In writing about the 10 boys from Boy Scout Troop 201 who attained Eagle Scout rank, I crunched some numbers.
An estimated four percent of all people involved in scouting advance to attain the organization’s top honor, the rank of Eagle Scout.
“Not a lot of people have this opportunity and actually make Eagle,” Eagle Scout Levi Fry said.
As a boy, I was part of the remaining 96 percent. I didn’t make it to Eagle, I really didn’t make it anywhere close before other interests took precedence in my life and I eventually dropped out of Boy Scouts. However, that’s not to say my time in scouting was not memorable or valuable.
I learned plenty of skills I still use today. I learned how to camp responsibly and about the importance of leaving as little trace as possible behind when I venture out into nature. I learned about conservation, first aid, safety and wilderness survival.
Joseph Van Hoesen, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout from Ozark, shares my fascination with primitive survival skills.
“Outdoor survival in and of itself is pretty interesting, just knowing how to use the land. It’s not something you learn directly through scouting, but it’s something you can grab if you pay attention,” Van Hoesen said.
I’m not at all qualified to go out and live off the land, but I certainly appreciate having a bit of training, and I appreciate the people who can do it.
I’m also really good at packing a bag efficiently for any kind of trip. I learned how to pack light and do more with less wherever I go.
On top of plenty of useful skills, scouting helped me build some relationships.
Scouting is where I also learned the basics of woodworking. More importantly, it’s where I really bonded with my grandfather.
Some of my fondest scouting memories are from my time in Cub Scouts and the time-honored tradition of the Pinewood Derby.
My Grandpa Brown was a woodworker, a retired auto mechanic and a former race car driver. Pinewood Derby preparations became a semi-annual event whenever I visited him or whenever he came to stay with us. While many Cub Scouts built their cars in the month leading up to the night of racing, the Pinewood Derby became a year-round event for Grandpa Brown, and since I was the one who would actually be racing the car, for me.
I think my involvement was just an excuse for him to go wild with ideas in his shop, but I loved it all the same. We spent our time drawing out designs, to scale. Then we went into the shop and brought them to live. We tested our ideas with scrap pieces of wood, but quickly realized that scrap wood just wouldn’t do.
In the days before a man could order whatever he wanted on Amazon and have it shipped to his door in two business days, Grandpa Brown shopped through mail order catalogs. He regularly ordered extra pinewood derby car kits from my Boy Scout magazines. As our racing operation grew more advanced, he ordered the exact drill bits, metal weights and adhesives we needed to build the best five-ounce cars possible.
Yes, I wrote “cars,” as in plural. While most Cub Scouts and their parents, guardians and grandparents built one Pinewood Derby car per year, Grandpa Brown cranked out cars. We lived about a three-and-a-half-hour drive away, but we talked about Pinewood Derby cars on Sunday mornings, burning up long distance phone charges as we went. I mailed him drawings and schematics.
When it actually came time to race, we had to carefully deliberate over which car from our stable would actually compete. Each Cub Scout could only enter one car, but we had more options than longtime NASCAR team owner Roger Penske.
In my final year of Cub Scouts, we ended up building a section of test track. We weren’t choosing our charge on theory anymore. We picked our car through a process of scientific trials.
My Grandpa Brown is gone now, and has been since 2002. I still have a couple of Pinewood Derby trophies tucked away in a closet. I also have a couple of cars. I can’t seem to part with them completely.
The memories I will keep forever.