“The Tap Out”
19 September 2005
We stand, the last night of camp, 200 strong, single file on the earthen dam, which forms one end of the lake. We have been lead here by other scouts dressed as Native Americans, carrying blazing torches, silently. As we stand in silence, one of the Indians comes to the center of the line, sets the end of an arrow on fire and holding a bow skyward, launches the flaming arrow high over the lake until it falls into the water at the far end of the lake. Then we see a burning torch light emerge from the forest beyond the far end of the lake and a scout in the attire of a Sioux Indian Chief with a full feathered bonnet and 5 Indian braves get into canoes and slowly paddle across the lake towards us, the Chief standing in his canoe the whole time. I have been here before, on this earthen dam, twice before and seen and been a part of this ceremony, event, but still find it haunting, mysterious and exciting.
Finally, the 3 canoes reach the earthen dam and are greeted by the Indians which lead us there and the canoes are held as the 5 braves and the Chief get out and come up on top the earthen dam to where we are all standing. The Chief moves to the center of the scout line and speaks loud and clear, turning his head one way and then the other, so all can hear him. “We are gathered here tonight to gather to us those among you chosen to be Brothers of the Order of the Arrow. Those of you who will be gathered tonight have been found by your fellow scouts to be worthy and we honor you” and with that, 2 braves, which have been standing beside the Chief take off running in different directions down the line of scouts. Down the line they go and then back to the Chief and then back down the line, all the while carrying their flaming torches. And then suddenly one of the Indian braves stops and grabs the shirt of a scout standing in the line and the brave runs pulling the scout back towards the Chief. Once at the Chief, the Chief stands tall and using a pine branch, taps the chosen scout on each shoulder. Then the scout is taken to one side and turned to face the remaining scouts standing in the line. From the other end of the earthen dam, the other brave has grabbed another scout and has brought him to the Chief and again the tapping of the shoulders.
The taking of scouts from the line continues until there are 9 scouts standing beside the Chief and I know I have been passed over again. I am sad but I respect the views of those I scout with and there will be another time and then, just as one of the braves passes by me, he stops and comes back and stands in front of me and for a moment I think it is some sort of tease, some cruel action the braves have been doing all up and down the line I have not seen, but then the brave grabs me by the shirt and I am off running.
Then, I am in front of the Chief and my heart pounds away as he strikes me on each shoulder with the pine branch. Then I am added to the line of the chosen ones and with that the Chief turns and begins to walk down the earthen dam towards the forest I have never been into and following him the braves, which ran the line and then the chosen ones, followed by the braves, which escorted the Chief across the lake.
As we walk along, I have no idea as to what happen next as the Brotherhood of the Arrow is a secret organization of service and I have heard rumors of various rites of passage one must go through but these have only been rumors as a "brother" is not supposed to talk of such things.
We walk silently and mostly in the dark as the torches are either far ahead or far beyond and deeper and deeper we go into the forest. Finally, we come to a clearing and the Chief is there and all the braves and the torches and in the center is a huge campfire but it is not lit and as the chosen form a circle on the edge of the clearing, the Chief raises his right hand and motions it down towards the campfire and the wood instantly bursts into flames!
We are all told to sit and the Chief begins to speak.
It is a special time for me, a special place, and no, I cannot and will not, tell more.