Sunday, May 31, 2009

Herbert Carter's Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna or the Silver Fox Patrol Caught in a Flood

While researching the article On the Banks of the Susquehanna: Camping by the Book posted below, I came across a similarly titled Boy Scout "juvenile" called The Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna or The Silver Fox Patrol Caught in a Flood. Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna was published in 1915 by Herbert Carter and was still in print into the 1930s. The book recently has been reproduced by the American Libraries Project as an online facsimile in a readable PDF or flipbook format. It can be found at

Boy Scout Fiction: Adventure Mixed With Ethics in Action

Several dozens of books were published in the first three decades of Scouting with fictional stories about Scouts. Many authors and publishing houses wanted to cash in on Scouting's craze in those early years. James West fought to keep control of the Scouting name. Nonetheless dozens of these books were published, often with pseudonyms to protect the identity of the author. For example, the author we are concerned with here, Herbert Carter, was actually St. George Rathbone*who also published under the names of Alan Douglas, Archibald Fletcher, E. Sherwood, and George A. Warren. The books sold because they were an inexpensive source of reading material, adventure and entertainment. Many also contributed to ethical character development and knowledge of Scoutcraft skills. The most successful author was Percy Keese Fitzhugh who wrote over 70 books with a Scouting theme and had the official approval and sanction of BSA. His characters included Tom Slade, Pee Wee Harris (Pee Wee still appears in Boys Life magazine today), Westy Martin, and Roy Blakeley.

Herbert Carter's Silver Fox Patrol

Herbert Carter actually did include a considerable amount of moralizing and character building with his adventures for young readers. The Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna, one of half-dozen titles in "The Boy Scouts" series follows the adventures of the Silver Fox Patrol of the Crawford, NY Boy Scout Troop One.A roll call of the Silver Fox Patrol reveals a collection of character attributes designed for maximum youthful reader appeal. The "eight lively, wide-awake boys in khaki" include:

Thad Brewster, patrol leader and assistant scoutmaster
Allan Hollister, assistant patrol leader, a Maine boy transplanted to Cranford, New York.
Bumpus (Jasper Cornelius) Hawtree, a fat boy, as good natured as he was ponderous.
Giraffe Stedman, a tall lad, with a long neck and quick movements.
Step Hen (Stephen) Bingham, who divided his name early in school and it has clung to him ever since.
Davey Jones, a gymnast with the energy to do all manner of queer stunts.
Bob White (Robert White Quail) patrol secretary, a Southern boy originally from Blue Ridge, North Carolina with a "soft manner of speech and certain phrases--he says "Suh!" a lot.
Smithy (Edmund Maurice Travers Smith), a "very natty chap" born with a horror for dirt.

In the Along the Susquehanna novel, the boys hunt down thieving hobos with stolen overcoats, carry rifles for protection and game hunting, survive a major river flood, fry up farm-fresh chicken, eggs, salt pork, grits in a cast iron pan, brew coffee-with-eggshells in an enamel coffeepot, and simply amaze everyone they meet with their self-reliance and Scoutcraft skills on the trail. In fact, much of the book's 1920s-style dialogue is often concerned about food. Even the hobos weigh in with Carter's sort of hatchet-work hobo dialect about hunger; here's a sample below:

“Oh! We all like to hear that, let me tell you,” asserted Giraffe, who was unusually fond of eating; “but we get tired of home cooking, and things taste so fine when your in camp.” “Huh! Mebbe so, when yuh got plenty o’ the right kind o’ food along,” observed the man who gripped the ham bone that Giraffe had tossed him, “but yuh’d think a heap different,let me tell yuh, if a ever any of the lot knowed wat meant tuh be as hungary as a wolf, and nawthin’ tuh satisfy it with."

