, and undermine their authority.

A better approach is to simply ask some questions. Consider these, for example:

  • Where could we do ice fishing?
  • How long would it take us to get there?
  • Could we get that far on a weekend outing or would we have to go over winter break?
  • How much would the trip cost?
  • Do we know anyone that could teach ice fishing?
  • Do we know anyone with a fish house on a northern lake?

You get the idea. By asking questions like those, you will guide them to a smart decision. More importantly, however, you will encourage your youth leaders’ creativity, broaden their horizons, and strengthen their authority. In other words, you’ll achieve the aims of Scouting.

How Does Your Cake Measure Up?



In a recent post, I highlighted some amazing court-of-honor cakes. The reality is, however, that most troops probably serve more ordinary sheet cakes at their courts of honor. And that leads to the question of how much is enough.

Except perhaps for newspapers and pop-music heartthrobs, nothing gets old as fast as a fancy sheet cake. A lot of people save huge chunks of cake from weddings or courts of honor, but I doubt many ever touch them again except to toss them in the trash.

It makes little sense (and costs many dollars!) to buy more cake than you need for a courts of honor. So how much is too much? That depends on how big a cake you buy but also on the serving size you choose.

Bakeries typically describe three portion sizes: dessert size (2″ x 4″), receiving-line size (2″ x 3″), and buffet size (2″ x 2″). For a full sheet cake (16″ x 24″) those numbers translate into 48, 64, and 96 servings, respectively. Half a sheet cake (12″ x 16″) would, of course, yield half as many servings.

A good rule of thumb on serving sizes is to use 2″ x 3″ pieces if the cake is the main food item and 2″ x 2″ pieces if other food is offered. Now, a 2″ x 3″ piece of cake may seem small, but don’t worry. Each piece packs in roughly 350 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 50 grams of carbohydrates!

Facts and Filmstrips



Believe it or not, YouTube is good for more than cat videos!

In planning a session on the patrol method that I’ll be teaching at the Philmont Training Center next week, I came across a gem: a YouTube version of a 1978 BSA filmstrip called “The Patrol Method.” Some Scouting history buff recorded the filmstrip and its cassette-tape narration (beeps and all) and posted it to YouTube several years back.

The funny thing is that I remember watching this filmstrip at Camp Tallaha sometime in the mid-1980s. (I was either a junior assistant Scoutmaster at the time or perhaps early in my tenure as an adult leader.) When I watched the filmstrip again the other day, I focused first on the nostalgia and the production’s almost laughable simplicity. But then I realized it’s one of the best illustrations of the Scoutmaster’s role in the patrol method that I’ve ever seen.

Watch the video and see if you don’t agree. Then, ask yourself whether you’d like to be more like Scoutmaster Ben or Scoutmaster Rob.

These Cakes Take the Cake



For a new Eagle Scout and his family, the highlight of the Eagle court of honor is undoubtedly the moment when the coveted badge is actually presented. For many guests, however, the highlight is … well, the reception. (Seriously, did you think your 12-year-old Scouts really enjoy long speeches and tearful mom hugs?)

While troops can (and do) all sorts of different things at their receptions, the standard reception tends to include soft drinks and cake. That can mean a basic $18 sheet cake from Costco–a cost-effective and yummy option–but it can also mean something a lot more memorable.

Thanks to Pinterest, you can find dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas with a click or two of your mouse. Here’s my favorite collection of images: The cake should above, believe it or not, falls somewhere in the middle of the range from attractive to amazing.

What have you done to sweeten your court of honor receptions? The comments section is open below.