As I walked around the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery last weekend for the wreath-retrieval ceremony, I saw a plume of smoke rising from the distance.
I didn’t think anything of it until I came across some of the leadership for Cub Scout Pack 251, who told me that the Scouts were retiring some American flags on a hill in the cemetery.
I wrapped up what I was doing for the wreaths event and I ventured up the hill.
I must admit, whenever I get a chance to speak with Scouts or Scout leaders, I quite enjoy it. See, when I was a whipper-snapper, I was a Boy Scout. I remember being in the Scouts from a young Lion Cub in kindergarten, to finishing as a Star Scout. No, I am not an Eagle Scout. An unfortunate event forced me to become complacent toward the end of my time in Scouts.
But any time I interact with Scouts, it brings back memories of my time in the organization.
Every time I think about Scouting, I think about the memories from the weeklong summer camp I always took part in. When I grew up in Iowa, the Scout camp I went to was called Mitigwa Scout Reservation, also known as Camp Mitigwa. It was only a few miles outside of the town where I grew up, so it didn’t take long to get there.
Back in 2018, one of my cousins and I hiked around the old stomping grounds for a day. The camp director told us once Mitigwa campers, always Mitigwa campers. He let us alone and trusted we wouldn’t hurt ourselves.
As we approached the flag poles near the mess hall, the memories came flooding in about the camp songs we had sung.
There are a couple that still stick with me to this day.
Granted, without knowing the tune, it will be difficult to understand the “rah-rah” of the songs, but they went like this.
The Mitigwa Fight Song Chorus: “I’m Mitigwa born and Mitigwa bred and when I die, I’ll be ... Mitigwa DEAD! So RAH-RAH Mitigwa-tigwa, RAH-RAH Mitigwa-tigwa, RAH-RAH Mitigwa! RAE-RAH-RAE.”
I do not recall the name of the other song, but it goes a little something like: “(Insert number) more days of vacation, (insert number) more days and we’re through. It’s back to civilization. The bus will carry us through. No more beans and no more spuds. No more washing our own dirty duds. (Insert number) more days of vacation. The bus will carry us through.”
Speaking of the mess hall, another one of my fondest memories involves an opportunity we all had to pie a camp counselor in the face. I always aspired to that, though it never happened.
To be afforded the opportunity, we Scouts had to write a trivia question and put it on the board in the mess hall. Every lunch, one of the trivia questions would be selected and the Scout who wrote it had a chance to ask it. If the Scout stumped the counselor, he had a choice of consequences for a counselor of his choice. Though there were other options, everyone chose to pie one in the face.
One summer, we had a Scout, Sean O’Neal, have his trivia question selected. His question was for the counselors to correctly identify the shape of a Pringles potato chip.
It could be that the question was too technical that the judging counselor awarded the counselors with the correct answer, even though they did not guess it technically correctly. To this day, I think Sean got hosed from his opportunity to pie a counselor in the face.
For the record, the correct answer is hyperbolic paraboloid. Sean was kind of a “whiz kid,” so it didn’t surprise me that his question may have been too technical for the counselors.
Every year, I submitted a question, but every year, I got passed over.
I suppose that taught me a lesson about patience and not always getting what you want.
Another valuable lesson I learned in the mess hall was “You kill it, you fill it.” If you are the one who uses the last bit of peanut butter or jelly, you go to the serving window and get more.
On a serious note, the flag poles by the mess hall were where we heard about a couple of breaking news stories while at camp.
In 1999, counselors broke the news of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s fatal plane crash. The son and namesake of the former U.S. President John F. Kennedy died when the light aircraft he was flying crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on July 16 that year.
Three years later, counselors broke the news to us of one of the most controversial endings of an MLB All-Star Game.
The 2002 installment of the game ended in a 7-7 tie after 11 innings. Being a baseball fan, I found that maddening. How could a baseball game end in a tie?
According to reports, others felt the same way. Reports say the crowd booed and threw beer bottles onto the field, and the media were highly critical of the ending when Commissioner Bud Selig announced the game was over.
Now that I think about it, a lot of my memories revolve around flag poles and food. I’m not sure of the connection, but it is mostly to say that for those who are in Scouts, cherish the time you’re in it.
The time goes fast, but there will be things that will stick with you for the rest of your life.