by

8 Original Boy Scout Badges Modern Adults Couldn’t Earn

I was a Boy Scout, and though I could never muster the energy to get involved in my community enough to make Eagle rank, I definitely remember the Merit Badges. The best scouts had a sash full of ’em. The more you had, the more likely your Dad was the Scoutmaster. It was a cool idea, but some of them were too easy to get. For example, the one for Engineering asks you to list ten electrical appliances in your house. It’s not much of a challenge when one of the requirements is literally “write down the contents of your kitchen.”

In 1911, though, things were a little different. I accidentally stumbled upon the original Boy Scout handbook, and the requirements for some of the William Taft-era merit badges vary from mundane insanity to the regular kind of insanity. We’ve already discussed how badass the Scouts used to be, but after reading this list, I understand that you had to be a major badass to simply survive getting your merit badges. Badges like..

8

Agriculture – Grow A Fucking Acre Of Corn

A common staple among 1911 badges is bullshit requirements, asking you to “be able” to do something without actually proving you can do it. The first Merit Badge for Agriculture is a good example:

3. Be able to identify and describe common weeds of the community and tell how best to eliminate them.

4. Be able to identify the common insects and tell how best to handle them.

5. Have a practical knowledge of plowing, cultivating, drilling, hedging, and draining.

6. Have a working knowledge of farm machinery, haymaking, reaping, loading, and stacking.

It asks Scouts to know some basics about crop husbandry, and that’s about it. There’s not even any quantitative guides given. I’m sure I could name a handful of insects and weeds and the ways to handle them (mosquitoes, ants, daffodils; BURN THEM ALL!). I don’t know dick about haymaking and reaping, which, at first glance, sound less like farming terms and more like the Mass Effect: Andromeda quests that I always ignore.

Oops, I skipped steps 1 and 2. Let’s me just scroll up and see-

1. State different tests with grains.

2. Grow at least an acre of corn which produces 25 per cent. better than the general average.

Holy shit. The first Boy Scouts had to grow a fucking acre of corn to get this badge? I’m not even a hundred percent sure how much that is, but unless you already own a working farm, that’s like … impossible right? I just looked it up. An acre is 16 tennis courts. 16 tennis courts of corn. And if your Dad was a farmer, everyone would know you just cheated. I mean, how would you grow any cornfield bigger than a garden without that infrastructure already in place? “At least an acre.” That’s the bare minimum, boys. Sorry about any other activities that you wanted to take part in this year.

I didn’t even mention that apparently this child would have to produce a yield 25 percent better than the general average. So what if little Jimmy produces corn at 24 percent better than the general average? Guess what, you just wasted 60 to 100 days planting and harvesting 40 bushels of corn. Fuck you, Jimmy. No merit badge for you. Try again next crop.

7

Angling – Catch 10 Fish With Homemade Rods

Now, I have some country in me. I’ve been to Maine. I’ve fished before. But my fishing rods had cartoon sharks on them. I have no idea how to do any of this.

To obtain a merit badge for Angling a scout must

1. Catch and name ten different species of fish: salmon or trout to be taken with flies; bass, pickerel, or pike to be caught with rod or reel, muskallonge to be caught by trolling.

2. Make a bait rod of three joints, straight and sound, 14 oz. or less in weight, 10 feet or less in length, to stand a strain of 1-1/2 lbs. at the tip, 13 lbs. at the grip.

3. Make a jointed fly-rod 8-10 feet long, 4-8 ozs. in weight, capable of casting a fly sixty feet.

Look, at it’s most basic a fishing rod is just a spooled line attached to a stick, but it seems like you need some pretty specific materials to make rods to these specifications. At least when we had to build Pinewood Derby cars, the Boy Scouts conveniently had building kits (rectangular blocks of wood and some plastic wheels) ready-to-buy. Can’t give these kids a stack of prepared wood to work from, or, well, anything, for that matter?

Oh, and you need to go catch ten different fish, and only in certain ways. God help you if you catch a trout with a reel, or a muskallonge without posting Internet comments.

4. Name and describe twenty-five different species of fish found in North American waters and give a complete list of the fishes ascertained by himself to inhabit a given body of water.

Next time you are near a body of water, please peer down into the depths and give me a complete list of every fish hiding in there. Don’t cheat, or we’ll knock you back down to Cub level.

6

Archery – Recreate The “Blot Out The Sun” Scene From 300

Archery has always been a staple of Boy Scout camps and the most boring portions of the Olympics. Today, there is a surprising amount of technology involved, much more than there was in 1911. So it’s puzzling that one of the steps to get this badge back then (after making your own bow, of course!) was to practically recreate that scene from 300 where the Persians blot out the sun with their arrows.

