We shoved off early from Bryant Elementary School. It was the blustery Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and Kate’s doubts about whether many would participate faded as nearly every girl in the troop showed up for the trek to Nebraska City.
It was Girl Scout Troop 1011’s first out-of-town field trip. Kate had spent weeks planning it, and not a single detail was left uncovered by the dutiful troop leader. There were printed directions for drivers and snacks and drinks to be doled out at carefully plotted rest stops. The Tree Adventure at Arbor Day Farm liaison was ready for the girls when we arrived around 11:30 a.m. and spent the next few hours teaching them about the natural world and helping them earn the Wildlife Badge.
The day of fun and discovery won’t soon be forgotten.
It reminded me of my years as a Boy Scout in Troop 223, where I eventually attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Marvin Talcott was the quintessential Scoutmaster. He understood the power of Scouting and led by example, leaving the program’s lessons to be learned and remembered by the boys.
I’ll never forget my first night at scout camp. We were the first campers of the six-session season in Camp Lonestar’s Shosone Campsite at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Mo.
It rained like cats and dogs. Though the water found inroads into even the newest canvas tents, several older boys cleverly guided my tent mate and me – both green first years – toward a seasoned one.
I don’t remember if we got any sleep. What I do recall is rising around 1 a.m. for the long walk to Marvin’s bunk in the leaders’ cabin, where I explained that the tent flaps were blowing in the wind and draining rain onto the tent’s wood plank floor.
“Our stuff’s soaked,” I told him.
In his calm, commanding way, Marvin suggested I find a stick and several good-sized rocks. He told me to take them to the tent and get some rope from my camp box. He explained how to lace the rope through the bottom center eyelets of both tent flaps and tie the other end around the stick. After drawing the flaps away from the tent platform, he told me to anchor the stick with the rocks.
“It’s like a shower curtain in reverse,” he said. “The water runs off the tent onto the ground outside instead of onto the floor by your cot.”
I’ve never forgotten that image. A shower curtain in reverse – I can still see it in my mind.
Nor have I forgotten the lesson. Marvin didn’t come to my aid or fix my problem. He didn’t even get out of his sleeping bag.
What he did do was point me in the right direction. With equal doses of tough love and confidence, he called me to step up to the challenge and solve my problem.
The Girl Scouts returned home from Arbor Day Farm with saplings. The small trees came with tips for planting them in places they would thrive.
As the Beem family prepared to set out its young Colorado blue spruce, I again thought of Marvin. Years ago, my buddies and I in Troop 223 were like the small trees.
I’m grateful Marvin took the time to point the way with expectation and confidence. And I know the girls of Troop 1011 will be grateful for the guidance of Kate and fellow leaders Terri Cook and Sarah Wimberley as they move along life’s path.
Matt Beem is president of Hartsook Companies, an international fundraising consulting firm. He lives in Independence.