3 . Scouting
I was eleven when I met Gerard Perry in Ionia. He invited me to join his Scout troop and go to summer camp the following month. One had to be twelve to join the Boy Scouts back then, but I would have my twelfth birthday while at camp, so Mr. Perry said that would be okay.
Scouting, and Mr. Perry became a major influence in my life. I wanted to do everything – so I went to Camporees, overnight camping trips, hikes with Mr. Perry and the troop, and worked hard to earn the ranks and badges. I loved getting badges! I was “challenged” by two other boys who were always one step ahead of me, Rex Starkweather and John Dalzell. For example, John and Rex were going to the Scout work camp on Mackinaw Island, and I wanted to go too.
My Dad was always supportive, and paid for me to go. It was a wonderful experience, but I got lost in the woods, a humiliating learning experience that made me late getting back to the Scout barracks. My punishment was extra latrine duty.
Two years later, I was close to reaching the rank of Eagle Scout and was a Patrol Leader in the troop. At summer camp, I danced in the Indian Lore Dance team, and was dubbed “Leaping Panther” by the leader. I was initiated into the Order of the Arrow, and became a blood brother of a blood brother of a chief of the Canadian Blackfoot tribe.
The summer of 1950 was a busy pivotal year. A traveling evangelist came to our church and spoke to the teens. He painted plaques with foliage that read “Prayer Changes Things”, and talked about God in nature. Because of Scouting and my love for being out in the woods, I felt that God was calling me and I decided to accept Christ. I told my folks on the way home, that I was going to be saved, and went forward at the alter call in church soon after.
John Dalzell and I joined a group of boys from our council and went by train from Ionia to Cimmaron Cito New Mexico to Philmont Scout Ranch. I was delighting in my maturing body that enabled me to run faster than anyone in the troop, and hike twenty miles for Hiking Merit Badge. The hike with burro packs through the mountains at Philmont was an exhilarating highpoint experience.
On the last day of the trip, I walked a short way from the ranch headquarters to look at tracks in the clay left by Conestoga wagons of the old West. I climbed up a wire fence to get safely away from a grazing buffalo, which we had been told to avoid. I watched a mosquito bite my arm – couldn’t let go, or drop Mom’s camera, and a mosquito bite was usually insignificant. Not so this time!
Our train trip back home had a stop in Chicago to change trains. There was a delay to get the connecting train, and our chaperone leader, who was inexperienced, gave us a choice – wait two hours for the train, or catch a bus leaving then for the overnight trip to Ionia.
To find out our choice, and the consequences, come back for the post tomorrow. 🙂
Was there a pivotal point in your life that you could share?