The words "Troop 4" bring many different memories to my mind...
I'm Matthew Lyles Hornbostel. I have been an Assistant Scoutmaster for nearly a decade with this infamous and vaguely distressing inner-city boy scout troop. Before that I was a scout in the troop and earned the rank of Eagle with the group. Combining the time I've been a scout and the time I have been a scout leader, I have been with Troop 4 for over 16 years, and I enjoy it because I enjoy organizing games and group activities, shooting comedy videos, and teaching new ideas and concepts to people who haven't learned them yet. I'm the sort of guy who likes entertaining people and gets a kick out of the excitement that results from putting a big event together and getting it to go off smoothly, so whether that's a group game or a video screening, or a road trip or troop Christmas party, it's usually a great experience for everyone.
I can put a positive spin on the group, because it has plenty of genuine strengths. The scout leaders are hardworking, responsible, and follow the BSA guidelines, including the ones which make no sense whatsoever. We've been all over the map; in the last decade Troop 4 has set foot in Arkansas, Hawaii, Missisippi, California, New Mexico, Louisiana, Colorado, and various parts of Texas. Scouts in Troop 4 get free food, free camping gear, free clothing and handbooks, free road trips... we do not ask any of the scouts to pay dues, we don't insist on wearing standard scout uniforms - T-shirts and jeans are permitted - and we have an outstanding list of scouts in the last few years, who have reached the rank of Eagle Scout, and many of them have stayed with the troop as leaders after they turned 18, because they like the road trips, campouts, team games, parties, and various special occasions.
I also acknowledge that campouts and meetings can be unpleasant sometimes in Troop 4, due both to uncontrollable natural forces or inexperience, incompetence, and blatant misbehavior of Troop 4 scouts. I remember burnt food, misuse of tools, loud yelling for no reason, random acts of stupidity, insect bites, injuries, objects getting hit with axes, torrential rain, scalding summer heat, spiders, scorpions, fires, theft, broken cameras, broken windows, tent shortages, hideous stenches, blisters, cuts, wasp stings, splinters, blood, sweat, tears, desperation and exhaustion, and the look of panic in the eyes of the leaders who keep trying to keep things under control when something goes wrong at a scout event. So I'll admit that being in Troop 4 can be difficult. Scouting tests our mental, emotional, and physical limits. Obviously, you'll get more out of this program the longer you stick with it, but if you stay in Troop 4 long enough? We've been in remote wilderness, in snow and desert and swamps, in canyons and on beaches. We've hiked up mountains and hiked 20-mile routes in 102-degree heat. We develop leadership skills, emergency preparedness and survival skills, first aid... we can tell you how to navigate by the sky, how to build a shelter, collect rainwater, how to fish, use a knife safely, how to start a fire without a lighter or match. We've built physical strength, and prepared for hurricanes, fires, and disaster scenarios. Stay long enough and you can learn CPR, bandaging, knots, crafts, swimming techniques, cooking, and selected topics chosen from a long list of merit badges. And yes, Troop 4 has won local contests for our accuracy with rifles and shotguns... and thoroughly failed to identify the seemingly obvious body parts of a horse. (One boy confused 'hoof' with 'neck'... it was embarassing!)
I also look back at Troop 4 as a comedic goldmine. Nowhere else have I found so many things that are so crazy and thus so easy to spoof. Troop 4, you see, is no mere boy scout troop. It's the oldest continuously running scout troop in the Houston, Texas area, and - to my knowledge - the only scout troop to have become a multimedia franchise. Other scout troops may have recorded videos, sure, but how many have deployed a FundLaser? How many troops can boast this many Eagle Scouts and yet also so many unmotivated dropouts who show up but fail to reach Basic Scout after a year? Only a troop as special as Troop 4 could have someone there for five months without being able to register them or figure out their name... that's Troop 4. Pathetic, yes, but pathetic with a lot of awesomeness mixed in there somewhere. So take a look around; we've redesigned this website, it's back, and it's set to expand - rapidly - complete with videos, comics, and hopefully some video games. If, for some insane reason, you still want to visit boy scout Troop 4 after browsing this not-approved-by-the-BSA website, we tend to meet on Mondays at 7:00 PM, at Redeemer Lutheran (5700 Lawndale, Houston, TX, 77023). I say 'tend to meet' because some meetings get cancelled - you can't guarantee how many people will show up to a given meeting. Usually it's been somewhere between 'none' and 'fifty'.
I think it's also worth pointing out the two inaccuracies in the content of this page, the first being that the oldest surviving documented evidence of Troop 4 activity dates back to 1916 and not 1918, - and while the troop already existed in 1916 we cannot say with any confidence that it has run continuously since that time. (Due to the Spanish Flu epidemic, it may have gone on hiatus for about a year at some point between 1916 and 1919, but we've got no surviving documentation to say whether the troop was still chartered during that time and therefore we may or may not be the oldest continuously running troop in the Houston area.) Secondly, the really big confusing thing here is the reference in our lower graphic to Cub Scout Pack 1, which has recently [effectively] dissolved. It doesn't exist at this time but we are hoping to bring it back someday, a possibility discussed in the most recent news entry. Children under 11 cannot actually be involved here because of the inactive nature of the Pack, but boys 11-17 in the Houston area who express interest in Scouting are welcome to join Troop 4. I'll update the graphic soon to fix this inaccuracy. We definitely also would love to see parental involvement, as more leaders and more people watching over the group, especially during long events such as campouts, would be a good thing. As we're currently down to four leaders and three genuinely involved boys, with a handful of others who show up only on occasion, the need for more of both is significant at this point. We are at a crossroads where our group's history might end in the next year or two if nobody new shows up to revitalize the program by the end of 2017. It's not enough to wait a year or two to 'ramp up' and form a cub pack to segue into the Troop. By the time the younger boys get old enough to transition into scouting it'll be too late; the troop will already have folded. This means for the group to remain viable we'll need assistance with the troop NOW, not 'eventually'.
A few notes that need to be made: This site will feature a ton of satirical content (video, game, and comic content) which is not bland, totally inoffensive, and humorless like the BSA would like.
If as webmaster I were to make any attempt to raise funds for the troop through or connected to said content directly, even if the funds raised by said content all went to the troop fund, it would still be in a legal gray area that could result in legal action by the BSA. The BSA is tightly controlling of its IP and has strict rules for fundraising, so we're not going to make any attempt to sell anything or have any ads or any such thing, on this website. You won't be seeing anything that even remotely suggests we're making a profit on anything in this website. We won't accept donations here either. The only thing that I can do here which might raise funding for Troop 4 [indirectly] is described on this page.
This website, then, in summary, is being paid for and maintained at a loss by the webmaster, which means I'm pouring or already have poured hundreds of dollars of my personal reserves into the website and the media content which I intend to post on it, and towards the troop fund in general, in an effort to maintain enthusiasm for the group and keep it from going under. I will ask for nothing from you except this: If you are actually in the Houston area, and you have a son who might be interested in this program, I encourage you to visit us during one of our more exciting events and take a look at what we're doing. It could be a lot of fun and hopefully you'll enjoy this enough to stick around.