The Order of the Arrow

As a Latter-day Saint, I’ve been taught all my life that you don’t refuse an opportunity to serve. Consequently, I’ve held many teaching and leadership positions in the Church throughout my life, and I anticipate several more before I’m through. Some of them have been more fun than others, and some of highlighted my strengths, while others have demonstrated just how much I have to learn.

Yet there’s only one assignment that would cause me to run screaming into the night:


Yikes. I shudder just thinking about it.

Quite frankly, I loathe Scouting. Every traumatic experience of my childhood can somehow be traced back to the Boy Scouts of America. And since Scouting is the official boy’s youth program for the LDS Church, all three of my sons will likely be wearing those tacky khaki shirts and learning the Scout Law. And, sooner or later, someone’s going to ask me to get involved in their “Be Prepared” preparation. At which point I will vomit.

From whence cometh my Scoutaphobia? It wasn’t just the kid who put a dead fish in my tent at scout camp, which invited a colony of ants to take up residence in my sleeping bag. Or the time I was sent from campsite to campsite in search of bear repellent, which doesn’t exist. Or the Patrol Leader who enforced discipline by clocking me in the jaw. All of these helped, certainly, but I think it was the Order of the Arrow that put me over the top.

The Order of the Arrow is a secret society within Scouting, one with secrets so secret that I can never reveal them, mainly because I can’t remember any of them. What I do remember is the three-day nightmare induction ceremony which was called, appropriately, The Ordeal.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Ordeal begins at a Scouting Camporee, at the “tap-out.” That’s where some scrawny kid with a loincloth and a faux Indian headdress hit me on the shoulder with a tomahawk while I was sitting around a campfire. At that point, I became a “candidate” for the Order of the Arrow, and I was under a vow of silence until I performed an act of service for my parents the next day. So, the next morning, I dutifully, silently emptied the dishwasher. After that, the vow was lifted, and I could talk freely about how much the previous night sucked.

So a few weeks after the “tap-out,” I headed off to Camp Whitsett, a scout camp up in the hinterlands of nowhere, where I was put back under a vow of silence and told to go sleep in the woods, alone. No tent. No foam cushion. No pillow. Just me, a sleeping bag, and plenty of rocks. In the middle of the night, my ears began to freeze, and I buried my head inside the sleeping bag, which was covered with ice the next morning when I awoke.

That’s when the party began.

For breakfast, I was given a plastic Dixie cup, a raw egg, and a match. I think I succeeded in boiling the egg somehow, but I can’t remember being too happy about it. Lunch was half a slice of white bread with half a piece of baloney. Dinner was a carrot and a gumdrop. The intervening hours were spent in slave labor clearing brush and digging ditches, all in complete silence, because of the stupid silence vow, which I broke repeatedly. Our only respite came in the form of a one-hour pseudo-therapy session where the vow was temporarily lifted and we could confess our sins to grown men in Scout uniforms, and they proceeded to break beads on our little Order of the Arrow badges for each of our transgressions. I only got one of my beads broken, I think. Perhaps I should have broken more. Maybe I would have felt better. I certainly was in the perfect mood for breaking things.

After we’d finished our carrots and our gumdrops, we were led around by ropes in total darkness, still under the vow of silence, only now, we were being forced to keep our eyes closed. Scout Nazi enforcement squads walked up and down the line and whacked you in the back of the head if you tried to peek. After what seemed like an hour, I was allowed to open my eyes to see some weird, creepy Indian ceremony in front of a campfire, which would last a couple of minutes or so, and then you were led to the next station, where you did the same thing. It’s here that I think the Order’s deepest secrets were revealed. I’m sure they were very important. I had to go the bathroom.

I realize I’m being somewhat negative here, and that’s unfortunate. There were the good times, too. It was in Scouting where I learned how to ignite my farts with a Bic lighter without singeing my anus. I also learned the value of teamwork when my fellow Scouts and I would urinate together on campfires to put them out. I learned the meaning of the word “smegma.”

What a wonderful Scoutmaster I will make.

Bourne Free
Four Signs and Seven Years Ago

13 thoughts on “The Order of the Arrow”

  1. you are being very negative, you just cant do the work with little food, I just got elected into theOA and you are a stupid pansy

  2. I didn’t know about palms yet. And the Oa I totally forgot about it’s existence. A Scout’s father who is in my troop is in the Brotherhood of the Order of the Arrow. He once told us that there were secrets he couldn’t tell about the organization. He said he would have to “kill us” BUT as a JOKE. And ever since I was so curious to know more about it. It sounds crazy but doable.

