S’Mores and sheepshanks

Paul Smith
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Summer is quickly slipping past us. As I write, it’s a beautiful night. There won’t be too many more of these warm evenings, the sort that allow you to sit outside in a nice comfy chair without the protection of wool, goose down or fleece.

Earlier, we had a fire in our backyard chiminea and made S’Mores. Our granddaughter, Rory, is out around the bay for a few days and loves S’Mores. Actually, she loves anything chocolate-related: ice cream, milk, cookies, you name it. S’Mores are a perfect fit for her two-and-a-half-year-old culinary preferences. How can you possibly go wrong with a rousing, crackling, soul-warming fire and serving a golden-roasted marshmallow with melted chocolate sandwiched between two wafers of graham cracker? You could make them in the microwave, but somehow ambiance is wanting.

Rory ate a tad too much chocolate. She had chocolate ice cream for after-supper dessert and then a glass of chocolate milk while she helped me pick up her toys down in the lower garden. She’d been playing down there all morning while I raked grass that I’d let grow way too long. We were on holidays and I ended up with a massive grass-cutting job upon my return. Anyway it’s done now, and I’ve only a sore elbow to remind me.

Rory running about kicking her soccer ball and whatnot made the work much lighter. She even wheeled a few loads of grass for me in her red plastic wagon. I might check the flyers for an autumn sale on lawn tractors.

Rory can learn to drive it when she gets older and I’ll finally have someone to cut the bloody grass for me. Anyway, we ended the evening with S’Mores, way too much chocolate — excess galore. She did a few laps around the house before going to bed.

Now the house is quiet and I’m getting a bit of writing done. First off, I checked out how to spell S’Mores. I confess I had no idea. I’ve been roasting marshmallows and making S’Mores for handy on 30 years without any notion of either how to spell the things or where the idea of combining marshmallow, chocolate and graham wafer originated.

There were no S’Mores when I was a kid.

Goldie introduced me to the tasty delights when our kids, Megan and Allison, were little. We’d have them on camping trips, and as a treat with backyard summer fires. S’More is a pretty weird spelling. I wonder what in heavens it might be referring to?

“Some more please,” maybe just plain “some more” — wouldn’t you expect such a response if you give a kid such a tantalizing combination such as chocolate, marshmallow and graham wafer?

That’s what Rory said. I’m sure that’s what Megan and Allison said on those camping trips many moons ago.

I should have figured it out for long ago. S’More is a contraction of the oft-uttered phrase “some more.” I’ll be darned, what an appropriate and succinctly accurate title for those campfire goodies.

Nowadays S’Mores are synonymous with summer outings and campfires. Put concerns with calories aside and have a delicious S’More. In the United States they even have a National S’Mores Day, celebrated on Aug. 10, each and every summer.

So where did this S’More business originate? The first written mention of S’Mores is in a 1927 publication entitled “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.” I guess this makes perfect sense.

A Girl Scout leader invented a most wonderful campfire treat and gave it the best name ever. After a long day on the trail, what would you expect kids to say?

Certainly not, “No more for me, thank you, these are just too sweet and loaded with calories.”

I don’t think so.

The S’More was born. Unfortunately, the name of the person who actually invented the S’More is lost in the smoky air of many campfires. I cannot give her the full credit that she most certainly deserves.

In 1968, Clarice Nelms, a writer on leadership and recreation, provided the following recipe in his widely read book:

“Place a square of milk chocolate on a graham cracker. Toast a marshmallow and put on top of the chocolate, then a second graham cracker on top of the toasted marshmallow and squeeze and you will want S’More.”

That sums it up quite nicely. Rory most definitely wanted more.

My mother was a Brown Owl.

As a tiny boy, I was never exactly sure what that meant. I knew she wore a uniform and went to meetings with it on.

She also knew how to tie all sorts of fancy knots with rope and twine.

I suppose at the time I just assumed that all mothers taught their kids how to tie a sheepshank, clove hitch and figure eight before kindergarten. Of course, I was wrong. Most of my 50-year-old buddies have no idea what a sheepshank is, other than a sort of pot roast. It’s actually a knot for shortening a piece of rope without cutting it, or utilizing a length of rope with a damaged section. I’m pretty good with knots and most people think my father taught me. Not so. Thanks, Mom.

The designation of Brown Owl was given to the adult leader of a Brownie Guide pack. That is how my mother came to be a knot expert of sorts. She was a Spaniard’s Bay Brownie leader, and part of her duty was to ensure that those young girls could tie knots, ones that might prove invaluable on outdoor adventures.

Too many folks these days can tie absolutely nothing but an essentially useless granny knot. They get by in life by tying lots of them in sequence I suppose, or they just lose stuff they might have secured poorly. Try pitching a tent or mooring a boat in windy weather, or attaching a fishhook with a granny knot. You might end up cold, wet, and hungry.

Brownies, or Brownie Guides, are a section of Girl Guides, specifically for seven- to 10-year-old girls. The Girl Guides of Canada is headquartered in Toronto and has a history dating back to 1910. This is the same year that Agnes Baden-Powell, sister of Robert Baden-Powell, founded the world’s first Girl Guide troop in England.

Us Canadians were certainly not behind in preparing young girls for the outdoors. Of course, my mother was a Brown Owl under English supervision, being involved in the movement long before Confederation. My mother was a bit of a pioneer in the Conception Bay North Girl Guide movement, and I’m very proud of her. I will teach Rory how to tie a sheepshank to honour her memory. There’s more to guiding than eating S’Mores.


Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay,

fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at

flyfishtherock@hotmail.com or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock




Organizations: Brown Owl

Geographic location: United States, Canada, Toronto England Conception Bay

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