Neckerchief Uses




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Neckerchief Uses
First Aid Uses

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Let us consider first the number of distinctly Scout uses to which the kerchief can be put.

swn10b.jpg (9066 bytes)It is natural to think of it as a signal flag (1); [Numbers refer to Summary of Uses] a brightly colored kerchief can be attached to a staff walking stick or canoe paddle, with string or by knotting itself, and used to send Morse code a considerable distance. With two white kerchiefs against a dark background, practice as well as actual sending of messages by the Semaphore code (2) can be done effectively. With practice, a maximum amount of the material can be shown to catch the eye of the receiver.

swn11b.jpg (14756 bytes)Another distinct utility for a Troop meeting is knot-tying practice (3), after the neckerchief has been folded to triangular shape and then down to narrow cravat form.  It is especially handy for teaching the square knot and for practice in this and in tripping the knot by upsetting it. This can be done by pulling the tail end of one side of the knot away from the standing part to which it belongs; this trips or upsets the square knot, which can be stripped free by encircling the standing part with the fingers and sliding it off the end.

The proper wearing of the neckerchief is useful for Troop and Patrol identification (4), and a single knot in the point (5) is a "Good Turn" reminder, although the slide is sometimes called this. The wearing of the neckerchief (6) is in itself an indication that the wearer is not a cadet but a Scout.

Properly folded, from wide to narrow cravat, the neckerchief may be tied in a square or surgeon 's knot as a substitute for a belt (7), and hung over the shoulder and tied under the arm it furnishes a shoulder mat (8) for wall scaling or for carrying timbers or pipe in such a way as to save the uniform from staining or save weight from chafing.

In working out problems of rescue, the entire Troop can be directed to put on the wide cravat form of the neckerchief as a smoke mask (9), covering the nose and mouth and hanging below the chin. To simulate crawling into smoke-filled room, the triangular bandage can be folded over the eyes of the Scout rescuer and tied in the back in order that his rescue work can be done entirely by feeling--so we have the blindfold for Scout games (10).

swn11c.jpg (5848 bytes)Another form of this blindfold can be made by tying a knot in the broad point, which is put over the top of the head; the ends are folded around the neck, crossed in back and tied in front under the chin. This leaves the loose part of the neckerchief over the face, effectually covering the eyes, and is a dressing used in first aid for a burned face and neck, (11).

During the period for Scout games, the neckerchief can be used as a sweat band (12), confining the hair in place for such games; and contesting teams can be identified in two ways either by neckerchiefs of different color (if from different districts), or by wearing the neckerchiefs in a different place if from the same district (13). These different methods of wearing the neckerchief would include: around the forehead, cowboy fashion, with the broad part in front of the neck, Scout fashion, broad part in back; as a shoulder sash, right or left shoulder; and, on the right or left arm between the biceps and shoulder.

swn11d.jpg (7121 bytes)In games, such as running the gauntlet, the folded neckerchiefs held by the two ends make swatters (14) which are not dangerous; if held by one end there is a whip lash effect which might be dangerous if flicked into the eye or face. The neckerchief also has a value in the three-legged race (15), where it can be used to tie the runners together, and in a cockfight, or other race requiring the contestants to be hobbled (16), it serves very well to tie the wrists or ankle together. In this same way it could be used to hobble a horse by reducing the freedom of his legs, so that he could graze without being able to run or jump.  This is sometimes used on the plains.

There is another Scout game called badger pulling, in which two boys on hands and knees with heads close together have a rope or belt slipped over their heads behind the ears, and try to pull each other across center line by backing up.  Two neckerchiefs would serve for confining  the "badgers" (17) if not tied too near to the end.

Use Around Camp

swn10c.jpg (11014 bytes)The neckerchief can be used as night cap or ear protector (18), and this sort of cap would also serve as an identification in games. By tying the broad point of the triangle a sort of hood is made, just the reverse of the blindfold hood, and the ends are tied under the chin. This is excellent for protection against mosquitoes while hiking through 'woods and brush. Scouts should also be required to make the neckerchief into a muffler for storm or blizzard protection, which would form the 19th use for general purposes. 

