The Boy Scout’s library (1910) covers the scouting activities familiar to me from my Girl Guide days in London in the 1970s – first aid, keeping fit, and ‘fun’ outdoor activities. Or so I thought, until I looked at the list of emergencies scouts might have to deal with and realised that the scouts of 1910 lived in a different world. First scenario is ‘stopping a runaway horse’. “Everyone should know how to stop a runaway horse. ” (Click on image below for larger view)

Waggon wrecked by runaway horse

Then ‘person chased by a bull’ which has the sort of advice clearly written from the safety of an office: “If pursued by a bull, strip off your coat as you run, and as the bull nears you, throw it over his horns and dart rapidly to one side.”  The word ‘rapidly’ looks pretty redundant there. Oddly enough, not one of these excitements featured in my own ’emergency helper’ award tests thirty years ago.

The best advice however, (and I promise you this is a word for word quote, see p. 41) relates to tackling a mad dog. ‘Twirl a hat rapidly round and round on your  hand at such a height that the dog will have to jump to reach it … then give him a kick to render him senseless.” I can honestly say that even my morose teenaged self would have been impressed by anything like that, but mad dogs were a thing of the past by my childhood. In fact even by 1910 they weren’t a common threat. In 1899 there were about 30 deaths a year from mad dog bites, but only two in the period 1900-1910.  However, I imagine this was something of a disappointment to the boy scouts of the time, probably keen for a bit of excitement and the chance to show off their ability to deal with runaway horses, bulls and mad dogs. Scouting provided plenty of excitement: Baden-Powell’s book Scouting for boys suggests a fire drill “Prepare a heavy smoke fire in a neighbouring room or building … have the alarm given by having some explosive bombs fired .. then tackle the fire.” After weeks of school or early employment, with adults treating you like an idiot, it must have been wonderful to see yourself as the sort of hero who rescued people from burning buildings.