Father’s Day Tribute to My Boy Scout Dad
What it Means to Be Raised by a Boy Scout Troop Leader
By Langley Cornwell
My father was a Boy Scout troop leader for more than 30 years. His commitment to the environment and his devotion to young people led him to the Boy Scouts of America organization. It was a perfect fit for his passions. We recycled before it was easy, and we left every place we visited “better than we found it.” During family walks, he stooped to pick up every cigarette butt and candy wrapper on the trail. As a kid, that got a bit dull. But he still takes long walks every day, and he still picks up all the trash on his path — even though the stooping is getting more difficult.
Some time ago, my dad was awarded the Silver Beaver Award by the Boy Scouts of America, a distinguished service award. The award is given to those who implement the Boy Scout program and perform community service through dedication, hard work, self-sacrifice and many years of service. Silver Beaver award recipients are adult leaders who have made an impact on the lives of youth through service given to the council. It was quite an honor for him and a special evening for all of us. It was the first time he was more than just our dad. Actually, it marked the awakening of my real awareness of him as a person, of the special and complex individual he is.
As one of my father’s three children, there were many phrases that shaped us into who we are today. These sayings are not unique to him nor are they original. They are, however, credos we lived by as children. And these pearls of wisdom have served me well as an adult:
“Be prepared” — We really were. Always. My dad was excellent at anticipating our needs and being ready with a practical fix. He was the same way as a Scout Master. As kids, we expected him to have a solution to everything. We watched and learned. As an adult, my career has taken me all over the world. And without fail, I’ve always had what I needed when I needed it.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing” — This was one of his favorites. For us, it was a lesson in enjoying each of the seasons and in finding beauty in all weather conditions and fun in all temperatures. For him, it was an excuse to go hiking or climb a mountain without any concern for the weather forecast. Playing outside was an everyday activity for all of us, regardless of the weather. And I’m still content to walk our dog in the driving rain.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle” — Now a very popular phrase, this one was deeply embedded in us at a young age. Not only did we live simply and recycle obsessively, we reused everything. I mean everything. My husband thinks I’m overboard on this one (and in my more rational moments I know he’s right) but I can’t help myself. It’s in my blood. I just know that you can get multiple uses out of almost everything. As a side note, my brother and my sister are the same way, and our spouses get a big kick out of telling the tales of our latest reuse accomplishments.
“You tied it, you ride it” — This was a scary but very impacting phrase. When we tied our knots before a climb or repel, they had to be right. Obviously, this was a very important lesson in self reliance.
So we were raised knowing whether the moon was waxing or waning, whether the tides were coming in or going out, whether it was going to rain or shine on Wednesday (but as you now know, that didn’t matter!) We knew whether you could drink the water out of a particular stream. We were taught to find the sun to determine if we were traveling east or west. And we always knew we were well loved and cared for (by Dad and by Mom.)
My dad still climbs mountains and repels off overhangs, but it gets more difficult with each passing year. His desire, spirit and sense of adventure will remain rock strong long after his body begins the weakening process that inevitably comes with aging. But he’ll always be our strong Boy Scout Dad.
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