A couple of years ago, I had a grand opportunity. The LDS Church was celebrating its 100-year celebration of its wonderful partnership with the Boy Scouts of America. Because of my involvement with a writing project about the history of Scouting in the church, I found myself in the LDS Conference Center for the greatest of Scouting celebrations. I watched from up front the pomp and grandeur and was amazed and truly grateful for my Scouting participation through the years.
One hundred years of Scouting in America and in the LDS Church! Wow! What great milestones! And even more surprising (or downright shocking) is that I’ve personally experienced half of those 100 years myself (and I’m not that old).
I joined the Boy Scouts as a Cub Scout when I was eight years old. That was in 1962 in Mesa, Arizona (in the old Mesa Tenth Ward of the local LDS Church). And I’ve been involved and registered as a Scout or Scouter ever since (Another WOW!). In those 48 years of Scouting, I’ve experienced some grand adventures. It’s been a great life.
As a Cub Scout, I proudly wore the blue and gold uniform—even to school (In those days, everyone else was a Cub Scout also—and being such was really cool! It’s still cool in 2016, but we’re a bit more reserved about some things). Cub Scouting was, and is, a family-centered experience. It was mostly at home with my mom and my brothers (and my sister being the one tied up when we learned knot tying) that my first Scouting happened. It was there that we worked on our achievements toward our ranks and our electives for our arrow points.
It was a proud moment indeed when my dad turned me upside down and mom pinned my bobcat pin on my shirt (until I could do a good turn—and rotate the badge properly). That is a tradition that hasn’t changed in fifty years. I earned my Wolf, Bear, and even my Lion badge (and not many people can boast to that! Yes, I even remember when Webelos meant “Wolf, Bear, Lion, Scout”!)
As a Cub Scout, I was a part of a den of Cub Scouts. I had great den leaders like Gay Killian, Joyce Duthie, and others. The monthly pack meetings with their creative themes were a lot of fun. One time I was Santa Claus and others in the pack were the reindeer. Still another time, we dressed as and portrayed famous people. My neighbor put a great beard on me and made me look like Brigham Young. My sisters—and even my brothers, too—were my wives! (They’d love that now!)
As I turned 11, I crossed the bridge as a Webelos (Code: We’ll Be Loyal Scouts) or Arrow of Light—and became a Boy Scout. The immortal Betty Ray was my Blazer or 11-year-old Scout Leader. And boy, was I ever proud of that new green uniform (even with those strange knee socks—and garters!). That opened up a whole new world to me. I was able to go camping and earn merit badges (David Moore took me on my first outing).
I got to go to Camp Geronimo (located northeast of Payson, Arizona, 80 miles north of Mesa, Arizona) I remember my “Gnube” year (“New-bie”) and a sign at the lake about monsters that could/would eat a “gnube”. At Camp Geronimo, we cooked our own troop food, hiked, camped, and had glorious times together in our own traditional Campsite 3—Blackfoot. I remember good times with such troop legends as Scott, Chris, Ron, Mark, Richard, Mike, Brent, Howard, my brother, Dean, and many more Scouting brothers. We proudly yelled, “Troop 155—THE BEST ALIVE!”
I can still remember our rotund Scoutmaster, “Mister [G.K.] Nelson” (also our 7th grade science teacher, who recently died at about age 95!) on the final day of camp. He danced around the campsite spreading oatmeal and singing, “Feed the birdies, … here little birdies.” It was Mr. Nelson who taught me “The Horses Run Around”—still one of my favorite camp songs. I remember the breakfast horseback rides, the campfire programs, the Saturday BBQ, the merit badges, the chilly swimming pool (or was it frozen) and learning another long-time favorite song, “Waddleachee” up on the Mongollon Rim. And I still have hair raise on my neck as I recall the scary legend of the Mongollon Monster.
Those were the greatest of times. I went to Camp Geronimo seven summers—until I went on an LDS Church mission. We also hiked Four Peaks, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the legendary Superstition Mountains.” We made two full-week treks into the northern Arizona Havasupai Canyon. The waterfalls in the desert canyon were beautiful beyond description.
As a Scout, I advanced from Tenderfoot up to Eagle Scout (and even got four Eagle palms for 20 merit badges above Eagle). I was an Explorer (now called “Venturing”). At age 16, Bishop Max Killian called me as the Webelos leader saying, “I know you’re supposed to be 21—but you’re it!” My brother, seven years younger, was one of my Webelos Scouts. Then, with “Scoutmaster Jim” Johnson, we took our entire Scout troop from Arizona to Farragut, Idaho and attended the 1973 National Scout Jamboree with some 35,000 other Scouts. I was one of 50 Priests who gave sacrament trays to the 200 Deacons who passed the sacrament to the crowd of LDS Scouts. I still remember the icy cold showers—with water pumped from the bottom of the lake (and our naked silhouettes visible to the world on the orange plastic shower “walls”— ha, ha!).
