Monday, June 18, 2007

TCC: The Fifth Crumb, Part I

Talk about being in the right place at the right time: that is where I found myself back then. For in 1970: Cassville's Boy Scout Troop 76 was recognized as being the best troop in all of the land (I think).

Yes, to be honest about it: I could be mistaken. For I do remember that we did receive some sort of national attention; but in regards unto it being the best of the best: I am not absolutely sure.

Nonetheless: I cannot imagine being in a better troop. For our Scoutmaster: Charlie Vaughn, was truly a giant amongst men; and this was not just in the eyes of young boys, neither.

Hero worship is one thing; but what I personally felt for Charlie went way beyond that. For I loved him as much as any son could love their own father.

No, my feelings for him were not reciprocated. For he kept me at arms length unto a certain extent; but I still cherish the memories of being around him back then.

Now, to say that I excelled at Scouting would be an understatement. For I made Eagle Scout (the highest rank) on October 10, 1972.

Making Eagle was almost expected in Troop 76 back then. For over 50% of its members made it; but it should not be assumed that making Eagle is not all that hard. For national average is around 5%.

Neither should it be assumed that the Scoutmaster must have been really bending the rules in order to record such a high rate of success. For if anything: the things that Charlie did made the goal even harder to achieve.

Case in point: Raymond Jagger. For he was one of the finest individuals I have ever had the privilege to meet; but he was a poor swimmer. That was a problem. For one must earn both a swimming merit badge and a lifesaving merit badge before they can become an Eagle Scout; and Charlie was reluctant to cut him any slack. Raymond finally made it before he turned 18 (the cut-off point), which added even more unto his legend.

Another example of Charlie doing things his way involves myself. For I was held back from making Eagle for 2 years.

Being held back was something that I was not quite used-to yet; but the reason given did mollify the pain a bit. For my father told me that Charlie had said that the reason why he held me back was because of him not wanting to lose me so soon. For when someone made Eagle: they usually quit Scouting fairly quickly.

Yeah, like that was going to happen anytime soon. For who could be Charlie's shadow any better than me?

Besides: there were still things to do in Scouting; and many were indeed done by the time I finally quit in 1976. For I earned the "God And Country Award"; and I received 3 Gold Eagle Feathers (which are to be attached unto the ribbon portion of the Eagle Scout Medal) for earning 45 additional merit badges (21 are required for Eagle).

I was also tapped (nominated) to become a member of "The Order Of The Arrow", which came as quite a shock. For I do not remember knowing much about it before being tapped to join.

I soon learned the The Order Of The Arrow was an honorary group (not so unlike a college fraternity: minus the wild parties, unfortunately) who held their own meetings and activities separate from regular Boy Scout meetings and activities. The first of their activities that I participated in was a weekend long initiation into the "Ordeal" level of the Order at Camp Arrowhead, near Marshfield, MO (around 70 miles northeast of Cassville).

Come to think about it: it could be said that The Order Of The Arrow has some similarities with Freemasonry. For there are 3 levels unto the Order: Ordeal, Brotherhood, and Vigil Honor; and one must be tapped to reach each level.

A year later (I think): I was tapped to reach the Brotherhood level of the Order; and then things started to get really "interesting". For after completing what was required for joining the Brotherhood ranks: I was asked to serve as Chief of the Order Of The Arrow Chapter that represents the Frontier District (headquartered in Branson) of the Ozark Trails Council (headquartered in Springfield, MO, around 55 miles northeast of Cassville).

Yes, being named Chapter Chief was a very great honor: both for myself and my troop. For I was the first to hold such a high office from Troop 76.

Not very long afterward: things got even more interesting. For I was informed that I had been "elected" First Vice-Chief of The Order Of The Arrow for the Ozark Trails Council.

Again: being named unto an even higher office was a very great honor; but I found it all very strange. For I had not sought to hold either office; and I certainly was not aware of being on any sort of an election ballot!

