Scouts are great. They teach children about discipline, they introduce kids to the outdoors, they teach them about civic duty.
Sometimes that goes awry.
Case in point: the Eclaireuses et Eclaireurs de France. This group was founded in 1964 by a merger of prior scouting organizations that had been founded approximately a half century prior. By 1992, they were well established and knew exactly what they were doing.
One of the civic duties the French scouting group taught their charges was the value of cleaning up their community. In Spring, 1992, they put this into action by conducting an operation they’d done many times before: finding graffiti and cleaning it up. Armed with wire brushes and plenty of energy, a group of about 70 kids decided to help clean some of their beautiful country, removing the spray-painted names and icons which had been left behind by vandals.
So far, so good. But because there were some beautiful caves in the countryside that had been vandalized by “taggers” they decided to put some attention there as well.
And then, well, they got a little overzealous.
From the Associated Press, via the New York Times:
The idea was to clean up graffiti, but a youth group in southwestern France got carried away and wiped out a bit of prehistory as well, damaging cave paintings thousands of years old.
Specifically, two paintings of bison which were considered to be unusually well-rendered. They were so good, in fact, that the kids mistook it for recent graffiti art and meticulously removed nearly all trace of the paintings before one of them realized that the bison might not have been simple graffiti.
Okay, maybe the group didn’t know EXACTLY what they were doing.
Thankfully, the images from the nearby Bruniquel cave were even broader in scope and more carefully detailed. Unfortunately, that cave is off-limits to the public because of the fragility of the paintings… and even if they hadn’t been far more delicate than the Mayrieres Cave images, after the scouts’ error they’d likely be off-limits anyway. (France This Way)
Still, mistakes happen… and whatever mistakes you’ve made, they were probably far less devastating than that done by a group of civic-minded French kids twenty-six years ago.
Question of the night: what’s the best time you’ve had at a group event?