To obtain a merit badge for Archery a scout must

1. Make a bow and arrow which will shoot a distance of one hundred feet with fair precision.

2. Make a total score of 350 with 60 shots in one or {25} two meets, using standard four-foot target at forty yards or three-foot target at thirty yards.

3. Make a total score of 300 with 72 arrows, using standard target at a distance of fifty yards.

4. Shoot so far and fast as to have six arrows in the air at once.

Here’s Lars Andersen, a master archer from Denmark claiming to break the world record for having the most arrows in the air at once before one comes down. He gets 11 up there before the first one hits the grass, in about seven seconds. That’s with a modern bow and arrow from what I assume is at least a mid-grade bow and arrow store. The Boy Scout Manual wants these kids to get to half of the world record from 100 years in the future with a goddamn homemade bow. The first time traveler will be a Boy Scout from the early 1900s, desperate to meet the ludicrous standards of a mad book that is trying to kill him.

5

Architecture – Design A House To The Standards Of A Contractor

Scouting requires a lot of hands-on training. You’ll learn how to tie knots, whittle sticks, and … design a two-story house, apparently.

To obtain a merit badge for Architecture a scout must

1. Present a satisfactory free-hand drawing.

2. Write an essay on the history of Architecture and describe the five orders.

3. Submit an original design for a two-story house and tell what material is necessary for its construction, giving detailed specifications.

1911 wasn’t exactly devoid of two-story houses, so good luck creating an original design that isn’t some kind of Frank Lloyd Wright monstrosity. What kinda house would an eleven-year-old boy build anyway? The staircases would be made out of roller coasters. It wouldn’t be “right.” But don’t forget to detail every single material that you plan on using, even if it’s fucking Gingerbread.

While you have all those building materials handy, you can probably grab Pioneering while you’re at it, which only requires you to construct a whatever-the-fuck three-person shack next to your two story house and then build a modern bridge between ’em.

4. Build a modern bridge or derrick.

5. Make a camp kitchen.

6. Build a shack of one kind or another suitable for three occupants.

Or a derrick if that’s too hard. Do you guys know what a derrick is? It’s this thing:

Egeswender/Wiki Commons

At this point, I’m pretty sure the Eiffel Tower was knocked out by a boy scout over the weekened, so he could get started on his “discover perpetual motion” badge.

4

Civics – Harder Than The U.S. Citizenship Test

When it comes to local politics, the most advanced information you have to know for your modern Citizenship badges is who your Congressmen are. And depending on how much Fox News your Dad watches, you probably already know their nicknames. Back in the day though? You better be able to rattle off every elected official that represents you and draw a map to all their offices, probably so you could find them and apologize for your sudden, rampant corn planting and for decimating the local fish population.

6. Know how the governor, lieutenant-governor, senators, representatives, or assemblymen of his state are elected, and their terms of office.

7. Know whether the judges of the principal courts in his state are appointed or elected, and the length of their terms.

8. Know how the principal officers in his town or city are elected and for what terms.

9. Know the duties of the various city departments, such as fire, police, board of health, etc.

10. Draw a map of the town or city in which he lives, giving location of the principal public buildings and points of special interest.

I could probably stumble through step 6 with some hints, but then you’ve lost me. If I’ve ever voted for a judge in my life, it was by accident. I’m pretty sure my town is run by a board of selectmen, but I have no idea what that even means and wouldn’t recognize them if I hit one with my car. Unless you are insanely politically active (you know the ones by their Facebook feeds) there is simply no way the average American adult would know this stuff. The only reason I know where the town hall is is because of my yearly dog license fee.

To obtain a merit badge for Civics a scout must

1. State the principal citizenship requirements of an elector in his state.

2. Know the principal features of the naturalization laws of the United States.

3. Know how President, Vice-President, senators, and congressmen of the United States are elected and their terms of office.

4. Know the number of judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, how appointed, and their term of office.

5. Know the various administrative departments of government, as represented in the President’s Cabinet.

Even the top-level info is pretty tricky. Who are the electors? Are they elected or chosen? (Am … am I an elector??). Don’t get me wrong, all of this stuff is actually really important to know, and the fact that little boys were expected to know this 100 years ago explains a lot about our current predicament. But it’s hard to condemn our citizens’ ignorance when I’m not convinced our own President knows the various administrative departments of government.

