Don’t Be an Idiot!

Timeless wisdom from the original Boy Scout handbook

Jun 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
Boy Scout's Handbook

THIS SPRING, OXFORD UNIVERSITY Press reissued Robert Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys, the 1908 how-to manual that launched the Boy Scout movement. In 1903, Baden-Powell, a cheerful British cavalryman, had returned from South Africa a Boer War hero, acclaimed for his plucky quashings of anti-colonial rebellions. He brought back a lode of bush lore and piled it into a book that became a worldwide bestseller. The reprint—complete with a few choice Baden-Powellesque admonitions that were cut from the original manuscript—offers the following advice:

» "Every boy ought to learn how to shoot and to obey orders, else he is no more good when war breaks out than an old woman, and merely gets killed like a squealing rabbit."

» Bees "are quite a model community, for they respect their Queen and kill their unemployed."

» "The result of self-abuse is always...that the boy after a time becomes weak and nervous and shy, he gets headaches and probably palpitation of the heart, and if he still carries it on too far he very often goes out of his mind and becomes an idiot."

» "Scouts don't snore at night, and so give themselves away to an enemy."

» Always "remove a bit of banana skin off the pavement where it is likely to throw people down."

» If a man's hat is "worn very much on one side, he is a swaggerer: if on the back of his head, he is bad at paying his debts: if worn straight on the top, he is probably honest but very dull."

» While camping, a scout can make bread on his coat, "with the inside uppermost (so that any mess he makes in it will not show outwardly when he wears his coat afterwards)."

» "Fried snake, like fried eel, is not half bad."

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