IT WAS SUNSET IN SKULL VALLEY. The campfire roared with scrap wood and dried-out tumbleweed, and for me and my fellow Boy Scouts, it couldn’t have been more welcome. It was February. We’d spent the day exploring castle-like rock formations in the western Oquirrhs and I could barely feel my feet beneath me as we staggered back into camp for the evening. Richard and I donned our mountain man capotes and grabbed our camp stools, then extended our frozen feet close to the flames.
“Your boots will melt before your feet even get warm,” a calm voice carried over the crackle from a camp chair across the way. It was Stan Ogden, our scoutmaster. And it wasn’t the first time he’d offered us that that particular caution.
Stan never scolded. If fact, how he kept his cool with half a dozen rowdy scouts week after week becomes increasingly amazing to me the older I get. Stan was full of wisdom, and he imparted it to us subtly—a joke here, an old scout quote there. He may not have realized that we respected him, but we did.
Somebody’s boots melted that night—I don’t remember whose. They weren’t mine. Mine had melted at the Klondike camp the month prior. Richard’s, I think, had melted in Moab. Stan didn’t get two words of his boot melting warning out before we quickly pulled our feet from the fire.
I remembered this and many of the things Stan said, explained, and demonstrated. He was a scoutmaster in the truest sense. I became an Eagle Scout thanks, in good part, to Stan’s tutelage. My scouting years are part of why I crave the outdoors, why I love to write about them, why I take my boys adventuring as often as I can.
The Boy Scouts of America is 100 years old today, and I’m proud. I’m glad Stan and his faithful assistant, Ron-O, showed us the ropes every week and took us camping every month. I’m glad to be part of the organization today.
Scouting is about more than tying knots, swamping canoes, and Dutch oven cooking. It’s about instilling values, building character, and fostering a deep appreciation for American History. It’s about self-sufficiency and level-headedness. Frankly, it’s survival prep for an increasingly screwed-up world.
I still see ol’ Stan now and again, and we talk about the old days. It’s very possible, if current positions in our unit hold for a few years, that Stan’s son will be one of my son’s scout leaders. Pretty cool.
I wrote a piece about this year’s Klondike Derby camp for the newspaper last week. I’ll post it here tomorrow.