  3. Hi, right now I am a boy scout in the Order in the Arrow ( O.A. ), actually I am one of those scouts that goes around dressed like an Indian…
    I have practiced days and days, countless hours to give candidates for the O.A. a meaningful ceremony that can show them the purpose for the O.A. , to promote camping and service, I cant speak for every lodge or district, but the policies described in the above story are not tolerated in my area and are considered wrong. The traditions we have may seem primitive, but I firmly believe that if the small amount of service you had to complete there was a problem with that, maybe you shouldn’t have been elected into the O.A. , a brotherhood of cheerful service.

  4. Hey, so even as this is old, it is false. I found this today, and just yesterday, I was a guide for the Ordeal candidates. There was no “beatings” and no tomahawks on their shoulders. All you’re trying to accomplish is creating a rant against BSA since you weren’t physically and/or mentally able to complete your ordeal. The Order of the Arrow is full of scouts that complete ‘irksome tasks while having a smile on their face’, hence why we are a brotherhood of cheerful service.

  5. I’m in the OA, and I had a very different experience than the one you had. I’m not going to tell you about how I think you are a mislead idiot (suprised?). But I must ask you: when did you go through your ordeal? I ask because this sounds very similar to how those who did their ordeal even just 10 or 20 years ago describe it, not like someone who has done there ordeal more recently. The OA has had a lot of policy changes recently along with the BSA in an attempt at idiot-proofing (if such a thing exists, I have yet to see), and the type of experience you described would now be considered a serious hazing.

  6. If Scouting was so bad then why let your boys join?
    It must mean somehow a weak minded person fathered 2 young men.
    Or do they look like the milk man?
    They would be better off without all of the negativity from you.
    Former scout and father of a scout entering into the O.A. next month and on his way to Eagle.
    I only support what he wants and do not want him to do these things for me but himself.
    I am glad apparently you got something good out of scouting, just think where you may be without it.
    Once a Scout always a Scout.
    Be well

  7. Thank you, Michael! I am the mother of a 14 yo Eagle Scout. Rare is their a mother of an Eagle Scout that didn’t immerse herself in the program and even attend a Round Table or two trying to understand the program – most times better than the Scoutmaster – in an attempt to guide their son through the program. I have a 13 yo looking for a project now who is also going to his Ordeal next month. They have a Webelo brother that can hardly wait to start earning badges. My boys usually spend an hour each Sunday goal planning. That’s key! As their mother it’s my job to be informed enough to help them understand the opportunities all around them that can help them meet their goals – if they want it. Parents cannot sit back and expect the Scoumaster to do it all for them. The boys don’t understand the significance Eagle will have long term – parents do – therefore it’s the parents job to make sure it’s a positive experience. Parents need to listen as to why a Scouts not having fun and talk to the leaders. What’s fun for some boys is horrifying for others. The leaders need to know so they can help the boys find their balance. My 14 yo doesn’t care for horseplay – his troop was careful with him. My 13 yo is likely the ring leader of such pranks. His leaders have been great at helping him to know when, where, and with whom it’s okay. StallionCornell seems to have missed his opportunities for voicing his problems during Board of Reviews (where leaders are supposed to be checking to see if they are having fun and not feeling tortured) – or his own parents didn’t listen to him. Unfortunate. Scouting can be wonderful if parents and leaders take the boys ‘whining’ seriously – helping the boy to ‘navigate’ life … sticking to it!

  8. Yes, if you have no idea what you are getting yourself into with the ordeal, it is miserable. You eat little food (in our lodge, you get a hard boiled egg for breakfast, a hot dog for lunch, and a cheese sandwich for dinner. plus fruit at every meal), you have to sleep a night under the stars (How tragic for a boy scout to sleep outside! Gasp!), and you have to stay silent and reflect (gonna be honest here, some people should stay silent and keep reflecting even after the rule is lifted). It’s really not that bad, but If you choose to stay involved in the lodge after your final ceremony, the rewards are very worth it. Really, the ordeal is just a day of service, a beautiful night under the stars, and afterwards, you will make a lifetime of friends and brothers. Some of my best friends came out of this weekend.

  9. I guess it all depends on the Lodge and Troop, I would certainly hate scouting if I had to go through what you went through

  10. Ok, so I gotta few things to say, not to offend.
    1. You went through the Induction a long time ago. Things change.
    2. My ordeal was way worse than yours; It was raining ice and freezing cold the whole time, and I didn’t have gloves. I missed lunch, and we did our jobs all wrong and had to restart. The ceremonies were ruined by the rain.
    3. Now that it’s over, I’ve had a great time in the Order. So you, my fine horse, are a butt.

    1. So, to summarize: things change, even though your ordeal was actually worse, and I’m a butt, no offense.

      Once again, you demonstrate the character and kindness of most OA defenders on this site, thereby reinforcing my original point. Congrats, I guess.

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