This past Sunday I was called to work with the 11 year old boys in the scouting program. It is the goal for each of these young scouts to attain the rank of 1st Class prior to their reaching the age of 12; quite a standard and challenge.
I was approached by a member of the Bishopric a week ago; he came by to interview me prior to extending this call. I mentioned how I’d taught that age group in the Primary organization many years ago and that I probably fit in better with 11 year old boys than I do with adults; never having accepted my age.
While being interviewed I remembered my introduction to the Church, my first calling after having been a member only a week or so in September of 1978. Bishop Bruce Nelson asked me to step into his office as he felt around for clues as to how I might fit into what he had in mind.
“Brother Stern, how do you feel about 12 and 13 year old boys?” He asked, probing for a reaction. I pondered his motives only for a few moments, putting my thoughts together on the fly.
“I don’t know what you’ve heard, Bishop; but until they find the body, they can’t prove a thing.” I don’t stay up late thinking these things up; they instantly jump from my tongue and I’m forced to live with what ever leaps out.
Bishop Nelson sat back in his chair taking in what I’d revealed; a broad smile found its way onto his somber face. “You’re going to fit right in.” I was being called as the Deacon’s Quorum advisor with a secondary calling as an Assistant Scoutmaster. I’d never been further than a Cub in the scouting program and had to admit it would be a challenge.
The boys didn’t have much of a scouting program at the time; not much in the way of camping gear either. I managed to obtain items here and there; but they had no reliable means of hauling their stuff around so I began looking for a reasonably priced trailer.
I was assigned to work dayshift as a police officer back then; cruising around town I had the opportunity to be on the look out for the perfect scout trailer. I found a wrecked pickup truck at a salvage yard, one where the front end was a total loss having centered a large tree or light pole at a high rate of speed; but the back half was in excellent condition, perfect for converting into a scout trailer.
The owner of the salvage yard was open to negotiating a fair price. I explained how the group of boys didn’t have much to work with and offered him a hundred dollars.
“A hundred dollars?” He laughed and rolled his eyes upwards for effect, “Heck, (he didn’t use that exact term) I might as well give it to you; a hundred dollars, jezzzzzz! (again, that isn’t exactly what he said)” The man was a poet in vulgarities.
I immediately agreed with him and explained how he could donate the truck to the scouts without charge and write off the donation at almost any reasonable value on his income taxes. Every now and again the old brain kicks in; he agreed and the scouts didn’t have to pay anything for the truck, he even tossed in the use of his wrecker to haul it away so we could get to work on it.
Another church member was a welder and we chopped the front end off, pulled the frame together and welded it to a piece of rectangular steel that also was donated to the scouts. We sold the gas tanks from the wrecked truck along with the front seats which paid for all the other parts we needed. The scout trailer was coming along wonderfully; that is until I went to register it with the State of Texas so we could legally put it on the road.
I took the salvage title that came with the truck with me only to find there was a discrepancy; one number on the title had been recorded improperly as I matched up the only remaining vehicle identification number, the one imprinted on the frame. Long story short; the truck had originally been reported stolen out of Ft. Worth a year earlier, the error in transcription meant the owner never had been advised his truck had been recovered in Houston.
I called the owner and explained what had happened. His insurance company had paid in full and didn’t want the totaled out truck back. I’m sure each of the boys would have been more than willing to serve a portion of the jail sentence for illegally chopping up a stolen vehicle and converting it to a scout trailer had justice been demanded; fair is fair.
I almost forgot, several years after being released from the calling, someone stole the scout trailer from behind the back of the church. All their camping gear, tents, cook stoves and the like were never seen again; I wonder, do these boys need a scout trailer?
This Wednesday will be my first time to meet these young boys, introduce myself and my warped sense of humor as we embark on our journey together; hope they’re ready for it.
The scanned image was from my original scout shirt that’s been tucked away in the closet all these years. I was able to put it on; looked like a green sausage attempting to bust loose as the fabric attempted to cover a slightly older and larger frame. I think a trip to the scout store is in order.
This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.