By Richard Mabey Jr.
In December of 1967, at the age of 14 and in my freshman year of high school, a most wonderful opportunity to grow as a leader came unto me. My cardiologist did not want me to play high school sports, having had a full-year bout with rheumatic fever, just two years ago. So, sports were not in my destiny. But, in December of 1967, I became the Patrol Leader of the infamous Badger Patrol. In many ways, it was a leadership role that deeply changed my life.
My Assistant Patrol Leader was George Y. George lived across the street from me. He was two years younger than me and in the seventh grade. George and I had been good friends for years. There were three other scouts in the Badger Patrol. My cousin Eddie, who lived in the house right next to me. Joey M. who lived diagonally across the street from me. And, Kevin B. who lived right across from my backyard, on Mabey Lane. We were the invincible, we were the one and only, amazing Badger Patrol!
Right away, I gave each scout a job. My cousin Eddie was our Patrol Scribe. Joey was our Patrol Librarian. And, Kevin was our Patrol Quartermaster. George, of course, was our Assistant Patrol Leader, to whom I leaned on to help me with patrol cooking and teaching the other scouts, the basic scouting skills.
It was a grand and glorious time. It was a magical era. The Badger Patrol met every Saturday morning at nine o’clock in the old work shed, on the left-hand side, toward the end of Mabey Lane. The interior of the work shed was about the size of a large living room, maybe a touch bigger. In the middle of the work shed, was a pot belly stove. We would fill it with sticks and thick branches and small pieces of two by fours, to keep warm during our meetings in the winter. We had it made!
The work shed had been the workplace of Mr. Bligh, who had lived at the old Francisco Canal Home, years ago. It was a great place for the Badger Patrol to meet. There were windows on every wall of the work shed. There was a big work bench along the northern wall. There was a big table and eight or nine old chairs. We would all sit in a circle, on the old chairs, Eddie would sit at the table and take notes about our patrol meetings. We thought for sure that we had the tiger by the tail!
We would have a formal meeting for about 10 minutes or so, then we would review scout skills for about a half an hour. Then, we would put our knapsacks on along with our canteens and take a hike down to the old Morris Canal. We would all bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with an apple or an orange and sometimes a couple of cookies. We would have our lunch packed in a brown papar bag in our knapsack, along with our ponchos, in case it rained. It was quiet a big deal to hike down to the old Morris Canal and then walk along the tow path all the way to Beaver Brook Road and then back again.
On the way back from Beaver Brook Road we would all sit on the fallen tree, in the woods near the old tow path of the canal and eat our lunches. It was just a grand and wonderful thing, to eat our lunch in the midst of scurrying squirrels, birds flying above us, rabbits jumping around, frogs croaking on the banks of the canal and from time to time we would see a deer running through the forest. You just cannot acquire that kind of appreciation for nature, from reading a book.
I look back at that magical time, when I was the Patrol Leader of the infamous Badger Patrol, with great fondness. I learned a lot about leadership by serving as a Patrol Leader. With all due respect to the public school system, I learned more about leadership by being a Patrol Leader that year than I learned in my entire freshman year of high school.
I think that scouting still is a golden opportunity for a boy to learn leadership skills. I know that recently scouting has gotten a bad reputation. And, that deeply saddens me. I think that there are a lot of aspects of scouting that need to be revamped. But, still, all in all, it remains to be a good medium for a boy to learn leadership skills.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.