The Order Of The Arrow Initiation

I'm going to tell you something that is supposed to remain a secret. There are those who will claim that this is BS because either they didn't have such an experience, or they weren't inducted, but somebody out there will come forward and confirm it, I have no doubt.

There's a secret service organization within the Boy Scouts, or at least, there was in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was called the Order of the Arrow. You knew someone was a member if they wore a white sash over their scout uniform that sported a large red arrow. (Guess it couldn't be very secret if it had such a large symbol, huh?)

Anyway, this group selected it's members through a private secret camp-out over the weekend where you were to go and perform community service. The rub was, it was supposed to be secret, and solemn and you weren't supposed to speak at all the entire weekend. I'm certain this was to keep chatter to a minimum and keep the candidate focused on the tasks at hand.

The camp-out/ initiation that I attended was a very warm and dry weekend in fall, when we were taken to a special secret location. Okay, it was probably just the Boy Scout Day camp the next county over, but I had never been there, so it was all new to me.

We arrived on a Friday evening, and after a simple meal, we were taken to the campfire where about dozen and a half men and older boys were conducting this affair. They were dressed as Indian braves and as a result, wore feathered headdress, beaded necklaces, leather thong pouches, moccasins, and a loin cloth. They also wore some form of grease paint make-up that wasn't exactly war paint, but the marking sometimes adorned their chest, their arms or their face. It was all very hush, hush, dramatic and solemn.

I'm certain some of these guys were part of the "professional" Indian dance team that we had seen at other scout functions and camp fires. We were stood in front of the group (about three dozen of us boys, drawn from troops around the area) and told that this was a solemn, silent service weekend. We were to prove our dedication by remaining silent all weekend, as a test, and perform tests of community service without complaint. We would be divided into teams for work gangs and sometimes in pairs, would work to clean up the camp, install things, make repairs, etc. If we weren't worthy or wanted out, this was the time to leave. Of course, nobody left.

We were led to a nearby small assembly building where we were told to *****, and though nervous at first, we followed suit as the first boy in line did so.
All around the room were small piles of our clothing as we were led into a smaller room for a physical check. We were asked questions about our health, abilities, community service experience, and then given a quick physical. We were given permission to speak to the doctor only for this exam, which went very quickly. I think this was more for insurance purposes, but served a double purpose of the first "test" to see if we would follow instructions and follow suit to *****.

Then we were given a loin cloth, two wool blankets, a pillow, and were "marked" by some white grease paint in a symbol that indicated we were an inductee. We were told to collect our clothes and follow the "chief" into the out of doors where we were assigned sleeping spaces in the brush.
All we had were our two blankets, pillow, sandals and our clothes in a pile, and the loin cloth. Some scouts seemed to already have a loin cloth and tee shirt, but I don't know how they got their's ahead of time.

I followed the chief' as he led us with a flaming torch through the night and when he pointed to a space some ten feet from the last brave, I spread my blankets and bedded down. It was very moody and significant.

The next day we awoke at daybreak after a rough night, and were led to the dining hall where we were issued a single "snack pack" cereal box that we cut open and then poured milk into to eat. That and a piece of fruit from a basket was our breakfast.

Then we were divided up into work gangs. I was given to Mr. S, who was a line-man for Consumer Power. He was an expert tree climber who cleared fallen limbs and trimmed trees for a living. He took me and another boy aside and said while he wasn't going to change the rules of the weekend, the dangerous work that we were doing REQUIRED us to talk, to speak up whenever necessary and only when necessary, to prevent damage, injury or accidents. Did we understand? We nodded. He asked again and said, "I couldn't hear you." We said "yes" quietly, and nodded.

We worked with him all morning and afternoon, clearing trees and dragging limbs around. It was interesting work, and was a service to the camp which had never been logged nor harvested.  We broke around noon for a simple lunch and toilet break, and then back to work with Mr.S again. I enjoyed it.

But by evening, we were tired. The meals, while adequate, where not large.
When we ate our beef stew for dinner, most wanted to turn in, but we were taken to another campfire, where a big deal was made of our day of service.
The group was asked if we had completed our tasks, passed the tests and were worthy. Without exception, we had all passed, but the leader said there were only a few more tests to be passed before the weekend would come to a close Sunday morning when we departed.

He didn't enumerate them, but again stressed this was a secret service organization and that we were not to speak openly about anything that had happened here. They walked among us and made a mark of an arrow on our foreheads in white greasy paint. He said we were to spend the night in silence in the woods again and reflect on this. Then we were led away into the woods where again they pointed out sleeping spots for us. But something was different as we were not only in a different location, and it seemed that the group was being sorted, almost by age or size. It didn't matter, cause everyone was tired and immediately bedded down silently without issue.


The next morning, we were roused, led to the group showers, dressed, fed a meager breakfast again, and let to the campfire circle. There, we were each presented with a white sash with an arrow and told to keep it clean and wear it proudly. I thought of the ceremony from the night before, and realized I couldn't talk about this to anyone.  I turned and locked eyes with my friend John.

It suddenly occurred to me why this was known as the "Order of the Arrow."
studfinder studfinder
56-60, M
1 Response Sep 5, 2012

I'm confused - - it sounded at first as if you were going to relate something bad happening, but it all sounds about as I expected here (I was once a candidate for Order of the Arrow, but was not selected). Am I missing something?

Yeah, I can see that. You've read the sanitized version. Try searching for "Order of the Arrow" and read the longer, more detailed adult version of this story under "My First Time" category. I was suggested that I censor this version you read under "BSA"...

I can see why there are two versions. Still, if you weren't supposed to have told anyone about the weekend, why are you breaking your silence now? Confession good for the soul?