Sunday, March 8, 2009

What are you, some sort of boy Scout?

Probably because my father was a boy scout and his older brother was a "big shot" in the boy scout organization, I was signed up in the BSA as a cub scout when we moved to Rice Lake. It wasn't that I was forced or anything, I liked it. I earned my badges and awards and we did activities. I got my first airplane ride through cub scouts. Was that Great! The pilot even let me take the controls and make the plane go up and down. The guys was either brave or an idiot. I saw my first artesian well up in the Blue Hills east of Rice Lake on a field trip. I was fascinated how water could come out of the ground all by itself. It was winter and there was snow all around but where the stream of water was, there was green vegetation. (What a memory; now why can't I remember what I did two days ago?)
When I got old enough, I joined the Boy Scouts and started earning merit badges. Several summers, I went to Camp Phillips which was just north of Rice Lake about 15 miles. That was a great experience. We learned all sorts of out skills. It wasn't really roughing it too much; we slept on cots, in sleeping bags that were in canvas topped wooden buildings. I think there were about 4 to a building. Out door "johns" and body cleansing were taken during swimming time. A few years ago when I was visiting my Mom at her house, I road my bike to Camp Phillips and then through the camp. Man, was that nostalgic.
One time we were camping outside in tents on a bluff near a stream. We all had campfires near our tents. I had gone down to the stream and someone came running and said my clothing was on fire. I must have had wet clothing that was near the fire to dry off and the fire spread to "extremely dry" Gary's cloths. My wardrobe was drastically reduced for the rest of the outing. That and the ridicule for my stupidity made that trip most memorable.
There was winter camp that I really liked. In another area of Camp Phillips, they had converted an old barn into a building that housed many bunk beds. We would go there for a weekend and do outside activities. It was there that Mr. Maloney showed me how to start fires using birch bark, specifically telling me NOT to strip the bark all around the tree because it would kill it. You only take what is loose and pull it straight off. One time we got pulled on a toboggan behind a tractor or something down a snow covered road. Snow was flying all over us and we loved it. David, Charissa and Katie got experience the thrill last winter, right, you three?
The high point of my Boy Scout career, was a trip to the National Jamboree that was held in Colorado Springs in 1960. that year was the 50 year celebration for the Boy Scouts. It was in the summer between 8th and 9th grade for me. I think there were about 50,000 boy scouts camped on a tree less prairie with Pikes Peak right in front of us. We rode out in a bus and I remember our bus driver being quite the character. I had very little bus riding experience so this was all new to me. We would ask him why he would stop and at railroad crossings and open his door. His answer, "to let the train go through". We thought that was hysterical. He would tell us to keep our heads in the bus because if a truck would come by and take off our heads, there would be blood all over his precious bus. We stopped at several famous places on the way out. That was my first stop at Mr. Rushmore. We stopped at Pipestone national park. The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD was another stop. There was a tour of the Air Force Academy that impressed me. The chapel was this beautiful, triangular, white building with a huge stain glass window at one end. Trips like this may have imprinted my great love to travel.
There were scouts from not only the USA but from all over the world. They actually had black top roads through this temporary city. President Eisenhower came in a procession and sat in a convertible and we all got to see him.
The biggest disappointment for me was my failure to purchase a bow. There was an archery range there and I liked shooting the bow. On the last day, they were selling them for really cheap. I took a bus to the range to buy one and I had not brought enough money. I hurried back to get some more but by the time I got back to the range they had sold them all. I cried.
Being the youngest in the group that went down from our area, I was picked on quite a bit. (Look at the picture above and you can see why my appearance just invited ridicule.) There were boys from Rice Lake, Barron and Cumberland that went down in the same bus. There was one leader from Cumberland area that I took to and was nice to me. His name was Art Yousten and I just looked, his name is still in the phone book.
All our tents were the same issue. Sort of a pyramid shape with two a tent. there were no floors to the tent and the ground was hard, dry with cactus that one had to be very careful about putting your air mattress on. We were told to look out for rattle snakes. They had combed the area before we arrived but we still needed to be on the alert. No playing with rattlers.
I believe the Jamborees were held a every 4 years so I never went to another. I'm not sure when I quit, maybe about sophomore year in high school when I got a job and went out for sports.
I do know that the Boy Scouts gave me a love for the outdoors and some skills to enjoy it. My folks never camped so I did not get it from them. I only made Star in rank. That is two below Eagle. My father made Life, one above me. I have the utmost respect for young men who achieve Eagle Scout ranking. I don't believe Scouting now is the big deal that it was when I was growing up. However, I still feel it is a very worthwhile activity. I never had my sons get involved because they were in AWANA and that had some similarity's and we did camp activities as a family. A soft spot remains when a scout, who lives in our neighborhood, comes around to sell wreathes at Christmas time. I remember doing that too.


  1. so that's why you're so handy! i guess i should've been a boyscout too... david

  2. Do you still have your badges? (I think of the time Don melted the bottom of his shoes at a campfire - must be genetic). -J

  3. I would have thought a love of the outdoors and camping would have come from your parents. I know they did some things outdoors at least, but maybe not the camping. Well, I love camping and travelling and "adventuring" as well. I hope to pass it on to our kids. Watch out Redwood forests. We're coming one day.

  4. You never did learn to stay away from fire as a young child, did you? Burned a pea-coat, set half your camping clothes on fire, and now you are heating your house with it! Are you crazy?!