Friday, October 28th, 2016

Cub Scouts offer lessons for father and son


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Feb 16, 2012; Section:Opinion; Page Number:6A

Cub Scouts offer lessons for father and son


It’s probably not a shock to most of you that I am not a Scouting type of guy. I’m not a fan of the wilderness. I don’t like camping. To me, roughing it is attending an opera with not enough bartenders working the intermissions.

I don’t know anything about woodworking or knot tying. My handyman ability is limited to knowing how to find one on the Internet. I should not be allowed near sharp objects.

However, for my son, Will, it was going to be different. He was going to learn useful skills. He was going to learn to love nature. With any luck, he might even learn how to roast a marshmallow properly.

So in first grade we signed him up for Cub Scouts. “We” meaning the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha, who informed me she did so and that I was going to the meetings.

Local attorney Kelin Olson is my son’s den leader. At our first meeting, Olson said to the parents that we had to attend the meetings but the amount of our involvement was up to us.

The promise of limited parental involvement was not a statement that spoke well of the honesty of the legal profession. Despite that, Will and I have been attending meetings together nearly every week ever since.

We went camping, of course. The first year we went, one of the camp’s directors drove up to where I was setting up the tent. All he said was, “That’s a new tent, ain’t it.” He shook his head and drove away.

I got better at camping, of course, Last summer we even bought a tent in which I could stand up.

Looking like a scene from Robert Altman’s “MASH,” we sat in front of our tents enjoying the sunshine and the cool breeze. The head camp counselor walked by and commented on how we had it made. “You don’t know the half of it,” we told him.

We pointed to a building just down a short hill from our campsite. “That’s where our boys are taking their classes.” We never had to leave our chairs.

For five Waukesha Christmas Parades, the boys have helped build the pack’s parade floats. The first year had a confetti cannon. The second year we built a tank with a moving turret and a confetti cannon. One year we did a beach party theme. The palm trees fired confetti. Then we built Santa’s pinewood derby car. This required adding fire to the “exhaust.”

Last November we constructed a candy cane factory. More fire, more confetti and smoke.

As the floats got more elaborate, the kids got more paint on them. I think the paint might finally be dry on the tank.

The boys had fun fishing, racing pinewood derby cars, hiking and swimming. More important, they became good friends.

My son did end up learning some useful skills. He can make the most amazing disgusting noises with his arm.

Perhaps the boys did learn something about nature, especially the Gila monster (you had to be there). Possibly they even learned a little bit about newspapers when Editor Bill Yorth gave them a tour of the Waukesha Freeman. (He never did answer my question about my actual deadline.)

I do know they learned about patriotism and the importance of the flag. They also learned about duty to family, to their country and to God.

I learned not to underestimate the boys. When pressed into battle, such as a camp relay race or performing a play in front of their fellow Scouts, the boys would inevitably surprise us with their best efforts.

When Will switched schools, his mother and I had to promise him that we would keep him in the same Cub Scout pack. All but one of the Scouts in the den switched schools, too, but the five of them remain together.

This is their last year as Cub Scouts before they move on to Boy Scouts.

All five boys are receiving their Arrow of Light awards this year. That’s not only a tribute to them, it is a tribute to their den leader, whom I proud to call my friend after these five years together.

Thank you Kelin.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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