Diary of a Scout Leader: The Challenge of Leadership

By Richard Mabey Jr.

In January of 1971, at the age of 17 and in my senior year at Boonton High School, a most grand and glorious challenge of leadership came to me. I was chosen by the Committee of Boy Scout Troop 170 to be the Captain of the Senior Klondike Derby Team. This was a great privilege, but with it came immense responsibility.

This is a photo of the 1971 Boy Scout Klondike Derby patch. I have kept it all these years.

The Senior Klondike Derby for the Boonton District was held the first Sunday after New Year’s Day. It followed the Junior Klondike Derby, which was held on the Saturday before. In order to compete in the Senior Klondike Derby, a scout had to be at least 14 years old. The trail, the scout knowledge tests, the competitions were much more difficult than those of the Junior Klondike Derby.

Both, the Junior and Senior Klondike Derbies were held at Camp Allamuchy. The rocky terrain, the mountains, the woods, the ledge trail high above the lake, made Camp Allamuchy an ideal location for a grand and glorious Klondike Derby. A true memorable event for a scout!

Each scout troop, of the Boonton District, usually had Klondike teams competing in both, the Junior and Senior Klondike competitions. The scouts would pull a full-sized Klondike sled along a trail that was about six miles in length, throughout the rugged terrain of Camp Allamuchy. Most teams consisted of seven scouts; six scouts pulling the sled and then the Captain would run behind the Klondike sled and would help steer the sled along the trail.

There were usually 10 towns along this six-mile trail. Some years there would be less, some years there would be more towns. Each town specialized in a specific scouting skill, such as: map reading, botany, first-aid, lashing and knot-tying, constellations, bow and arrow fire building, scouting history, camping knowledge and other scouting skills. The towns would have names of the old Alaskan Gold Rush towns. Names like Skagway, Cooper Landing, Coldfoot, Trapper Creek, Yukatat, Gilemore, Moose Pass and Melozitna.

I wish I could say that I was overflowing with confidence that early, early morning, when I held the handle of Troop 170’s Klondike sled. But nothing could be further from the truth. Inwardly, I trembled. As I awaited the cap gun start of the big Klondike Derby race against about 20 other scout troop Klondike teams, my heart pounded like a big bass drum. The long six-mile race along the rugged trail would be extremely grueling and demanding. The tests and projects that the mayors of the towns would present to my team, would be cutting-edge difficult. And, it all rested on my shoulders. The buck stopped at the steering handle in the back of the sled, that I held onto.

It was a most amazing thing. That year, I led Troop 170’s Senior Klondike Team to win a third-place plaque. It gave me such a boost of confidence in my hidden and dormant leadership skills. It was by no means, easy. In fact, the task was incredibly tough. Snow covered Camp Allamuchy that year, the wind howled and it was bitter cold. But we saw it through and out of the 20, or more, Senior Klondike Teams, Troop 170 took third place.

I remember being scared out of my mind that early morning, standing behind the old Klondike sled. Inwardly, I trembled like a leaf in autumn, just hanging onto the twig of a tree. I had to dig deep, deep within myself to find the strength, the courage, the where-with-all to take command and lead my team to win a plaque.

When you are faced with a challenge that seems insurmountable. When you find yourself trembling at the thought of whether or not you can lead the group to victory. When you find yourself questioning your talents and abilities, dig deep within yourself. Find your inborn greatness that the good Lord provided you with. Know that if you put your mind to it, you can do amazing and great things. For if we simply hold the faith of a mustard seed…

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com.



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