3

First Aid – Treat Actual Horrific Injuries

This can’t be too bad. You make a sling, and you go home, right …

2. Carry a person down a ladder.

Hold on. This doesn’t say “demonstrate” or “explain how to.” You actually have to do it. A preteen boy has to carry a person (things that typically weigh as much as an average person) down a freakin’ ladder? The Hell does that even have to do with First Aid? I feel like just this is enough to warrant its own “Break Your Own Spine” merit badge.

3. Bandage head and ankle.

4. Demonstrate treatment of wound of the neck with severe arterial hemorrhage.

5. Treat mangling injury of the leg without severe hemorrhage.

6. Demonstrate treatment for rupture of varicose veins of the leg with severe hemorrhage.

What the … are they are all like this? Unless they add “10. Call 911, before passing out at the sight of blood” right now, I am not going to be able to check off a single one of these.

2

Ornithology – Find Every Goddamn Bird In Your Neighborhood

It’s birdwatching. How fucking hard could that be?

To obtain a merit badge for Ornithology a scout must

1. Have a list of one hundred different kinds of birds personally observed on exploration in the field.

2. Have identified beyond question, by appearance or by note, forty-five different kinds of birds in one day.

Oh OK. You just have to sit around waiting for every species of bird in your neighborhood to come strolling on by like it’s Pokemon Snap. There aren’t 100 different birds at the zoo, let alone in my damn backyard. The badges for Forestry, Mining, and Stalking require an equally ridiculous observation of trees, minerals, and shrubs, respectively. You know, just in case the meandering obsession of Birdwatching wasn’t enough and you’re in the market for more bullshit counting.

And don’t even think about mis-characterizing a white-throated sparrow as a tufted titmouse. This shit needs to be beyond question, folks. Forty-five birds in one day. 100 percent accuracy. The rest of this list comes off like it’s a script that eventually reveals the Scoutmaster to be the bad guy .

3. Have made a good clear photograph of some wild bird, the bird image to be over one half inch in length on the negative.

“What?! You found 45 birds? FINE! Try taking a perfect picture of one!”

4. Have secured at least two tenants in bird boxes-

“Damn! Oh ya? Good luck capturing … TWO birds in boxes! AHAHA!”

4. Have secured at least two tenants in bird boxes erected by himself.

“-AND BUILD THE BOXES YOURSELF!”

5. Have daily notes on the nesting of a pair of wild birds from the time the first egg is laid until the young have left the nest.

“Nooo! Bet you can’t catch some bird parents in the act of giving birth and then stalk them every day until all the kids have moved out of the house!”

6. Have attracted at least three kinds of birds, exclusive of the English sparrow, to a “lunch counter” which he has supplied.

“That’s … that’s impossible … Here … take the damn badge. If … you convince three of them to have lunch with you. And NO SPARROWS OR IT’S BACK TO START!”

1

Pathfinding – Become a Walking GPS

A badge like Pathfinding is a great example of something that is both essential to what Scouting is all about and has unfortunately been made completely obsolete by today’s technology. It has since been merged into the more couch-friendly Exploration badge, but the original version asked Scouts to become a walking GPS.

To obtain a merit badge for Pathfinding a scout must

1. Know every lane, by-path, and short cut for a distance of at least two miles in every direction around the local scouts’ headquarters in the country.

2. Have a general knowledge of the district within a five mile radius of his local headquarters, so as to be able to guide people at any time, by day or night.

3. Know the general direction and population of the five principal neighboring towns and be able to give strangers correct directions how to reach them.

I’d be impressed if someone knew all of the shortcuts in Mario Kart. I’d be really impressed if someone knew the location of every Target within five miles. And I’d be fucking floored if I mused aloud in my driveway where the nearest damn Wendy’s was while fumbling with my phone, and a little boy in a uniform came out of the bushes, gave me the exact street directions complete with shortcuts, and walked away into the shadows.

In addition, this Merit Badge requires Scouts to somehow count the number of cattle and horses at all the nearby farms, know the history of every public building in his town, and then put all of the above on a map. So yeah, walking GPS, library, and local farm trespasser.

Well, there you have it. The eight hardest OG Merit Badges. I’d bet my WEBELOS neckerchief that no modern Boy Scout could get any of these. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go try and finish up my Personal Health badge, the only way God intended:

4. Describe the effect of alcohol and tobacco on the growing boy.

Chris has a brand new party game that you can download for free right here. Look for it on Facebook, too!

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/blog/8-badges-that-prove-original-boy-scouts-were-badasses/

300 - We will Blot out the Sun.

Movie 300 - Scenes where the Persian Messenger comments that their arrows will blot out the sun and The scene shows the Arrows doing just that.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.