Thursday, September 06, 2007

Good trouper needed for the troopers

Here is a request from a Girl Scout troop that I cannot help with. My advice to them is pasted below the message. I don't think we can hope to prevent groups from letterboxing so it is probably very important that we provide a bit of guidance and encouragement.


Dear Clyde -
We have met a couple of times through my husband, Charles Davis.
I believe you are involved in "letterboxing" and I need some help. I am looking for someone (on short notice!!!) who could tell my daughter's girl scout troop a bit about this hobby. The short notice: the meeting is Sept. 12 from 3:45 - 5:00!
We are hoping to find someone who could also guide them through making their own stamps. Our plan is to make stamps & decorate journals at the first meeting. At the following meeting we will go hunt a couple of boxes located near our meeting place. (We meet at Grant Elementary School next to the Columbia Public Library.)
Can you put me in touch with anyone who might be willing to do this?
Many thanks,
Julie Davis

I teach a class at exactly that time, I’m afraid. Let me see who else might be available, but I’m afraid most of them work at that time. I will post a note on our Web site,, which also has a good set of informational articles on the right-hand side.

Do you have stamp carving material? Most carvers use the gray or pink stuff sold at craft stores but you can also cut out stamp shapes from thin craft foam and glue them to a block. I suggest that you carve only the personal stamps the girls will use to identify themselves. We recommend that you wait until you have found four or five boxes (on separate outings) before you try hiding one yourself. Finders all have a trail name or a name that they share with their family or group. I use C2B2 with my wife, Cecile, because we share the initials “CB.” We like groups to stamp onto a single page of the box logbook so it doesn’t quickly use up the paper. I saw a Girl Scout troop stamp in near Kansas City in a neat way — their combined stamps formed a picture on the page. I have seen families that do that, also.

The major challenge of letterboxing with Girl Scouts or any group is the stealth aspect. The prime rule of letterboxing is to not let “muggles” see what you are doing or to find a trail to the box. So a group cannot troop to the same box without being obvious. Worse is when someone shouts with excitement at finding the box. However, the hobby can also be both a great lesson and a fun activity for young people. Many of our boxes are focused on history and ask you to ponder the surroundings. Others have mathematical codes that require real problem solving. And many, many of the local stamps are pure art. It is the art of the stamp carver that makes letterboxers so nervous about having unappreciative people look for boxes.

There are many boxes in Columbia, including several in the downtown area, as you will find at But I would suggest a weekend outing to look for the “FB” series of about a 20 boxes That is the Favorite Book series of boxes planted by Lnd-Crzr. He and his son found their favorite young-people’s boxes and created clues that relate to the stories in the books. Ron is an incredible artist with a carving knife and so his stamps are worth finding. The fun here might be to have the girls pick their favorite books from his list. The easy way to find the whole list is to go to and the search for boxes page. Enter Missouri and Boone and then (in the clue name slot) “FB”. It will give you the full list.



Dee Dee said...

I will try to contact her and attend their meeting next Wed. if possible since I'm also a GS leader as well as a letterboxer. I agree with C2B2's reply re: large groups and will really emphasize good letterboxing etiquette, rehidation etc.
Dee Dee

Fox-fyr said...

It's too bad I did not receive this request earlier. I had the day off from my main job but have already told my second employer I could work that evening.

I have been working on a lesson plan specifically for Girl Scouts as I have been requested to do a program for some Heart of Missouri Girl Scouts in October. The lesson plan is not yet finalized but does try to address aspects of the Special Interest badge.

i, too, will try and contact her with my thoughts, and possibly a copy of my lesson plan.

Fox-fyr said...

Actually, I managed to get the evening off so I just sent her an e-mail letting her know I was available.

Fox-fyr said...

We (DeeDee and I) just finished a session with nine Girl Scouts and two leaders. We had a good time. We had barely over an hour to introduce the concept of letterboxing, carve personal stamps out of erasers, go over some letterbox etiquette, and find a box I hid in the classroom, and stamp into the logbooks the leaders had brought to the classroom.

The Girls did a good job of picking out a trailname, and designing and carving their own stamps using a gum eraser as the base and a pencil top with the eraser pulled out as the carving tool.

We talked a bit about the artistry of the box and why it is important to be discreet and re-hide well.
I had some pictures of boxes that both well hid and not so well hid as examples.

The girls that finished their stamps first played a "concentration" game in which they had to match both halves of a sentence. Each sentence was one of the ten main "rules" of letterbox etiquette. It was fun.

We also gave the leaders a hands-on lesson on how to understand a keyword shift cipher, suggested some first boxes for them to find (Creek Crossings since it's close to the school and the ones in Kiwanis Park because there are five close together and they can break into smaller groups).

I wish we had had some more time, but it went well.