Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Koolamunga Test

Long ago, somewhere in Africa, a little place called Koolamunga had a Scout troop but no Cub Pack. When the missionary, John Cristy, sent out word that he was going to start a pack, all the boys who were too young to be Scouts rushed over to join.

John looked out at rows and rows of faces - black, white, brown, yellow, and some so dirty you couldn't tell. It was impossible to start a pack with 40 or 50 Cubs ! "You can't be a Cub until you are eight," he said, "so would everybody younger please go home."

Nobody left. The six and seven-year-olds stood as tall as they could and tried to look tough. John realized he would have to sort them out some other way. So he told them the Cub Law. And then he said, "Next week, we will have an obstacle race. You can all come, but I shall start the pack with the 12 boys who do their best to keep the Law during the race."

A big crowd gathered on race day. The Scouts came along to help John pick his 12 Cubs. John designed an obstacle course so tough that it automatically eliminated the boys who were too young. The others had to run half a kilometer downhill to the river through prickles and a mangrove swamp with knee-deep mud. Then they had to swim across the river. On the other side, they had to climb a steep bank, go along the top, cross over the river again by a fallen tree bridge, and finally climb 300 m up the hill to the finish.

"This is not a race," John told them. "It's a test to see who can really do his best to keep the Cub Law." And he was already sorting them out. Some jabbered away and didn't listen to the rules. One put his foot over the starting line. "Ready, steady, GO!" John shouted, and off they went.

Very soon, some of them were yelling and swearing at the prickles. In the swamp, some gave up, pretending they were hurt. One boy thought he would be clever and sneak along the bank instead of swimming across the river.

A small boy caught his foot in a floating branch and thought it was a crocodile. John didn't blame him for yelling, but noticed a red-headed boy swim back to pull the branch free. Then he saw a white hand shoot out and duck a black head. That settled the white boy's chances, but the black face came up smiling and the boy swam on without complaint. On the tree bridge, there was a good deal of bumping, some by mistake and some by mistake-on- purpose.

Only 20 boys finished the race, and the first 12 home were sure they would be chosen. But the Scouts put aside those who had cheated or taken short cuts, those who had pretended to be hurt, and those who had sworn or lost their temper.

John chose only boys who had done their best to keep the Cub Law. There were 11 of them. For the 12th, he chose a boy named Peter who was watching but hadn't taken part in the race. John knew his mother was ill. She'd asked Peter to look after the younger children to make sure they didn't fall into the river, and he did it without a grumble.

And who do you think he asked to be his sixers ? He chose the red-haired boy who had turned back to help with the crocodile that wasn't a crocodile, and the black boy who came up smiling after being ducked.

And that's how the 1st Koolamunga Pack began. If you'd been there, would you have been one of the 12 chosen ?

Leader Magazine

January, 1989

Yours in Scouting Service
Mark W

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