To My Dad and My Troop

Seeing as Father’s Day is upon us, I’d like to make a tribute to my father and to Pack 223 and Troop 223, which played a prominent role in the time we spent together.

My father is an E.R. doctor, so his schedule was far from normal, which made spending time together difficult. But despite the structural reality of his line of work, he always made a strong effort to take me to events, meetings, and go on campouts. 

One event in Cub Scouts was called the Pinewood Derby.  We made cars out of a kit, and then raced them down a ramp with lanes. Out of 99 cars, mine tied for first place, which was quite a thrilling moment for an elementary school kid. I remember my father guiding my hand in painting my #66 Corvette yellow with white stripes, and, along with other knowledgeable scout dads, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Reilly, helped me fasten and lubricate the wheels and adjust the lead weight on the bottom of the car’s body.  The same process would be repeated for my brother’s Pinewood Derby creation, the red and yellow Der Wienerschnitzel, which was the subject of much derision. Sorry, Thomas. (His Spacewood Derby entry, The Hanging Chad, was later at the center of political controversy, as it was flown soon after the Florida Recount. But I digress).

My time in Cub Scouts, from Tiger to Webelos, was a time in which my father guided me closely while letting me make mistakes. The Corvette, after all, was a second attempt at car building. The year before, my vomit green monstrosity looked like a descendent of the AMC Gremlin, and performed even worse than it looked.  My father helped me to improve from that fiasco.

Accompanying the Pinewood Derby was a cake-baking contest with equally fierce competition. Our cake, in the shape of my legendary Corvette, won us the coveted wooden cooking spoon, which would be forever displayed proudly in our kitchen. That kitchen, it must be said, took quite a beating after we were done baking. Mom laughed when she saw the mess.

Moving from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, I took on new responsibility and challenges. I became Patrol Leader of the Bruins, and later was elected a Senior Patrol Leader of the 100-scout troop. Over the next few years, our troop went on several backpacking trips, two of them ten day expeditions.  My dad was able to travel with us to the Sierra Nevada, and he thoroughly enjoyed the isolation of the wilderness, the rugged beauty of the mountains, and the company of his son. As an Assistant Scoutmaster, and had attended camping trips numerous times, but backpacking for ten days was particularly strenuous for him. In his fifties, he was the slowest one, but that wasn’t a big deal. After all, he was there, experiencing it with me, and he took it all in stride. He always laughed about how disgusted we were with his pee-bag that he kept in his tent, and later dried on a branch outside. “It was cold out, and I had to go,” he insisted. 

My father still wasn’t done after I got my Eagle in 2005. He continued with my brother, until he got his Eagle in 2009. I thank God everyday that He gave me a dad that has paid so close attention to our development, made the wise decision to put us in Scouts, and was involved in that organization. 

Special thanks to Mr. Lanning, our scoutmaster; to Mr. Frost, Mr. Cohen, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Reilly, and all other Troop 223 ASMs that were the life-blood of the organization; to all my lifelong friends made while enduring great hardships; to Cub Scout Pack 223 and Boy Scout Troop 223 of Pacific Palisades, California; to St. Matthew’s Parish; and finally to you, dad. Happy Father’s Day.