Monday, September 29, 2008

Scout Scarves, 100th post

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For my 100th post I wanted to talk about something at the core of Scouting. The humble but ever so useful neckerchief seemed a perfect choice.

(The 433rd's colours are featured in the headline image of this blog. Our web site has more details on Uniforms & Badges under each section. For Cubs see here. )

Scouts are widely recognized by their uniform and the colorful neck wear. Neckerchiefs and Woggles (or slides) identify Scouting groups and roles. Go to any large Scouting event and you'll see a sea of coloured neckerchiefs.

While many people don't give Scout scarves much of a thought, they are very practical and have a large number of uses. How many uses can you think of?

The most obvious use is identification. Each groups colours are more or less unique. I've heard that some Scouting organizations register their colors centrally. I know the 9th Benoni in South Africa (see Linking with the 9th Benoni Cubs) made a minor adjustment to their colours to avoid a conflict with a group in Germany. While I know there are local groups with colours that are similar, I'm not certain if Scouts Canada maintains the same degree of uniqueness. Also, the Boy Scouts of America have some different neckerchief traditions (see here).

Woggles (aside from providing quick release) identify the section or role of the wearer. Each section has a colour: red for Rovers, light blue for Venturers, green for Scouts, yellow for Cubs, and brown on blue for Beavers. Leaders who have completed the Wood Badge Part 1 have a brown woven turks head woggle. And those completing the Wood Badge Part 2 get the special Gilwell neckerchief and wooden beads (See Wikipedia on the Wood Badge).

Another important use is first aid. Scout Neckerchiefs are intended to be used as triangular bandages and slings. This point was reinforced at our last swim up camp when one of our Cubs broke his arm. When we brought him to the hospital in Midland one of the staff there commented that they had never seen such interesting and colourful bandages!

Other obvious uses include blindfolds and armbands (for games), masks, and signals.

Below is a list of over 40 uses taken form the Pinetreeweb Scouting web site. Some of the uses may overlap a bit but the list is still impressive. For the full list and more background information please read Pinetree web's Neckerchief article.

  1. As an International Morse signal flag.
  2. For sending messages by Semaphore code.
  3. In knot-tying practice.
  4. For Troop and Patrol identification.
  5. As a reminder of the Scout Good Turn, (single knot).
  6. As indication that wearer is not a Cadet, but a Scout.
  7. As a substitute for a belt.
  8. As a shoulder mat.
  9. As a smoke mask.
  10. As a blindfold for Scout games.
  11. As a dressing for a burned face and neck.
  12. As a sweat band for confining the hair.
  13. For identifying contesting teams.
  14. As a swatter in playing games.
  15. In the three-legged race, to tie legs together.
  16. In games requiring contestants to be hobbled.
  17. In game called "Badger Pulling," to make binder for heads.
  18. As a night cap or ear protector.
  19. As a muffler for storm or blizzard.
  20. As a cover for a pail of water.
  21. As a loin cloth or bathing trunks.
  22. As a triangular cap bandage.
  23. As a napkin.
  24. As an apron.
  25. As a table cloth.
  26. As a dust cloth or cover.
  27. As a "Hobo" bag.
  28. For a tump line to carry a load.
  29. To lash poles or staves together.
  30. As a smoke signal.
  31. As a red flag on projecting end of load.
  32. As a patch for a canoe, when properly treated.
  33. As caulking for a leaky boat, when properly treated.
  34. For distress signal, lighted for a "flare."
  35. As a pad for the head in carrying heavy loads and wherever needed to prevent chafing.
  36. As a padded glove for the hand, to prevent blisters.
  37. As a blindfold for rescuing a horse from fire.
  38. To pad portions of harness to prevent chafing.
  39. To tie up square packages.
  40. For fastening ends of the blanket roll.
  41. For making life line or guard rope.
  42. For making rope ladder.
  43. For making boat sail.
  44. For making emergency clothing

Originally the 433rd had a tartan scarf. When I was a Cub, I was part of the (now defunct) 16th Humber West which also had a tartan scarf. Then it was common for Canadian groups to use unique tartans for their scarves. Tartans provide an almost infinite variety for group colours. Tartans are also interesting both to weavers and mathematically[1]. Unfortunately, difficulty in getting certain tartans has caused many groups to move away from them.

I'd like to dedicate this article to Colin (one of our cubs) who knows first hand the value of a neckerchief.
[1] . Professor Ralph Griswold of the University of Arizona investigated "Digital Weaving" in an IEEE paper and a series of articles in the Icon Analyst beginning at issues 53 through 66.

1 comment:

Akela Joy said...

Great article on scarves! We love our maroon, 9th Benoni scarf and wear it with great pride!
Akela Joy
South Africa