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Drinking

A soldierly-looking man came up to me one night and brought out his discharge certificates, showing that he had served with me in South Africa. He said he could get no work, and he was starving- every man's hand was against him, apparently because he was a soldier. My nose and eyes told me in a moment another tale, and that was the real cause of his distress.

A stale smell of tobacco and beer hung about his clothes, his finger-tips were yellow with cigarette smoke, he had even taken some kind of scented lozenge to try to hide the whisky smell in his breath. No wonder nobody would employ him, or give him more money to drink with, for that was all that he would do with money if he got it.

Much of the poverty and distress in the world is brought about by men getting into the habit of wasting their money and time on drink. And a great deal of crime, and also of illness, and even madness, is due to the habit of drinking too much.

The old saying, "Strong drink makes weak men", is a very true one.

It would be simply impossible for a man who drinks to be a Scout. Keep off liquor from the very first, and make up your mind to have nothing to do with it. Water, tea, or coffee are quite good enough drinks for quenching your thirst or for picking you up at any time, or, if it is very hot, lemonade or a squeeze of lemon are much better refreshment.

On the Hike

A good Scout trains himself pretty well to do without liquid. It is very much a matter of habit. If you keep your mouth shut when walking or running, or keep a pebble in your mouth (which also makes you keep your mouth shut), you do not get thirsty as you do when you go along with your mouth open, sucking in the air and dry dust. But you must also be in good hard condition. If you are fat from want of exercise, you are sure to get thirsty and want to drink every mile. If you do not let yourself drink, the thirst wears off after a short time. If you keep drinking water on the line of march, or while playing games, it helps to tire you and spoils your wind.

"Standing Treat"

It is often difficult to avoid taking strong drinks when you meet friends who want to treat you, but they generally like you all the better if you say you don't want anything, as then they don't have to pay for it. If they insist you can take something quite harmless. Wasters like to stand about a bar talking and sipping-generally at the other fellow's expense-but they are wasters, and it is as well to keep out of their company, if you want to get on and have a good time.

Remember that drink never yet cured a single trouble-it only makes troubles grow worse and worse the more you go on with it. It makes a man forget for a few hours what exactly his trouble is, but it also makes him forget everything else. If he has wife and children, it makes him forget that his duty is to work and help them out of their difficulties, instead of making himself all the more unfit to work.

Some men drink because they like the feeling of getting half stupid, but they are fools, because once they take to drink no employer will trust them, and they soon become unemployed and easily get ill. There is nothing manly about getting drunk. Once a man gives way to drink it ruins his health, his career, and his happiness, as well as that of his family. There is only one cure for this disease, and that is-never to get it.

Author

Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation

1908

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