Practice of Deduction

March 18, 2003

Baden-Powell wrote:

A simple deduction from signs noticed in my walk one morning on a stormy mountain path in Kashmir.  SIGNS OBSERVED: Tree-stump, about three feet high, by the path.  A stone about the size of a coconut lying near it, to which were sticking some bits of bruised walnut rind, dried up.  Some walnut rind also lying on the stump.  Farther along the path, 30 yards to the south of the stump, were lying bits of walnut shell of four walnuts.  Close by was a high sloping rock, alongside the path.  The only walnut tree in sight was 150 yards north of the stump.

At the foot of the stump was a cake of hardened mud which showed the impression of a grass shoe.

What would you make out from those signs?

My solution of it was this.

A man had gone southward on a long journey along the path two days ago carrying a load and had rested at the rock while he ate walnuts.

My deductions were these.

It was a man carrying a load, because carriers when they want to rest do not sit down, but rest their load against a sloping rock and lean back.  Had he had no load, he would probably have sat down on the stump, but he preferred to go 30 yards farther to where the rock was.  Women do not carry loads there, so it was a man.  He broke the shells of his walnuts on the tree stump with the stone, having brought them from the tree 150 yards north—so he was travelling south.  He was on a long journey, as he was wearing shoes, and not going barefooted, as he would be if only strolling near his home.  Three days ago there was rain, the cake of mud had been picked up while the ground was still wet—but it had not been since rained upon, and was now dry.  The walnut rind was also dry, and confirmed the time that had elapsed.

There is no important story attached to this, but it is just an example of everyday practice which should be carried out by Scouts.

Baden-Powell, Robert.  Scouting for Boys, 35th edition, 5th printing, 1999.

As you leave here tonight and travel home, try and put the power of reason and deduction to work.

Good night, gentlemen.