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Better To Have And Not Need? Not Necessarily

August 9, 2021

Student: You teach me fighting, but talk of peace. How do you reconcile the two?

Master: It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a garden in a war.

I’m been involved with the Boy Scouts since I was 11 years old. The Boy Scout motto is

Be Prepared

It translates into multiple languages, of course. I once found this item in a pawn shop in Athens. I asked the shop keeper,

What do the words mean?

Ah. . .”be ready”

Close enough for me.

I no longer do much with the scouts, but I’ve tried to live my life by that motto. But, being prepared is not the same as being able to handle every contingency. For example, I still remember my first camping trip. I was going to cook eggs for my breakfast. My mother sent me with two eggs and a full-sized cast iron frying pan. The pan was probably eight pounds.

Was I prepared? Sort of. But, would I recommend that course of action for new scouts. . .or anyone? Absolutely not.

I’ve done some strenuous hikes over the years. My family still does one every May where we do an eight mile hike into the mountains behind our house. The hike changes a few thousand feet in elevation during those eight miles. And since it’s a backpacking trip, we have to take everything with us: food, water, all gear.

Believe it or not, I’ve never once been tempted to take an eight pound frying pan on once of those hikes. My backpack for that trip typically weighs about 35 pounds. That includes water. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds.

One of the trips we did in the past was a hike to the top of Mt Timpanogos, the mountain that overshadows our small town. Like most of our hikes, we had to take everything with us, again, food water, gear. It was during that hike that I became lost for the first time in my camping career. I remember while wander around the high meadows and swamps of the backside of Timp. I was annoyed that I’d allowed myself to get lost. But, I had a plan. I gave myself a set time to find the path and decided if I couldn’t find it by early afternoon, I would simply camp. See, I had everything I needed; tent, sleeping back, food, water, stove.

I’ll be the best provisioned person the Search & Rescue teams ever find.

I was prepared. Fortunately, I found the path and rejoined the group shortly after.

That wasn’t the first time I’ve not had to use everything I took on a trip. I tend to over prepare.

So, you should always be prepared, right? Of course.

One of our scoutmasters used to take a pistol when we went into the backcountry. The biggest worry was bears. Not that you’d try to kill a bear with a pistol, but you could scare it. We also had to deal with moose, the most dangerous animal in North America, believe it or not. Moose kill more people than anything. And they are mean about it. They’ll stomp you just because they can.

Anyway, my friend took a pistol with him. That was 5-7 pounds of extra weight that he choose to take. Even if I had a pistol, I don’t think I would have taken it. But, you know what I do take on every campout? And actually, every trip and every day: a knife.

Do I need a knife every day? Of course not. But, I often do. Other than a trip to the airport, my knife is always with me.

I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

I’m much more experienced than I was when I joined my first scout troop at 11. And therefore I’m better prepared when I go camping today. I think experience is simply understanding better what “prepared” means.

Stay safe and be prepared.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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