This week is National Boy Scout Week.
Last week in the Salt Lake papers a Boy Scout from Ogden was featured having earned all 121 merit badges offered by the BSA. What an accomplishment for one so young. Reading his story brought back a flood of memories.
Forty-three years ago, I became a member of Boy Scout Troop 314 in the Monticello 2nd Ward of the LDS Church. Daryle Redd was bishop and Corlis Chapman and Lloyd Barton were the scoutmasters. Little did I realize at the time what my experiences in scouting would eventually mean to me.
When I was a scout, 21 merit badges were required to become an Eagle Scout. No one in Monticello had ever attained that rank. Karl R. Lyman lived in Monticello at the time and was an Eagle Scout, but he had earned the honor while growing up in Blanding.
One of the principal reasons for the dearth of Eagle Scouts in Monticello was the fact that two of the required merit badges (swimming and life saving) were two of the most difficult merit badges to earn. Until Monticello’s swimming pool was completed the only places to learn to swim and save lives were muddy, algae-filled stock watering ponds, or long trips out of town to a swimming pool..
We didn’t go to summer camps or have merit badge pow-wows where everything is provided with on-site counselors like they have now. My mother was unwilling to earn the badges for me, so it was my challenge. I had to prepare and then call and make an appointment with the assigned merit badge counselor, which was difficult for me to do at that age.
For example, Bennion Redd was the physical fitness merit badge counselor in the l950’s. When I was prepared, I made an appointment and met him at his law office. He was attentive and thorough with each requirment. The last one on the list was to demonstrate the ability to run a mile in a given time. I knew I could do it and I expected him to just ask me if I could, and sign the statement of completion.
To my surprise, when we got to the running requirement he asked me if I was ready to go run the mile. He took a stopwatch out of his drawer and said, “Well, lets go see how fast you can run it.”
We went out, got in his car, drove up to where the high school football field is today, which was a cow pasture in those days. Bennion stepped off an eighth of a mile and marked it with a marker at each end. Then he told me to run back and forth four times and as I did he yelled my quarter mile times. I was soaked with sweat, and near death when I finished. Bennion was impressed with my time, but it was probably about then that I developed an aversion for distance running that has lasted a lifetime.
The new swimming pool in Monticello was completed about that time and with the encouragement of Corlis and Lloyd, I became the first boy to grow up in Monticello to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
Those wonderful scoutmasters made a very big deal about their first little fledgling Eagle. My court of honor was announced from the pulpit in church the week before. They arranged for Floyd Loveridge, who was the Director of the National Parks Council headquartered in Provo, to drive down to be the featured speaker. The chapel was filled and I got the biggest write-up of my life in the San Juan Record at age 15.
I stayed on after I should have gone into the Explorer program to be the senior patrol leader for Corlis and Lloyd. It didn’t take much persuasion to get me to stay. At least once a month, Lloyd would throw us all in the back of his old orange Chevrolet pickup, which had high steel rails for hauling cattle. We would all climb as high as we could and hoot and holler and throw rocks at road signs on our way to our camping spot. That none of us were killed falling off that rack was the miracle of the l950’s. But, oh my, the fun we had!
Members of troop 314 that I remember best were Rye and Grant Nielson, Craig Young, Noel Stewart, Billy and John Gresko, Clifton Rasmussen, Mike Somerville, Keith Himmelberger, Larry Perkins, John Rowley and David White. We rolled enough rocks off cliffs, burned enough tumbleweeds, and committed enough minor environmental crimes to give today’s tree huggers terminal heartburn.
It was those four years and the many scout trips we took in the country that instilled in me the love I have today for this magnificent place we call San Juan.
A few years after moving away from Monticello, Corlis Chapman was fighting a forest fire and was killed when a boulder rolled down the mountain and hit him. His passing, and later Lloyd’s sudden death both affected me as profoundly as if they had been members of my own family.
Sometimes it takes a generation or two to realize how powerful the examples of men like my scoutmasters were. My respect and love for Corlis Chapman and Lloyd Barton grows exponentially with age. Their influence in my life is immeasurable. What a reunion we are going to have some day in that great scout camp in the sky.