Thoughts on the Klondike Derby

The Cherokee District of the Boy Scouts held its annual Klondike Derby this weekend.  This is one of the three district-wide camporees where all the troops in Southeast Missouri get together to camp, get acquainted, and have fun competing in activities using their Scout skills.  The Klondike is always held in the winter (hence the name) and usually has a theme related to our last frontier in Alaska.  It’s always cold, anyway.  This year there was an emergency-preparedness theme, and visits from first-responders helped liven up the day for the boys.

As Assistant District Commissioner, this is a good opportunity for me to visit with a lot of unit leaders in one place and a fun atmosphere.  I had my clinical duties in the morning, but managed to get up to Benton, Missouri before supper-time.  Boys and their leaders were cooking everything from steaks to lasagna, with many varieties of chili on the fire.  While being thrifty is one of the points of the Scout Law, everybody cooks too much food, so a visitor to the campfire is not likely to go hungry.  You just don’t want to watch the cooking process too closely — you might lose your nerve (if not your appetite) before supper-time.

Like the titular character in "The Cremation of Sam McGee" (by Robert W. Service), I hate being cold.  Since I don’t have a troop of boys, I didn’t stay the night to sleep on the cold,cold ground.  I did stay for all the campfire festivities.  In the last two years, I have recited/performed Sam McGee’s story at the campfire.  This year it was time for a change.

Back in the seventies when I graduated high school, it was not uncommon for people my age to be at loose ends rather than pursuing an education or career.  The popular euphemistic explanation was "I need to find myself."  To which I always replied, "Why don’t you  look in a nicer place?"   You may not be sure what your life’s work is, but why not do something worthwhile until you decide?

This translates in some degree to the poem I delivered at last night’s campfire: "The Call of the Wild" (also by Service).    Perhaps you’ve climbed a mountain, hiked into the woods, or spent the night on river.  At any rate, you have traveled under your own power to a place where people cannot drive their cars.  Listen though you will, you don’t hear any traffic noises.  Look up at the night sky and see no reflection of city lights.  When you hike to a place remote and unknown, you see the world and your life from a new perpective.  This is worth doing.  You will see things worth seeing and think things worth knowing.

"Have you seen God in his splendors, heard the text that nature renders? 

(You’ll never hear it in the family pew). 

The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things. 

Listen to the wild: it’s calling you."

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