While the Silver Fox Patrol makes its fictional home in the Orange County town of Crawford,NY*, it is not clear where on the Susquehanna the adventures take place until the end of the story. The last sentence of the novel reveals that Step Hen, Giraffe, Bumpus and the rest probably tramped the same Leatherstocking trails along the river as James Fenimore Cooper's characters Natty Bumpo, Uncas and Chingatchcook did long ago, and camped on the banks of the river with the real Scouts of Yale Lyon's Troop 1 Unadilla when the excitement and adventure of the Scouting movement was new!.

"All they thought about was the fun of tracking the hobo and eventually bringing back the old engineer corps overcoat to its late owner. That was glory enough for Step Hen,Giraffe, Bumpus and the rest. It afforded them a chance to get in the open,and imagine for a time at least that
they were outdoing some of those dusky warriors who, in the good old days of "Leatherstocking" and others of Cooper's characters, roamed these very same woods."

Boy Scout novelists often allowed their fictive boys much more freedom and less adult supervision than would be considered appropriate in Yale Lyon's day. In Herbert Carter's The Boy Scouts Along the Susquehanna, many of the Silver Fox Patrol carried guns and went on extended trips into the Florida swamps, the Pacific Northwest, boat trips on the Columbia River without adult supervision. One of Carter's Camp-fire Boys series has a trio of "clean-minded American youths" head off to the Philippines armed to the teeth with rifles, automatics and twin machine-guns flying their own airplane.


*Crawford, New York – The present-day hamlet of Pine Bush (formerly called "Crawford'), Orange County, is in the southeast corner of the state. Crawford was originally settled around 1740, originally part o
f the Town of Montgomery. Crawford was established as a town in 1823, with a population of about 2,000. Curious fact: In 1813, the town considered itself the butter capital of the world. In 1845, the town had a population of about 2,075 people.

UFO Sightings in Crawford

Crawford is famous for another reason than butter and fictional Boy Scouts.Though sightings of UFOs in and around Pine Bush date back to the 1950s, the period of time between the late 1970s and the early 1990s saw a huge increase in UFO activity throughout the Town of Crawford area, as well as within, or near, the Village of Pine Bush proper. At one point in the mid-1980s, UFO sightings along West Searsville Road was nearly a nightly event. Hundreds of UFO enthusiasts would line the road each night and revel in the shooting blobs of colored light that would streak across the sky at absurd rates of speed. The crush of sight-seekers became so intense that travel along the road was hampered, leading local authorities to pass a special ordinance prohibiting parking along the otherwise rural stretch of road. Local long-time residents interviewed in 2003 still remembered the throngs of UFO enthusiasts, parked every summer night in front of their houses, sitting in lawnchairs with early-model video cameras at the ready. Other long-time area residents on the other side of town also have testified to witnessing unexplained bright-colored lights seen through local forest trees late at night. Two residents interviewed testified to being restrained in their bed with a harmless "force field" while non-verbal communications were expressed directly into their conscious thought, warning them not to open their eyes or else "they would be afraid". When the "force-field" was lifted, the interviewee and her husband both sprang from their bed in time to see a medium-sized saucer-shaped craft with colored perimeter lights and tiny white orbiting tracers slowly lift off from the adjacent field and into the low cloud cover. --Source:,_New_York

*Rathbone, St. George (Henry) (1854-1938) known pseudonyms: Harrison Adams, Hugh Allen, Herbert Carter, Oliver Lee Clifton, Alan Douglas, Duke Duncan, Archibald Fletcher, Aleck Forbes, Lieutenant Keene, Marline Manly, Mark Merrick, Marne Miller, Warne Miller, Harry St. George, E. Sherwood, Col. J.M. Travers, George A. Warren.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your 100th anniversary! My best friend from Canandaigua, my brother, father and I are coming to Unadilla from Connecticut and Virginia to celebrate with you next year. We hope the snow is deep, the food is warm and your camping comfortable this winter. See you in the spring.

    Sincerely, Howard Wood, Troop 270, CT Rivers Council.