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Noticing "Sign"

One of the most important things that a Scout has to learn, whether he is a war scout or a hunter or peace scout, is to let nothing escape his attention. He must notice small points and signs, and then make out the meaning of them. It takes a good deal of practice before a "tenderfoot" gets into the habit of really noting everything and letting nothing escape his eye. It can be learnt just as well in a town as in the country.

And in the same way you should notice any strange sound or any peculiar smell and think for yourself what it may mean. Unless you learn to notice "sign" you will have very little of "this and that" to put together, and so you will be no use as a Scout.

Remember, a Scout always considers it a great disgrace if an outsider discovers a thing before he has seen it for himself, whether that thing is far away in the distance or close by under his feet.

If you go out with a really trained Scout you will see that his eyes are constantly moving, looking out in every direction near and far, noticing everything that is going on.

Once I was walking with one in Hyde Park in London. He presently remarked, "That horse is going a little lame". There was no horse near us, but I found he was looking at one far away across the Serpentine Lake. The next moment he picked up a peculiar button lying by the path. His eyes, you see, were looking both far away and near.

"Have You Seen a Man?"

In the streets of a strange town a Scout will notice his way by the principal buildings and side-streets, and by what shops he passes and what is in their windows; also what vehicles pass him.

Most especially he will notice people-what their faces are like, their dress, their boots, their way of walking-so that if, for instance, he should be asked by a policeman, "Have you seen a man with dark overhanging eyebrows, dressed in a blue suit, going down this street?" he should be able to give some such answer as "Yes-he was walking a little lame with the right foot, wore foreign-looking boots, was carrying a parcel in his hand. He turned down Gold Street, the second turning on the left from here, about three minutes ago."

Information of that kind has often been of the greatest value in tracing out a criminal.

You remember in the story of Kim how Kim was taught observation by means of a game in which he had to describe from memory a trayful of small objects shown to him for a minute and then covered over.

We use this "Kim's Game", because it is excellent practice for Scouts.

There was a revolutionary society in Italy called the Camorra, that used to train its boys to be quick at noticing and remembering things. When walking through the street of the city, the Camorrist would suddenly stop and ask his boy. "How was the woman dressed who sat at the door of the fourth house on the right in the last street?" or, "What were the two men talking about at the corner three streets back?" or, "Where was the cab ordered to drive to, and what was its number?" or, "What is the height of that house and what is the width of its upper-floor window?" and so on. Or the boy was given a minute to look in a shop window, and then describe all that was in it.

A Scout must also have his eyes on the ground, especially along the edge of the pavement against the houses or the gutter. I have often found valuable trinkets that have been dropped, and which have been walked over by numbers of people, and kicked to one side without being noticed.

Every town Scout should know, as a matter of course, where the nearest chemist's shop is (in case of accidents), and the nearest police "fixed point", police station, doctor, hospital, fire alarm, telephone, ambulance station, etc.


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

Date of Creation


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