From the Farm:
Published in the Casper Journal February 16, 2011
On February 8, 2011, the Boy Scouts of America celebrated its 101st birthday. Although I am not a Boy Scout, or even a boy, I still whole-heartedly celebrate Scouting.
Founded in England by Lord Robert Baden-Powell in 1907, the Scouting program was brought to the United States in 1910 by American journalist William Boyce. Stuck in the London fog one night, he was assisted by a young Scout. Boyce was so impressed with the helpful boy, that he learned more of the English Scouting movement and eventually founded the Boy Scouts of America.
There are not many similarities between the lives of boys in 1910 and the lives of boys in 2011. Boys today are more familiar with computers than camping, Ipods than ice-skating, and the internet than insect identification; yet they still benefit from being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. And, despite shifting world values, the goals of the Boy Scouts of America are still to build character, citizenship and fitness.
Yet the real celebration is that whether or not we are boys or men, or are active in the Scouting organization, the Boy Scouts of America—even the Boy Scouts of Wyoming—have likely touched our lives in a positive way.
In Wyoming, we are direct recipients of Scouting leadership. On February 9, 2010, our own Senator Mike Enzi, an Eagle Scout himself, spoke on the United States Senate floor in honor of the Scouting Centennial. He noted that there are currently eleven Eagle Scouts in the United States Senate.
Eagle Scouts aren’t just news in federal government halls. On January 21st 2011, Wyoming Eagle Scouts gave a report to Governor Matt Mead. They were also introduced on the House floor and in the Senate chambers, where they received a prolonged standing ovation from state legislators.
But more deeply than senate speeches or Eagle Scout reports, our life in Casper has been touched by Scouting. When young men reach the trail to Eagle, Scouting’s highest award, they organize an Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project which must directly benefit their community. In 2010, 94 young men in the Central Wyoming Council achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Fourteen of those boys were from Natrona County. These boys and their projects are making a difference every day.
Boy Scout Paul Ortega, Troop 1060, organized volunteers to improve the Alpine Ski Trail on Casper Mountain. Ethan Sheffield, Troop 1435, made display boxes for the Nicolaysen Art Museum. Cameron Budak, Troop 1167, made improvements at the Putt-Putt Golf Course. Clayton Dexter, Troop 1060, gathered supplies for Healthcare for the Homeless. Perhaps we’ve benefited from Trenton Hoover, Troop 1030, who built a picnic shelter at Fort Caspar Campground, or Nathan Higginson, who made emergency preparedness kits for NOWCAP, or Joseph Zeitner who improved the garden at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center. These Scouts gave a total of 1367 hours of service in Natrona County during 2010. And the list goes on… Even our favorite Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps are a Scouting unit.
Good turns didn’t just happen in 2010. Scouting touched the lives of seven Scout troops of Japanese-American boys, living at Heart Mountain Relocation Camp near Cody in the 1940s. This summer, many of those Japanese-American Boy Scouts, now over 80-years-old, will reconvene to once again raise the United States Flag at the dedication of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center.
The Boy Scouts are not a ‘facility-based’ organization. There isn’t a Scout building where boys go to learn outdoor skills. Rather, Scouts are dependent on community organizations—churches, schools, service clubs—to provide the facility and leaders. Many thanks to the Casper Elks Lodge, the Five Trails Rotary Club, the American Legion, and the many churches and schools who sponsor Scout groups. As a 98% volunteer organization, Scouting depends on good citizens to take an interest in our youth.
Did I mention? I’m not a Boy Scout. But, as a mother I am grateful for Scouting. Last year, my oldest son went to his first, week-long Scout camp. He packed his own back pack. He set up his own tent. He built his own fire. He wrote his own skit. He made his own arrow. He crafted his own cardboard boat. He rowed himself across the lake…and sank. But he grabbed his paddle and swam to safety. He cried. He wanted to come home early. He stuck it out…and came home a different boy. The following week he conducted a Court of Honor, planned a service project, and performed a good turn.
Last week, two of my sons went on a snow campout. Planning, packing, and more planning took place at several troop meetings. On the night of the campout, my boys had enough adrenalin flowing to keep them warm through any freezing weather. They kissed me goodbye, and went out the door with their packs, their snow gear, and their hot cocoa packets.
At home that night by our fire, I was grateful for good Scout leaders willing to go the distance and tough it out with boys who wanted adventure. Thank goodness for Scouting activities which provide productive, moral ways to use their hands and minds.
Founder Baden-Powell said that “Scouting is a game with a purpose.” Scouting’s purposes have always supported my purposes—as a mother and as a citizen of Wyoming. And so, even though I’m a girl, I am grateful for Boy Scouting. I look forward to 100 more years of this inspired program, for my benefit, my children’s benefit, and the benefit of our community, state and nation. Happy 101st Birthday Boy Scouts of America!
Nettie Francis is Editor of The Wyoming Woman Magazine