Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Celebrating 100 Years of Scouting

The Boys Scouts of America turned 100 years old a few weeks ago. My family’s involvement in scouting doesn’t go back quite that far, but it does go back more than 75 years. It continues to this day, thanks to my youngest brother’s volunteer efforts and that of his son, a third-generation Eagle Scout.

I don’t tell you all this to brag, being no great shakes as a Scout. I made it to the rank of Life, which is the one below Eagle, but I was nowhere close to reaching that rarified echelon when the lure of girls, earning money working at this newspaper to put gasoline in Suzuki motorcycle and other lame excuses spurred me to hang up my merit badge sash forever at age 15.

Nonetheless, I have great memories of camping trips with Troop 201 and Scoutmaster V.G. Rollins at the Millpond. I can still recite the dozen precepts of the Boy Scout Law nearly 40 years after retiring the uniform. They are great rules by which to behave, boiled down to twelve words.

Our family tradition started with Carl Basil Borders, born in 1906. He joined Boy Scouts in 1917 and like me also stopped at the rank of Life. My grandfather started volunteering as a Scoutmaster while making a living as a police officer in Wyoming. After an unsuccessful run for sheriff in Cody, Wyoming (a town named after Buffalo Bill) he became a professional Scouter in 1943 and worked in the Japanese internment camps at Heart Mountain, Wyoming to form Scout troops among the Japanese youths held there during World War II. While in Wyoming, my dad became an Eagle Scout.

Eventually my grandfather ended up in Longview in the late 1950s as the district scout executive for the East Texas Area Council. My scouting career began in the cold climes of New Hampshire, where five-mile hikes and campouts took place in the snow. One of my last treks before moving to Longview was in the mountains of New Hampshire, where a rather sadistic Scouting volunteer pretended we were lost and hiked a trio of us to the point of exhaustion with packs overloaded with food intended for a farewell feast. We spent a cold night above the timberline, shivering and convinced we might not get out alive. It took me years to figure out this was a ruse. I wish I could find that fellow now and give him what-for.

Anyway, after years of trying in 1968 my grandfather convinced us to come to Longview and escape the winters and lousy (at the time) New England economy. I was immediately installed in Troop 201. My grandfather was winding down his Scouting career but still ran Camp Pirtle in the summers. That meant I had great privileges in the summer, able to both camp with Troop 201 during its designated time there, but also to return and stay in my grandfather’s lodge for a week or two during the summer and ride in his 1950s Willys Jeep as he kept tab on his charges. It was great fun.

My grandfather, I figured out many years later, had a hard time settling down, which is a trait he apparently passed on to me. He sold insurance, worked as a cop, as a rancher, and moved all over the country. He finally found his calling as a professional Scouter. He loved it and passed this love on to three generations of our family who have earned its highest honors as Eagle Scouts. My youngest brother Gregg achieved Eagle rank 30 years ago, in 1980. His son Matt earned the honor last year.
Boy Scouts teach young men a plethora of life skills, from tying knots to learning to love the outdoors, to be of service to others and the importance of teamwork. The principles Scouting espouses still hold true today, of course, just as they did when my grandfather was a teen.

Since I raised only daughters, I never became active as a Scouting volunteer. My time went toward 4-H and the other interests the girls had. But every morning, when I walk this neighborhood and circle the pond at Teague Park and see the Troop 201 cabin, I smile and fondly recall those days spent in Scouting.

But I don’t miss camping on the ground. Never have.
Originally published February 21, 2010

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