Boy Scouts work on sleds for annual Klondike Derby experience
Basehor Boy Scout Troop 169 truly has been living the Boy Scout motto -- "Be Prepared."
The annual Klondike Derby, which simulates the hardships endured and survival tactics used by men and dog sled teams in the Yukon Territory of Canada during the gold rush of 1876, is coming up in January. While the derby is nothing new to the boys, who have been participating for several years, the size of their troop is something new.
Assistant scoutmaster, James Smith, said the troop has grown from about eight boys to almost 30 in the past couple of years. The boys' usual routine of brushing up on fire-building and knot-tying skills to prepare for the derby will overlap with the more labor intensive task of building new sleds to accommodate the growing troop.
"We do the Klondike Derby every year," Smith said. "But we usually don't have to build the sleds. We use them until they fall apart. We have four different groups of boys going, so we're building three new ones."
Last Saturday, the boys and adult helpers constructed the new sleds at Smith's home. The boys, scoutmasters and other parents used a homemade steamer made out of an old tea kettle and sheet metal to warp the ash boards into the shape of sled runners. They ran into minor difficulties when screw heads began to break off, but quickly fixed the problem by lubricating the screws with Ivory soap. After the runners were complete, the boys made the body of the sled out of pine and painted them.
Ladd Service Company of Leavenworth donated the sheet metal for the steamer, and Community National Bank of Basehor chipped in $300 for the cost of lumber and other construction supplies.
"We always try to promote the youth around the community as much as we can," Dean Weddum, Community National Bank president, said.
The troop will travel to Fort Leavenworth Jan. 13 and 14 to test their preparedness in the Klondike Derby. They will be divided into patrols, based on age, and will compete against other patrols and troops from Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties. Smith said 300 to 400 boys attend the event.
They must be prepared for all the elements because the derby is held in all kinds of weather. If no snow is on the ground at the time of the derby, the boys attach wheels to their sleds. Several of the Scouts agreed that getting stuck in the mud has been a common hazard in past years.
One Boy Scout from each patrol will ride on the sled, which is packed with supplies from an issued list, while the others pull the sled much like huskies. They stop at stations along the way and are judged on how well and how quickly they complete the challenges presented to them at each station. Some challenges include fire-building, pitching a tent blindfolded, knot-tying, performing first-aid and navigating. Scoutmaster Greg Riley said the varying level of difficulty of the challenges help strengthen the troop.
"It teaches them how to work together because if they're clashing, it's not going to work," he said.
Boy Scout Colin Riley said it is not uncommon for some patrols to get lost. One year, in the navigation challenge, the boys had to find a milk jug hanging from a tree in about 100 acres of timber using a compass. Riley said the challenges are welcomed by his troop.
"They don't make you finish the challenges," he said. "But it kind of feels good to finish them."
At the end of derby, the scores are tallied, and ribbons are given to the winners. Each boy also earns a patch for participating. The troop also camps overnight after the derby.
"We try to camp every month of the year, even if it's cold," Smith said.
Riley said Troop 169 would spend the next few weeks working on basic skills, gathering supplies and maybe testing out the newly constructed sleds to "be prepared" for the derby.
"Generally they know what they need to bring as far as weather," he said. "But we try to teach them something at every meeting."