Boys, if this foreword is too "highbrow" for your taste, skip it, but the author don't believe you will, and even if he has used some dictionary words he feels that you will forgive him after he tells you that he did so only because of the lack of time to think up more simple terms. What he wants to say is that .
Boyhood is a wonderful and invaluable asset to the nation, for in the breast of every boy there is a divine spark, materialists call it the "urge of youth," others call it the "Christ in man," the Quakers call it the "inner light," but all view it with interest and anxiety, the ignorant with fear and the wise with understanding sympathy, but also with a feeling akin to awe.
Those of us who think we know boys, feel that this " inner light" illuminating their wonderful powers of imagination, is the compelling force culminating in the vigorous accomplishments of manhood. It is the force which sent Columbus voyaging over the unknown seas, which sent Captain Cook on his voyage around the world, the same force which carried Lindbergh in his frail airship across the Atlantic. Yes, it is the sublime force which has inspired physicians and laymen to cheerfully risk and sacrifice their lives in search of the cause of Yellow Fever, Anthrax, Hydrophobia and other communicable diseases . . . no, not for science but for Humanity!
As a boy, the author dreamed of wonderful municipal playgrounds, of organizations giving the boys opportunity to camp in the open, of zoological and botanical gardens planned and adapted to the understanding of youth. His busy life as a civil engineer, surveyor, and work in the open gave him no opportunity to develop his dreams, but at the end of a five year tour of the United States and Canada, made over fifty years ago, he drifted into New York City and was shocked beyond expression by the almost total lack of breathing spaces for our boys, in the greatest of American cities. True, it then had Central Park; but fifty years ago Central Park was out among the goats, only to be reached by a long and tiresome horse car journey.
This lamentable state of affairs caused the writer so much real pain and concern that he then and there inaugurated a personal crusade for the benefit of the boys, a crusade with the avowed object of winning for them the peoples' interest in the big outdoors.
The most difficult part of his task was to convince the men of the swivel chairs that boys' leisure should be spent in the open; that the blue sky is the only proper roof for a normal boy's playground; also that the open spaces are the places where God intended young people to live, work and play.
No great crusade, no great movement of any kind is one man's work, nevertheless, every successful movement must have one enthusiast in the front rank, one who knows the trail and comprehensively envisions the objective—objectum quad complexum. Others may and will join him, and occasionally spurt ahead of the leader, like the hare in the fable, but the enthusiast keeps right on just the same.
Pray do not understand by this that the writer claims that he alone is responsible for this bloodless revolution. No, no, his propaganda work did however win for him the moral support of the editorial staff of St. Nicholas, Youth's Companion and Harpers. Later he was openly backed and encouraged by such distinguished sportsmen as President Roosevelt, his chief forester Governor Pinchot, and his Chief of Staff Major General Bell. While the stalwart men of the Camp Fire Club of America worked hand and glove with him, all similar organizations failed not in voicing their approval. Furthermore he was always helped by his loyal friends of the daily press. Many famous writers lent their influence, all working consciously or unconsciously to help the great cause of boyhood.
The author only claims that, in all these fifty long years, he has never ceased to work for the boys, never wavered in his purpose, and now?—well, when he marched at the head of fifty thousand Scouts in the great muddy outdoor Scout camp at Birkenhead, England, he realized that his ephemeral air castles had settled down to a firm foundation upon Mother Earth.
Yes, boys we have won a great victory for boyhood! We have won it by iteration and reiteration, in other words, by shouting outdoors, talking outdoors, picturing outdoors, singing outdoors and above all by writing about the outdoors, and constantly hammering on one subject and keeping one purpose always in view. By such means we have at last, not only interested the people of the United States in the open, but stampeded the whole world to the forests and the fields. So let us all join in singing the old Methodist hymn:—
" Shout, shout, we are gaining ground, Glory, Hallelujah!
The Devil's kingdom we'll put down, Glory, Hallelujah!"
The Devil's kingdom in this case is the ill-ventilated school rooms, offices and courts.
It is well to note that the work in this book was not done in the library, but either in the open itself or from notes and sketches made in the open. When telling how to build a cooking fire, for instance, the author preferred to make his diagrams from the fires built by himself or by his wilderness friends, than to trust to information derived from some other man's books. It is much easier to make pictures of impractical fires than to build them. The paste pot and scissors occupy no place of honor in our woodcraft series.
So, Boys of the Open, throw aside your new rackets, your croquet mallets, and your boiled shirts—pull on your buckskin leggings, give a war whoop and be what God intended you should be; healthy wholesome boys. This great Republic belongs to you and so does this
Suffern, New York, December first, 1930.