Article byPosted Featured Authorin 2016
When I agreed to volunteer as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Contingent Troop 4109 of the Andrew Jackson Council, I really had no idea what I was in for. I like attending the weekend and summer campouts with my son and I figured this would be just that, but on a bigger scale. Boy, was it.
The Boy Scouts of America have been having national gatherings since the 1930s. In fact, the first one scheduled in 1935 on the Mall in Washington, DC had to be cancelled due to a polio outbreak. They typically have been held every four years in varying locations. In 2013, the first Jamboree was held at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve adjacent to West Virginia’s New River Gorge National River area. This amazing facility was donated and constructed with the sole purpose of hosting Boy Scouts. That was where we headed in late July of this year.
For Jamborees, Scouts are arranged into Contingent Troops. This is a collection of scouts and leaders from varying local troops in a local council. Our contingent troop was 4109 and had almost 40 scouts from Jackson, Clinton, Brandon, Madison, Natchez and Forest. Four adult leaders were in charge of herding these crazy cats.
We literally were dropped off at a campsite with several huge boxes of camping equipment. There were 6 campsite areas — each one home to almost 7,000 scouts. That’s right — OVER 42,000 CAMPERS. We slept in tents. Cooked on propane stoves. And took “ambient temperature” showers (interpreted — NO HEAT). It was amazing to see how organized everything was. Everyone got fed. The shower houses were cleaned (also by the boys).
Every day, we got up around 6 am. The boys cooked breakfast. And then they were off on their own to engage in a wide variety of activities. During my 10 days there, I got to: hike to the top of a mountain, watch my son skateboard in the largest skate park in North America, shoot skeet and rifles off of a mountain ridge, SCUBA dive (yes — with a tank and everything in a giant pool), hear two gold album rock bands play, and see a Coast Guard marine rescue operation. I also saw the medical helicopter take off and land about 4 times a day from the med center that was behind our campsite. Active boys result in lots of fractures, heat stroke, cuts and various injuries. Thankfully, the most our Troop saw was a chronic bloody nose.
The boys also were required to do one day of service. We bussed to a troubled high school in Charleston where the troop did plenty of painting and other general maintenance. The principal was astounded at their cheerfulness and willingness to work. It made this lawyer feel good to actually work on something that shows immediate results.
And yes — we were visited by the President. Politics aside (and I could give you an earful), it was a big thrill for the scouts to see a seated President and several cabinet members live. It did take us almost 4 hours in line to get through the metal detectors, but I think I can accurately say that they were all part of some sort of historical moment.
After a 13 hour bus ride back to Jackson and several consecutive hot showers, I reflected on the trip. It was encouraging to see so many scouts and volunteers all come together from around the country and the world to enjoy being outside and being active. My son had a blast and got to experience some things that I would have killed to do at 13. It also reminded me that as a lawyer, we often come up with excuses as to why we can’t volunteer with our kids and our community. I had numerous colleagues tell me that I was crazy to take two weeks off completely. I’m sure my firm didn’t dig it either. But in the end, I suspect that I will look back on that time as a much fonder memory than billing hours and taking summer depositions. We all need to remind ourselves that the legal world can survive without us — even for two weeks.