On Being a Den Mother: Mom Horning Story #7

Being a Mother was a position I looked forward to for years.  I was the younger child in the family, and the youngest, by far, in my whole “cousinship”; so I had almost no association with anyone smaller than myself.  My neighbors had tiny relatives who visited on occasions and captivated me—entirely.  They were cuter and much more fun than the kittens and puppies I knew, so I always volunteered to push them in their buggies or rock them to sleep.  Those offers were seldom refused as they usually arrived sticky and cranky after sitting for hours in the un-air conditioned sedans of our youth.

When I had children of my own, I encouraged them to bring friends to our house to play, and young guests at meal times, after school and overnight were no rarities.  We moved frequently in our early married life and our two older sons did not participate in Cub Scouts, but when we moved to Indianapolis they joined the Boy Scouts.  The Cub Scout troop had just graduated into the older organization, and I was volunteered to assist the established Den Mother.  She promised to give me “a good start” before retiring—but two weeks later I was on my own.  The eight boys, including my third son, were intelligent, inquisitive, active and eager for the new experiences of Scouting.

The first two weeks of meetings were organizational.  Mothers were present at the first meeting.  Equipment and general aims were discussed and refreshments were served.  At the second meeting, the Scouts and their new leader were sworn in, the uniforms were admired, and we partook of refreshments.  On my first solo meeting--on the third week--I was, in fox hunting tradition, “blooded.”  Bobby brought his new Scout knife, complete with two blades, screwdriver and corkscrew.  In opening the knife to show his new buddies the big carver blade, Bobby sliced his thumb.  We had an unscheduled first aid demonstration, a safety lesson and a small lecture on biology featuring function of skin and blood vessels.  Strangely enough, all eight of these first Cubs of mine became doctors.

The field trips were our favorite meetings.  On these occasions, another mother came along to help supervise and provide additional transportation.  Marrott Park, with its high hills, gurgling river, few visitors and varied fauna and flora, was a close-by attraction.  We found animal tracks, and made plaster casts of footprints of raccoons, muskrats, and fox.  Another time we collected milkweed pods, boiled them according to instructions in Gibbons book Hunting the Wild Asparagus, and found that they do indeed taste like green peppers.  Later we discovered which acorns were edible and how to “candy” them.  When John, a frequent visitor—though not a Cub Scout—caught a snapping turtle, we cooked it for a fishy chicken tasting “treat.”  Years later, John phoned to ask how to prepare turtle.  He wanted his son to share that earlier experience.

I look back on those six years as a Den Mother, as a time of discovery, growth and exploration.  I learned far more than I thought—about myself, my Cubs, my own sons—and about this wonderful land in which we live.  It was a Good Thing.
Arranged: G.M. Horning


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