Boy Scout: “I still remember the entire Boy Scout motto. I don’t remember the serial number of my gun in the Army. I don’t remember my locker number in school. But I remember that Boy Scout code.” – Tommy Lasorda, former L.A. Dodgers manager
More daring than his Scouting friends, Verle crawled out onto the shale point high above Lewis and Clark Lake west of Yankton.
The jut-out overlooked a wide expanse of deep blue water, surrounded by steep bluffs and rolling hills that were part of the Missouri River terrain.
As Verle edged closer to the tip of the point, some of us shifted nervously as we watched, probably me in particular since I didn’t like heights. The drop-off from the cliff was probably only 100 feet but from my vantage point, it could have been 1,000.
Verle Kickland coolly began carving his initials, VK, into the rock near the very end of the point. No one else would ever be able to leave his mark farther out.
Boy Scout camp was always a highlight of summer. It was about tenting, campfires, storytelling and exploring some of nature’s most beautiful settings. It was also a time to work on merit badges.
One year, Richard Pickner and I won the canoe race, but it wasn’t at Lewis and Clark Lake. That summer our scoutmaster took us to Lake Shetek, in Murray County in Minnesota. What stands out about Shetek, other than its natural beauty, was that we nearly froze to death.
My sleeping bag just wasn’t made for 30 and 40 degree Minnesota nights, especially in a tent that had no floor and allowed cool drafts. One scout was so uncomfortable that his dad drove up and took him home mid-week. In a word, the nights were miserable but the days made up for them.
Richard was a year ahead of me in school, and bigger and stronger, and I’ll have to give him the credit for winning the canoe competition and picking up a merit badge in the process. But that wasn’t all. We won a canoe paddle, as well, and I’ve sometimes wondered whatever happened to it. Richard must have taken it home, which was fine, since it couldn’t very well have been divided.
I always thought I’d return to that shale point at Lewis and Clark where 60 years ago the Boy Scouts of Chamberlain enjoyed one of summer’s best outings. Then, the camp had only been in operation for a few years. Today it welcomes more than 2,000 Scouts during summer camps on its 400 acres.
Maybe I’ll do it yet. I’d like to see what effect time and weather has had on the initials “VK.”
June 26, 2019