In my last blog, I talked about my treasured collection of Scout bolo ties and how it survived the Brian Head and Thunder Ridge Fire this past summer. I introduced Scout bolo tie carver extraordinaire, Bill Burch. (Much has been written of Bill Burch, but here is one article that was published by the Deseret News.) We can all be grateful that before his passing on September 25, 2012, Bill passed on his bolo tie legacy, training countless protégés in the art of bolo tie carving. I’m grateful they have continued to carve as Bill did and have even received some of my own bolos from these men— another reason as to why my bolo tie collection is so valuable to me.
The Gary Dollar Bolo Tie
In 2013, I was a part of a group of LDS and Scouting historians who collaborated together to write and create the “Century of Honor” book. This book commemorate the full-century affiliation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America. As that wonderful project came to a close, Mark Francis, Director of LDS/BSA Relations, invited me to celebrate the accomplishment of the project with him and other historians in Salt Lake City. This visit coincided with the semi-annual conference that Mark and other helpers put on each year to help Scouters from all over the country better understand the LDS/BSA relationship.
I mentioned in my last blog how I had met Gary Dollar, Bill Burch’s main protege and carving partner. It was at this Salt Lake City gathering that I saw him again, as he was volunteering at the event as a service missionary. Before seeing Gary at this event, I had already found one of his bolo ties online—and this was an LDS Century of Honor Jamboree Scout, #11,144. I was even more thrilled, when, as I visited with him, Gary promised to make me a cowboy bolo. I have a personal love for anything with the western cowboy theme. I wrote him a reminder note on one of my characteristic 3×5” colored cards from my pocket and he put it into the chest pocket of his suit where, I’m guessing, the card still remains.
The Fireman, the Pipe man and the Country Gentleman
Unfortunately, I don’t have a met-him-in-person story to go along with my bolo ties carved by Guy Nelson. However, the ones I bought online are just as special to me because of their unique characters. From him, I have his fireman (#4040), a stove pipe man (#4583), and what I call a “country gentleman” (#4757). You do have to be more of an investigator to determine which bolos he has made, as Guy does not put his full name but initials only on his carvings.
The Cowboy Bolo Tie
In 2014 I attended a National BSA camp school prior to being the camp director at the Jack Nicol Cub Scout Camp in Colorado. On the course staff was Fred Jepsen, with whom I became acquainted and learned was a bolo tie carver. He told me all about his fascinating bolo-tie making process:
First, he showed me his giant, home-made vinyl apron. This apron has huge open pockets, into which he carves as he watches movies in the living room with his wife. He also showed me how, like Bill Burch, he makes the Aspen rounds and cuts the blocks for the bolos from the rounds. Next, he soaks the blocks in an alcohol solution to “cure” for a while before carving them. Kindly, Fred gave me a cowboy, #9917. Even more generously, he gave me three additional bolos, one for each of my Scouter sons. They even had the right hair colors; black for K.C., blondish/yellow for Rusty and Red for Keith. How fun it was to present these bolo ties to my sons, thanks Fred.
Another Cowboy from Jepsen’s Son
In a conversation with Mark Francis, the man who I was working with in Salt Lake, we were talking about my desire to begin blogging and to publish books. He suggested I contact Justin Jepsen, and when I did I had to ask who his dad was because of the familiarity of his last name. I found out that his father is Fred Jepsen, and that Justin also carves bolos like his dad. Well, I had to have one of his bolos and he agreed to carve me a custom cowboy – in brown and red, #1936.
Bolos from a Close Friend
A few years ago, I saw my friend Jason Reed at our council’s Scout-O-Rama show in west Phoenix. I’ve known Jason for years, serving with him on the district Scout leader training staff. Checking out the booth where he was working, I saw the rack with bolo ties. I asked who the carver was surprised when he said it was him. I didn’t even know that he was a carver, but I guess he was just beginning.
When Jason saw my interest, he offered to give me one of his bolos, letting me pick any one that I wanted. I was pretty pleased to get his train conductor and even more excited when I noted its #10 on the back. Jason lives only two or three blocks from me in Mesa, and has now become my go-to-guy for bolos. All it takes is an e-mail and he soon has it made for me, it’s like having my own custom carver there for my every beckon call.
At some point, when he was feeling especially generous, Jason presented me with a Santa Claus bolo, #264. After that, I began to use Jason to create custom bolos for various occasions, such as carving me a pirate (#594) to go along with our Pirate theme when I was the Camp Director of the Colorado Cub Scout camp. On another occasion he carved me a blue and yellow Mormon Battalion solider to match the colors of a family photo we were having done and to go with my Battalion soldier unifrom, as I belonged to the modern Mormon Battalion commemorative group. This bolo, #623, looks real sharp with my Battalion uniform! Another e-mail the next year got me a knight (#652) for yet another Cub Scout camp theme. (And for just $25 each… such a deal!)
MY “MAC” bolo
Knowing of my love for carved bolo ties, my daughter, Jackie, found a wonderful and unique Christmas gift for me at a garage sale of all places.This was kind of a different bolo from the rest of the collection but it fit all of the parameters of a bolo; it was hand carved (out of gnarly mesquite or juniper wood), and it was a face. There is no number on the back of this old bearded mountain man bolo tie but simply says “By MAC”. I will forever be curious, who is Mac?
The Swedish Chef
My most recent bolo has been a fun one. This spring I had opportunity to attend a giant Mountain Man Rendezvous for the Varsity Scouts of our Mesa, Arizona Scouting district. I was there on staff as a part of an elite group of 18 of the best Dutch oven chefs around. (I think I gained 10 pounds up there as each of these chefs took turns cooking their best stuff for the group.) Anyway, carver, Boyd Thacker, also from Mesa, was at the Rendezvous following in the footsteps of the legendary Bill Burch. He spent his time carving and giving bolos (often in trade) to Mountain Man Scouts, but, he always ate with our Dutch oven chef group, a smart man! Our head chef then commissioned Boyd to carve a “Swedish Chef” bolo tie for each of the 18 chefs of our group. I got his bolo #1317.
It has been real fun to wear the Swedish Chef because this guy has great character recognition. Many folks know and recognize him from “The Muppets”. So, most folks when they see this bolo, smile big and then complement me on it. They’ll say, “I LOVE your Swedish Chef!” And then I smile too!
Well, there you have it! The rest of the story… and all the details of my prized bolo tie collection! You can probably see why the collection could probably not be replaced and why I love it as I do. Scouting, history and traditions… they all seem to go together.
[Side note: If you are a carver or an owner of a Scout bolo tie that you are ready to pass on, I would love to take it off your hands! As often as I wear these bolo ties, any new ones would be most welcome!]