Friday, September 21, 2012

My Boy Scouting Experience

I started my scouting adventure as a Cub Scout in the 1960’s. My parents were fully supportive because my dad was a Boy Scout and understood the value of scouting.  I’m happy to say that my mom was our Den Leader and my dad was the Treasurer of our Pack. I still have my first Pinewood Derby race car. I earned my Arrow of Light and joined my first Boy Scout Troop. Our Scoutmaster had three boys of his own in the Troop so he was my only Scoutmaster the entire time I was in the Troop. That made my Boy Scouting experience so much better. 

There are four highlights I would like to share with you.  First my Scoutmaster, Larry Anderson, would lead us in our Troop Chant during troop meetings and campouts. Mr. Anderson would yell “It’s great! “ and we would yell, “What’s great?“ and we would all yell “Troop 8”.  Because his leadership and friendship, our families have stayed in touch all these years. 

Second, Mr. Anderson would growl very loud like a giant grizzly bear every morning when he got out of his tent on campouts. A tradition that I practiced every time I got out of my tent after my son joined Cub Scouts. At first everyone thought I was crazy but after a while, they learned why I did it (just for the fun of it). After that they expected my grizzly bear growl. Scouting has taught me to loosen up and not take life so seriously! 

Third, I took the Finger Printing merit badge and you’ll never who taught the class, his name was Mr. Bond and he worked for the FBI. We asked him if the FBI assigned him the number 007.  He said no, but understood why we were asking. We laughed because James Bond was so cool to us boys. I have fond memories of the merit badges that I earned, but the Fingerprinting merit badge was very special to me. Mr. Bond said up front that he was going to make sure that we followed the BSA requirements, but he was going to teach us more than what is in the merit badge book. That’s why I enjoyed it so much. 

Fourth, we lived in northern New Jersey where in the winter; we would get a fair amount 
of snow. Troop 8 would participate in the Annual Klondike Derby. We would drag a scout made wooden dog sled from station to station similar to the Camporee. It was very challenging because we had to pull the sled in the cold and all of the events were timed. The one event that I remember the most was building a fire under an old coffee can. In the coffee can were water and a drop of liquid soap. When the soapy water would boil and bubble over, the judges would stop the clock. I had so much fun despite the weather. I also learned the value of teamwork. Understanding teamwork came in handy when I went to Philmont Scout Ranch in1972. Completing Philmont made me feel invincible.  Philmont is a high adventure scout ranch in New Mexico with 400 acres to backpack. 

After Philmont, my family moved to Colorado. I joined a small troop; we had a Scoutmaster and less than ten boys. I owe a special thanks to my Scoutmaster, Mr. Alexander for motivating me to earn my Eagle badge; I almost missed the deadline of being 18 years old. I earned my Eagle in 1975. My parents were so proud of me. After that I became the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. 

I had to quit Boy Scouts when I went to college. But I’m happy to say that my scouting in me prevailed when I saved my college roommate’s (Barry), life in a snow skiing accident. Barry and I had spent the night in my tent after cross-country skiing up into a lake in the Rocky Mountain State Park. In the morning, Barry went skiing above our tent while I was enjoying the warmth of my sleeping bag. When all of a sudden, I heard a crash. Then Barry called out for me. He had fallen into deep snow and by the time I got to him, I saw a pool of blood from a cut on his thumb where his ski edge had sliced his thumb. But then I noticed his knee was at an odd angle and he was in a lot of pain. So I took off his skis and applied first aid to his thumb. Then pulled him into our tent and wrapped him up with plenty of clothing and our sleeping bags. Because of his knee, I knew that I couldn’t move Barry down the mountain. We agreed that I needed to get help. This was before cell phones and the internet so I had to go for some help.  So after I made sure that he was not in shock and comfortable as possible, I left him and skied down the mountain. I don’t remember much about the trip down, but I’m certain that I broke a downhill speed record. When I reached the ranger station, I thought that they would put a team together with me and ski back to Barry. To my amazement they said that a rescue helicopter would be going to get him. For a minute I thought I was going on a helicopter ride, but the ranger said no, I wasn’t allowed. For the next three hours I felt useless because all that I could do was wait. I worried about how Barry was surviving.   It gave me a chance to wind down after my ski trip down the mountain. Barry was successfully rescued and had to have surgery on his knee. Unfortunately, we didn’t go skiing or camping until a few years later. Barry and I remain the best of friends to this day. 

I was so proud when my wife and I became the parents of a new baby boy in 1992. Among other things, after being blessed with a son, I knew that I would have a little scouting buddy someday in our future.  As soon as my son, Chris was able to join Cub Scouts, we joined together. I was his den leader for a year and built and maintained the Pack’s first web site. In 2003 Chris earned his Arrow of Light and crossed over to be a Boy Scout. After searching local troops in our area, Chris decided to join Troop 331. Our Charter Organization is the Church of Incarnation in Collierville, TN. 

I became a member of our troop’s committee as an Assistant Scoutmaster. During my first meeting the leaders knew that I worked with computers and they nominated me to be the Advancement Coordinator. I accepted not knowing what that meant. Isn’t that true for all new parent volunteers? Well a few years back, the troop purchased a computer program called Troopmaster. It stores all the scout advancement records, as well as just about everything you wanted to know about the troop and all the members. I asked if they would be interested in a web site of their own and they said yes. So I built the first web site for the troop.  I felt a bit over loaded at times, but the parents told me that they were appreciative of my contribution. Luckily, I learned that Troopmaster could be Internet enabled. So I put our Troopmaster on the Internet and taught all the committee members that needed it, how to use it. After that my job got easier. But what I liked best above all, I was camping once a month with my buddy, Chris. That made it all worthwhile. 

Here's  a picture of my pinewood derby car on the left and Chris's on the right. Wow a difference! 

Unfortunately, in 2005, I was diagnosed with ALS otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is fatal and there is no cure. Eventually people with ALS die from being totally paralyzed and can no longer breathe. But there is always hope if enough people become aware of this disease and offer your time as a volunteer or financial support to find a cure or treatment. Personally, I have lost a lot of friends in my ALS Support Group that died over the years. All of us with ALS are members of a club that nobody wants to join. 

I’m at the point where I can no longer walk, raise my arms, type with my fingers, talk, nor eat regular food. I have a feeding tube to pour nutrients and medicine into my stomach. My ALS Support Group has a motto, we choose to live with ALS, rather than die from it. 

So you might be asking how did I type this document.  I have a special computer with a camera pointing at my eye. Through incredible advanced technology the camera tracks the movement of my eye and on my computer screen wherever I look the mouse pointer follows. Then if I keep staring at the object, like a letter on an online keyboard, I can type letters. I can even surf the Internet and check my email. That’s how I can manager my troop’s web site. Best of all I can talk to my family and friends because whatever I type, I can play back through the computer speakers. Isn’t technology wonderful? For me, my computer is a lifesaver.