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Reading "Sign" or Deduction

When a scour has learned to notice "sign", he must then learn to "put this and that together", and so read a meaning from what he has seen. This is called "deduction".

Here is an example which shows how the young Scout can read the meaning from "sign", when he has been trained to it.

Old Blenkinsop rushed out of his little store near the African Kaffir village.

"Hi! Stop thief!" he shouted. "He's stolen my sugar. Stop him!"

Stop whom? There was nobody in sight running away.

"Who stole it?" asked the policeman.

"I don't know, but a whole bag of sugar is missing. It was there only a few minutes ago."

A police tracker was called in-and it looked a pretty impossible job for him to single out the tracks of the thief from among dozens of other naked footprints about the store. However, he presently started off hopefully at a jog-trot, away out into the bush. In some places he went over hard stony ground but he never checked his pace, although no footmarks could be seen.

At length the tracker suddenly stopped and cast around, having evidently lost the trail. Then a grin came on his face as he pointed with his thumb over his shoulder up the tree near which he was standing. There, concealed among the branches they saw a man with the missing bag of sugar.

How had the tracker spotted him? His sharp eyes had seen some grains of sugar sparkling in the dust. The bag leaked, leaving a very slight trail of these grains. He followed that trail and when it came to an end in the bush the tracker noticed a string of ants going up a tree. They were after the sugar, and so was he, and between them they brought about the capture of the thief.

I expect that Old Blenkinsop patted the tracker on the back for his cleverness in using his eyes to see the grains of sugar and the ants, and in using his wits to see why the ants were climbing the tree.

The Lost Soldier

A cavalry soldier was lost in India, and some of his comrades were hunting all over to find him. They came across an Indian boy and asked him if he had seen the lost man. He immediately said: "Do you mean a very tall soldier, riding a roan horse that was slightly lame?"

They said, "Yes, that was the man. Where did you see him?"

The boy replied, "I have not seen him, but I know where he has gone."

Thereupon they arrested him, thinking that probably the man had been murdered and made away with, and that the boy had heard about it.

But eventually he explained that he had seen tracks of the man.

He pointed out the tracks to them, and finally brought them to a place where the signs showed that the man had made a halt. Here the horse had rubbed itself against a tree, and had left some of its hairs sticking to the bark, which showed that it was a roan (speckled) horse. Its hoof marks showed that it was lame, that is, one foot was not so deeply imprinted on the ground and did not take so long a pace as the other feet. That the rider was a soldier was shown by the track of his boot, which was an army boot.

Then they asked the boy, "How could you tell that he was a tall man?" and the boy pointed to where the soldier had broken a branch from the tree, which would have been out of reach of a man of ordinary height.

Deduction is exactly like reading a book.

A boy who has never been taught to read, and who sees you reading from a book, would ask, "How do you do it?" You would point out to him that a number of small signs on a page are letters. These letters when grouped form words. And words form sentences, and sentences give information.

Similarly, a trained Scout will see little signs and tracks. He puts them together in his mind and quickly reads a meaning from them which an untrained man would never arrive at.

From frequent practice he gets to read the meaning at a glance, just as you do a book, without the delay of spelling out each word, letter by letter.


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

Date of Creation


Learn A Continuation:

to the next page: Instances Of Deduction

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to the previous page: Games In Spooring

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