To Corey Baker, 14, Boy Scouts is about making friends, camping out in the wilderness and learning survival skills.
Zach Miller, 15, thinks Scouting is lame and never joined because he didn't want somebody telling him what to do.
Anival Herrera, 13, thought that the group was mostly for white kids.
These teenagers' attitudes toward Scouting represent those of many Ventura County youths.
Some kids love the Boy Scouts, some think they are too square and others feel they don't belong.
Last week, the Supreme Court's decision allowing the Boy Scouts to exclude gay men as troop leaders cast a new light on the organization's values.
But in Ventura County, those values have rarely come into question.
Thousands of local families see the group as a "moral compass," a way to keep their sons out of drugs, gangs and crime, said Dave Graska, the county's top Scouting official.
Only a few families have pulled their children out of local troops because of the organization's restrictive membership policies, he added.
Graska, Scout executive for the Ventura County Council, said the controversy over gay membership has had little effect locally.
"We are a stable, conservative county."
Despite criticisms and controversies, the Boy Scouts of America hasn't strayed much from its original promise 90 years ago--to lead boys into manhood through adventure, challenge and responsibility.
The Boy Scouts say places like suburban Ventura County are the heart of Scouting.
And the county has a long history with Scouting.
Its first Boy Scout troop was chartered in Port Hueneme in 1916, with fewer than a dozen boys. Now,
about 8,200 Scouts are involved in more than 325 troops.
In fact, 15.7% of boys ages 6 to 18 were Scouts in Ventura County in 1998, compared with 6.9% in Los Angeles County.
Skills Displayed at Camp-Out
The virtues of Scouting were on display at a recent Camp-O-Ree in the hills near Moorpark, when hundreds of Ventura County Scouts showed off their survival skills of tying knots, reading maps and using compasses.
During the three-day camp-out, the boys--ages 11 to 14--also cooked their meals and roasted marshmallows on the fire.
The boys turned the barren ground into a sea of colorful tents and homemade flags bearing the names of their patrols--vipers, eagles, cobras, geckos.
Thirty-one Scouts from Simi Valley's Troop 633 rode their bicycles through the Moorpark hills to the campsite, while their parents drove in with tents, coolers, stoves, food and sleeping bags.
Week after week at meetings, members of Troop 633 had reviewed their Scout handbooks and practiced their skills.
By 8 a.m. one Saturday, they were ready and eager. So after a short parade of flags and a welcome ceremony, the boys equipped themselves with compasses and canteens and set out to compete in various events.
Each patrol--made up of five or six boys--was judged on teamwork, strategy and spirit.
In one corner of the field, the boys demonstrated first aid basics, treating pretend victims for severe burns and serious bleeding. They rattled off answers to questions in a relay: What do you do for every accident victim? Treat for shock.
Across the field, they tested their strength and agility in the timber pull, using two small logs to pull a larger log 10 feet without letting it fall off wood rollers. The Gecko Patrol from Troop 633 was up.
When the timer started, the boys created a cross with the two small logs, tied three types of knots, placed the log on the rollers and pulled hard. "Go, go, go Geckos!" yelled a parent nearby. At exactly one minute, 40 seconds, the log crossed the line.
After the competition, the Scouts rushed to their stoves to make dinner. What was on the menu for Troop 633? For the Dragon Patrol, hot dogs and corn on the cob. But they had a few problems--nobody knew how to cook, the water wouldn't boil and time was running out. So the boys ate half-cooked corn and soggy hot dogs.
The Cobra Patrol went shopping before the trip and planned to cook hamburgers, served with taco chips.
Their problem: They forgot to bring the hamburger meat. So they made a sign that read, "Will Work for Food," and begged their parents to pick up their dinner.
After dinner and the campfire, the boys and their parents climbed into their tents under a bright nighttime sky and fell asleep to a chorus of snores, coyotes and chatter.
Janel Suliga said she has seen her two sons become more self-sufficient and resourceful since they joined the Scouts. "At home, they just wait for me to cook," she said. "But here, mom's not around, so they make what they can."
This was 11-year-old Austin Thompson's first camp-out as a Boy Scout.
As a Cub Scout, he had slept in his parents' tent and didn't do his own cooking and cleaning. He joined Troop 633 just two weeks prior to the Camp-O-Ree.