There are also a number of uses which can be made of the neckerchief around water. One of these is the covering of a pail to serve as a filter for muddy water (20). It could also serve as a loin cloth or bathing trunks for an unexpected dip in a not too secluded stream (21).

By putting the broad center of the kerchief to the forehead, letting the point fall toward the back of the head and using the ends crossed in the back and tied in the front, the usual triangular cap bandage is formed (22). This, used with red kerchiefs, identifies the non swimmers; blue kerchiefs the beginners who can swim fifty feet or more, and white kerchiefs the free swimmers who can swim more than  100 yards.

swn13a.jpg (10437 bytes)While working around a camp fire the neckerchief may become a napkin (23) to keep the shirt front clean, for it is easier to wash a neckerchief than a shirt. It may become an apron (24) for kitchen police duty, for it is easier to wash a neckerchief than a pair of Scout breeches. Several kerchiefs may be used as a table cloth (25) to keep the food off the ground, and it may be used as a dust or cover (26) to keep dust, leaves and flies out of opened food which has been prepared for the meal.

A very handy use for the kerchief is the hobo bag (27) made by tying the opposite points together, thus making a receptacle large enough to carry about half a peck of apples, or other vegetables purchased from a nearby farm.

swn13b.jpg (11453 bytes)On the trail the kerchief or triangular bandage may be make into a tump line (28), which is worn around the forehead and fastened to a pack to ease the strain on the shoulder straps for a long portage.  The head is not used as the main carrying force but as an auxiliary for the relief of the shoulder. Similarly the neckerchief may be used to lash poles or staves together (29).  On a long canoe trip I had lot of trouble with a canoe which had no keel; it steered badly and could not keep up, so we lashed poles across which kept the boats two feet apart amidships., This made, it necessary for us to paddle only on the outside, and with the working neckerchiefs there is a good holding surface and they are easily unfastened when it is necessary to make a portage around a dam or waterfall.

swn13c.jpg (8159 bytes)A little handful of fire and a neckerchief will make a smoke signal (30) and will enable Scouts to practice short distance signaling by puffs of smoke, as they would do on long distance with a blanket and a larger smoky fire. (Information on making smoke signals can be found in the Scout Hand Book and in books on Indian lore.)

On occasions when carrying a new flagpole to camp or having tent poles projecting behind the touring car or truck, safety regulations. require a red flag hung on the projecting end (31).

Boat Uses

Likewise a piece of a neckerchief well covered with pitch or white lead would make a patch for a canoe (32), or, shredded into strips, would make caulking for a leaky boat (33) when shoved into the open seams with a pocket or table knife.

If marooned on a broken down motor boat or canoe outboard motor the neckerchief would probably be the least expensive an most effective thing to sacrifice to make a flare (34), wadded into a bail, saturated with gasoline and lighted, while protected by a mess kit or tin cup. In this case the neckerchief would serve as wicking and would make the flame last longer than a match or paper. Kerosene, or even cooking grease, would burn similarly if no gasoline were available. The burning of a flare is a distress signal recognized by boatmen the world over.

In making a portage from one lake to another, some Scouts will find it easier to carry loads on their heads. A folded neckerchief, or a neckerchief rolled into a thick bundle, can be curled on top of the head to serve as padding (35). It might also he used to prevent chafing wherever heavy weights come either on the shoulder or in the palm of the hand, where it may be used as a glove (36) to prevent blisters.

Use on Horses in Emergency

Any Scout who has ever been in a burning stable realizes the difficulty in getting horses to go out through the dark doorway. The light confuses them, so it is necessary to blindfold the horse. A neckerchief tied over the horse's eyes will serve admirably for this purpose (37) and will be found large enough. Similarly, Scouts who are fortunate enough to go hiking on horseback or with a baggage wagon may find it necessary to pad portions of the harness to prevent saddle or harness galls. A neckerchief would serve the purpose in these emergencies (38).

swn14b.jpg (10180 bytes)Groups of Scouts who are living in movable camps will find that in packing up each day for loading canoe, truck, car, pack horse, etc., there will be numberless bundles to be tied up. In the wilds there is seldom enough rope, so that the neckerchief folded into a narrow cravat form is excellent to tie up square packages, two of the neckerchiefs being usually required for an ordinary flat bundle (39).  In making the blanket roll--famous in the Spanish American War--the ends of the roll may be fastened together with a neckerchief if no straps or rope is available (40); it is not beautiful, but it is effective. This is the horse collar pack, which is also used with the official haver-sack recommended by the Scout Supply Department.