Around a year later (I think): I was tapped to reach Vigil Honor; and this is when some cracks in my foundation began to show. For after getting into a rather heated dispute with the Council Chief at the time: I resigned from my office, and then I declined to reach the level of Vigil Honor.

Why did I do that??? Quite frankly: I do not know; and this goes above and beyond merely not being able to remember. For I have absolutely no idea about what happened; and I count it as being one of the most bitter of my many regrets.

Later on: I was informed of some news that gave me even more to be bitter about. For I was told by some high officials that I would have been the next Council Chief.

No, not every day as a Boy Scout was a good one for me. In fact: it started out that way. For the first Monday after I reached the minimum age of 11 in 1968: I attended my first meeting of Troop 76 at the Scout House in Cassville with my father; and I was absolutely scared to death.

A classic case of a parent making their child do something that they did not want to do for their own good (in the parent's opinion, of course)? Absolutely not! For I really wanted to be a Boy Scout; but there was a matter of being quite insecure about my physical abilities that had to be overcome.

No, I would not have lasted very long with Troop 76 unless a drastic change took place. For they held outdoor activities at least every 2 months back then.

These activities included several weekend camping trips in Broken Arm Valley (an area owned by Troop 76 around 10 miles northeast of Cassville). There were also a couple of Frontier District Camporees per year, a play weekend at Buzzy Snider's on Flat Creek near The Stackyards (an old logging site around 20 miles east of Cassville and 10 miles north of Shell Knob), and an annual week at Camp Arrowhead.

I was absolutely miserable the first time I spent a week at Camp Arrowhead in the summer of 1969. For on top of being woefully homesick: I was terrified of having to pass swimming and canoeing tests in order to earn merit badges that were needed for advancement in rank; and going to pieces on Thursday night (with camp ending on Saturday) certainly did not help matters much.

My psychotic break came as a result of being told about "The Legend Of Green Hands". Later on: I found-out that it was an old tradition to tell rookie campers about the legend; but it took some time before I could fully appreciate the significance of the occasion.

Just imagine being in a darkened tent late at night hearing about an Indian brave who had his hands chopped-off by the father of the maiden he loved because of how much he disapproved of her seeing him; and as if that was not bad enough: his hands were then buried inside of Soapstone Cave. This cave was, of course, not very far from our encampment; and what made it even worse on me was the date. For according unto the legend: the glowing green hands of the brave would leave the cave to search for a body to attach themselves unto on the fourth day of the fourth week of every month during years when there was an abundance of "4-trees" (trees with limbs shaped like a 4).

Yep, the time for my demise was surely at hand. For it all lined-up; and several 4-trees had been pointed-out to me by older scouts throughout the previous days.

Adding even more unto the drama: one of my worst fears was then realized. For the last thing I wanted to do was to leave the relatively safe confines of that tent; but I had to "go" really bad.

What happened next may still be talked about in certain circles. For I had just stuck my head out of the tent flap when I saw someone coming into camp with half of his face still covered in darkness.

I went absolutely berserk. No, that does not do it justice. For by the time my hysterics subsided somewhat: I had torn down 3 tents; and was heard over a mile away.

No, I never did live that down amongst those who were there; but I eventually came to laugh along with them. For it was just one of those things that happen along the way unto adulthood; and as an added bonus: no one ever messed with me all that much after that.

Yes, my insecurities were gradually overcome; and when the summer of 1971 came around: I felt more excitement about going unto the Philmont Scout Ranch (near Cimarron, NM) than apprehension (or even dread). For a 20 mile hike over mountainous terrain with a 60 pound backpack was little more than a leisurely walk in the park unto me by then.

Alas, I do not have the words to adequately describe what a wonder Philmont was. For from the French Henry Copper Mine near the top of Mount Baldy (where lightning strikes ran along the ground for yards) unto active archaeological digs: it was certainly a sight to see; and I hope that it still is.

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