Boy Scouts of America

Brent Vermilion was one Rusty Bucket. I gave him a polished rock and the Rusty Bucket Award for having spent an entire week at Camp Geronimo not having gotten wet once. This was a boy who daily pledged to be "Trust-worthy, loyal, helpful, courteous and kind..." and so on. Clean is in the Boy Scout Pledge but way too far down the list to matter to most young boys. Brent was the color of rust.

Lloyd Pack's son Aaron grew up, Lloyd resigned and Troop 401 was leaderless. Drafted, I was Scoutmaster for several years. Sergeant Aaron Pack was killed February 23, 1991 in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. Militarism has always been one of my problems with Scouting.

The troop I belonged to as a boy marched everywhere and was very militaristic -- the uniforms do have a military air and scouting does teach outdoorsmanship and leadership. The nightmare of my scouts in combat woke me more than once. Troop 401 was as unmilitary as a troop could be. We were the kings of hiking and camping with an outing every month.

Camp Geronimo was the annual eight day culmination of each year of fun. Getting parents to help was at first impossible. The first year only Assistant Scoutmaster Bill Martins came to camp to spell me. My Father had died less than a month before and there was business I had to attend to at home making it impossible to stay the entire eight days.

Being master of the scouts only works well when a troop is governed by a committee of parents and led by a competent chairman -- it's impossible for one man to be both the up-front leader and handler of administrative details.

Pete Ambelang, Chairman

Thanks to Pete in later years fathers would fight for the opportunity and one night there were seven of us snoring together in the leadership shack. We awoke to a scream at 4:30 in the morning as a several inches long centipede crawled up Phil Meadow's leg.

Bill Martins was an interesting man with a long full red beard and a piquant concept of "on-time". He would leave home at 7:15 O'clock for a 7:00 meeting but was the bookkeeper every Scoutmaster prays for. Each year I checked into Camp Geronimo behind scoutmasters forced to write personal checks to cover the balance due: A troop can't check in until all fees are paid in full. Troop 401's books always balanced to the penny. Bill became suddenly ill Thanksgiving Day 1989, sank into a coma and died four days later.

But back to camp. It was at camp that indelible images were etched. I will never forget Byron Dombrowski teasing wasps with a stick then crying when he got stung. One year one of my boys cut a huge pile of branches to produce a wilderness shelter: Cutting ONE branch was a capital offense -- it was miracle none of the inspectors noticed. But all my scouts eventually made a legal wilderness shelter and slept in it overnight because that was the last thing they had to do to receive their Wilderness Survival Merit Badge. Imagine five boys asleep under a tree curled up together like puppies.

Then there was the Kangaroo Court. I should have suspected something when the troop left the mess hall early and ran all the way back to camp as I sat long enough to drink a cup of coffee with a fellow scoutmaster (It's refreshing to speak to an adult after being confined for several days with 20 or more pre-pubescent squeaky-voiced boys).

Anyway, I walked into camp to find the senior boys, who we referred to as the Leadership Corps, had everyone organized into a kangaroo court complete with judge, a defendant, a plaintiff and their attorneys, witnesses and a jury. Assuming the role of Chief Justice I immediately called an adjournment to my chambers behind the leadership shack to find out what the hell was going on. One of the less popular boys had splashed some mud on another boy's uniform. I threw out the case and threatening to send the entire Leadership Corps home.

Wild Indians dragged me away from the campfire one night and inducted me into The Order of the Arrow. It was the first year my son was old enough to come to camp and the Indians who captured me looked real to 11 year old Eirean. He cried because he was sure the induction process was going to involve people shooting arrows and he figured I was too old and slow to duck.

Then there were the annual Geronimo Olympics which always kicked-off with a Scoutmaster Splash from the high dive into the deep end of the pool. Judges rated each dive in terms of audaciousness and height of splash. I can't remember my score but I was the only Scoutmaster to jump in wearing my full uniform. That was the only time I went home with a washed uniform.

Eirean lost interest in Boy Scouting and I resigned after I found the right man (Jerre Shipp) to take over the helm. I recently reminisced with Pete Ambelang. My thought was that while Boy Scouting was good for boys it was me who gained most from the experience. Pete's response,

"If that's the case
I'm a real close second."

Phillip Clayton Meadows:
Husband, father, friend and role model