For Group Work

There are a number of distinct uses of the kerchief requiring the cooperation of several persons. Among these are Life Line, or Guard Rope (41); the Rope Ladder for rescue from a well (42); the Boat Sail (43) and Emergency Clothing (44).

To make the life line and rope ladder, a sort of drill can be developed so that it can be done smoothly.  The Scout should be cautioned to tie the ends at least six inches from the tip, so that the strongest part of the cloth may be used, and undue strain will not be put on a, very narrow area, thus jeopardizing the safety of the person who is being rescued.

The Troop should be directed: "Prepare to form a life line. Fall in in single file. Remove neckerchiefs. Connect neckerchiefs from the right. Tie off neckerchiefs." At this last command, every one from the right of the line ties his neckerchief to the end of the next neckerchief, using a square knot, the last person in line being the only one who does not have to tie. The next command would be: "Patrol Leaders inspect knots." A Troop of thirty Scouts would give a life line 70 or 80 feet long with which to get a person out of the water, ice, or to be used as a guard rope.

For a rope ladder the commands would be: "Prepare to make a rope ladder. Fall in single file. Count three. Ones and twos link neckerchiefs and tie off." (The broad parts of the neckerchiefs are looped together and tied with a square knot so that each one is a complete circle.) "Number threes connect links." Each number three then loops his neckerchief through the links of the chain made by number two to his left and number one to his right, and ties.

As a Sail

The construction of a boat sail and the emergency clothing are similarly done. The corners of two or three kerchiefs are tied together, then the next row is knotted to it to make the strip wider, the middle knots being interlocked. Considerable sail surf ace could be secured with four or six neckerchiefs, but it would be a poor substitute for clothing--rather drafty to say the least. If there are pins available in the first aid kit, a very much better job could be done in dressing the fellow whose clothes were lost and this is, of course, a comedy stunt rather than anything to inspire serious thought among spectators.

Summary of Uses for the Scout Neckerchief

The Scout Neckerchief may be used: 

  1. As an International Morse signal flag.
  2. For sending messages by Semaphore code
  3. In knot-tying practice.
  4. For Troop and Patrol identification.
  5. As a reminder of the Scout Good Turn (single knot).
  6. As indication that wearer is not a Cadet, but a Scout.
  7. As a substitute for a belt. 
  8. As a shoulder mat.
  9. As a smoke mask.
  10. As a blindfold for Scout games.
  11. As a dressing for a burned face and neck.
  12. As a sweat band for confining the hair.
  13. For identifying contesting teams.
  14. As a swatter in playing games.
  15. In the three legged race, to tie legs together.
  16. In games requiring contestants to be hobbled.
  17. In game called "Badger Pulling," to make binder for heads.
  18. As a night cap or ear protector.
  19. As a muffler for storm or blizzard.
  20. As a cover for a pail of water.
  21. As a loin cloth or bathing trunks.
  22. As a triangular cap bandage.
  23. As a napkin.
  24. As an apron.
  25. As a table cloth.
  26. As a dust cloth or cover.
  27. As a "Hobo" bag.
  28. For a tump line to carry a load.
  29. To lash poles or staves together.
  30. At a smoke signal.
  31. As a red flag on projecting end of load.
  32. As a patch for a canoe, when properly treated.
  33. As caulking for a leaky boat, when properly treated.
  34. For distress signal, lighted for a "flare."
  35. As a pad for the head in carrying heavy loads and wherever needed to prevent chafing.
  36. As a padded glove for the hand to prevent blisters.
  37. As a blindfold for rescuing a horse from fire.
  38. To pad portions of harness to prevent chafing.
  39. To tie up square packages.
  40. For fastening ends of the blanket roll.
  41. For making life line or guard rope.
  42. For making rope ladder.
  43. For making boat sail.
  44. For making emergency clothing.

First Aid Uses






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.