Well, now a lot of water has gone over (or under) the bridge … A few things have changed, but much is still the same. We have a new Scout Handbook (the 13th Edition) but the Scouting skills are much the same as in the beginning. The Scout Oath and Law have become engrained in my mind and heart as I continue to strive to live each point daily in my life. I still proudly wear the Scout uniform and love all that it stands for. I also love my Bill Burch neckerchief slides—which have become my trademark (even when not in uniform).
I’ve since grown up and have enjoyed wonderful moments and great outings with yet another generation of Scouts. My own three sons have made their own treks from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout and beyond. And now I find myself with seven grandsons who are in Scouting—and I can’t wait do experience Scouting with them and those behind them. That’s another WOW!
I’ve had the great opportunity to be or serve in almost every adult Scouting position as I’ve strived “to give back to Scouting more than it has given to me” (I’m still hoping someday to fulfill the dream to attend the Philmont Scout Ranch as a participant or instructor at the LDS Relationships Conference …). Even today (though I’m also the stake historian), I’m the advancement chairman of our three Scouting units within the ward. I’m a “3-Bead Woodbadger” (the ultimate in Scout leader training) and can sing, “I used to be a Wood Badger (or Antelope)” with the best of the red-coat (experienced) Scouters. My own son and his wife recently attended the Cub leaders’ equivalent and are on staff for a coming course.
In 1985, I attended a special Church broadcast in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of Scouting—under direction of General Young Men President, Robert L. Backman. In that celebration, we witnessed columns of Eagle Scouts marching with flags through the Tabernacle. I had my own very special vision of Scouting as I saw those same Scouts transformed and marching in white shirts, ties and black name tags as the missionaries they would become.
It was a wonderful privilege to have been a summer camp director—in seven camps through six states. And I’m proud that I’ve been recognized as a Silver Beaver in recognition for years of volunteer service. I treasure my newly completed collection of all past “Scout Handbook” editions.
Recently I had occasion to serve as a volunteer camp commissioner for a week at good old Camp Geronimo (And it is still as wonderful!). I found myself on the road and down the hill from our old campsite 3. I stood there—walking stick (half-carved) in hand and for several moments, I thought back and remembered the good old days with Troop 155. Boy, were those great memories!
I also found myself alone in a quiet spot on a picnic table bench at the new health lodge. I there had full view of the camp, the multitude of majestic pine trees and the Mongollon rim high above me. I marveled and expressed gratitude to the Lord for His beautiful creations. It was, indeed, a glorious time for reflection of many of the experiences I’d had in Scouting in the 50 years since that first “Gnube” summer.
I noted that I’ve sat around a hundred or more campfire circles, seen the same skits a thousand times each (at least), hiked many beautiful and even some ugly mountains, been to a hundred or more court of honor programs … and it has all been grand and wonderful. I have felt the Lord’s spirit through it all .. And I’m a better man for it!
Then I cried openly (glad no one saw me) as I then saw a long line of what seemed a hundred or two Scouts in full “Class A” uniforms—marching with their own troops against the background of the setting sun and proudly waving their own troop and patrol flags as they snaked down from their campsites to the central flag pole for the nightly flag retreat gathering. It was a pretty awesome sight! WOW!
It really hit me … a DOUBLE WOW! Traditions, uniforms, advancement, the influence of the Scout Oath and Law, doing a good turn daily, the character development, citizenship training, physical and mental fitness, the brotherhood of Scouting, and growing from boy to man—and now Grandpa
… from a timid Gnube to confident missionary, husband, father, Scouting leader, and Priesthood holder. That’s what Scouting is really all about. Wow! What a great blessing Scouting has been—from my own Grandfather Ray V. Hunt (a Scout in rural Enterprise, Utah in 1914) to me, my brothers, sons and now onto the next generation with many Scout grandsons. What a legacy! What a heritage! What a great program—truly inspired of God! Over a hundred years and five (or more) generations in the best of the Scouting tradition. Now that’s something to celebrate!
Well, that’s me! I enjoy now becoming a part of your council as a regular blogging contributor. I hope that we can all become good Scouting friends! I hope too, that you will enjoy my articles which I’ll send to you. I would also love to hear back from you. Feel free to write me with your comments and suggestions. You can find me through firstname.lastname@example.org
And with that, let’s get started … on a new Scouting Trails adventure!
Best wishes along your Scouting Trails … Kevin
© Kevin V. Hunt 2016