KNOB NOSTER — With the temperate at 59 degrees and the sky clear, few people in the area were complaining on Saturday. But the beautiful weather was not ideal for the annual Osage Trails District Klondike Derby at Knob Noster State Park, featuring nine Boy Scout troops from the area.
“We had our sled race on grass and mud,” said Brent Parker, the district program chairman. “Normally, we have a little bit of snow or at least a heavy frost. This year, not so much.
“But the Boy Scout motto is ‘Be prepared.’ We’ve had Klondike Derbys here where the temperature has been below zero, and other instances like today when it’s not bad at all.”
Walter Doyal, the assistant Scoutmaster for Sedalia’s Troop 54, said Saturday’s weather was the warmest he’s experienced for a Klondike Derby in about a decade; the coldest was when the temperature was in the teens.
“Generally, you like snow on the ground,” he said. “We’ve had as much as 18 inches of snow. This is the first year we’ve been here with no snow.”
While the conditions for the sled race — won by Sedalia’s Troop 61 — weren’t ideal, the all-weather events went off without a hitch.
Like all of the day’s competitions, the smooshboard race — won by Sedalia’s Troop 150 — “promotes team-building and communication,” said district executive Kenney Newville.
In the smooshboard race, the boys’ feet are tied together and they must walk as a team to complete an objective.
The afternoon featured four skill competitions — Fire Building, Blindfold Stretcher Carry, Long Reach Challenge and Valley of the Snakes — with the troops rotating between the stations, which were overseen by volunteer judges.
In Fire Building, Scouts must build a fire that burns a string 18 inches above the ground using one match and whatever kindling they can find. Each additional match is a one-minute penalty. Scouts also have the option of using flint and steel, although judges said only one troop tried that on Saturday. The average time was three-and-a-half minutes.
In Blindfold Stretcher Carry, four blindfolded Scouts carry a fifth Scout who gives them directions through an obstacle course of cones.
In Long Reach Challenge, the Scouts lash together wooden poles with ropes at the end to pick up objects from a distance.
“It’s like a lariat with a rope, like the Indians used,” said Trace Chambers, of Midway’s Troop 62.
“Nowadays we use them to catch wild dogs or cats,” said his troop mate, Sam Priddy.
“Typically, these challenges incorporate what they’re learning on a weekly basis in their troop meetings, like lashing and tying knots,” Newville said. “That’s obviously a staple activity. And of course fire building — knowing how to construct one using natural materials. You’re not going to see them over there with a lighter and a can of gasoline.”
In Valley of the Snakes, everyone in the troop must have two feet on a tree stump simultaneously for a five-count. But Boy Scouts aren’t merely taught how to act; they are also taught how to think.
Because the directions for Valley of the Snakes did not specify standing on the tree stump, Sedalia’s Troop 54 — which had far too many boys to stand on the stump — all gathered around the stump in a circle, balancing with their hands behind them, and placed two feet on it. Granted, their hands would’ve been vulnerable to snakes, but reading directions carefully is also a skill rewarded by the judges.
“These are challenges that show them not only how to think outside the box, but also they are activities that might come in useful some day,” Newville said. “Living outside the comfort of our 21st century homes may not be a necessity for everybody, but it comes in handy, and it can be fun.”
In addition to the competition, Boy Scouts aimed to earn purple beads on Friday night for camping in 0- to 32-degree weather. But because it never dipped below freezing, they had to settle for blue beads.
Probably the biggest clue that Saturday’s campsites featured Boy Scouts rather than random campers was the orderliness. Sedalia’s Troop 61 even built a large wooden archway as it made a bid for the best campsite award.
“Part of the Scouting tradition is leaving things better than we found it — is the trash picked up, is there a proper receptacle, how are the tents set up?” Newville said. “Troop 61 is a good example. They have a sign, the tents are well constructed in a nice neat row, and they have a clean camp environment.”
Among other awards, Sedalia’s Troop 54 won Top Patrol and Sedalia’s Troop 61 won the Spirit Award.
The Klondike Derby’s competing troops were Troop 42 (Warsaw), Troop 44 (Sweet Springs), Troop 49 (Nelson), Troop 54 (Sedalia), Troop 61 (Sedalia), Troop 150 (Sedalia), Troop 300 (Sedalia), Troop 62 (Fayette) and Troop 68 (Midway).