Sunday, June 12, 2011

"To Norm; Magic Carpet Chauffeur"

Good Morning Folks,

Does anyone know any Boy Scouts anymore?  Any Explorer Scouts?  Do they still go camping or do they all meet at a lodge and play video games? 

When I was a kid, and became elgible to join the Boy Scouts, I joined Troop 395 in Selma, California.  Our scoutmaster was named Norm...and this fine man would open up new vistas of experience to kids whose world was pitfully narrow and defined. 

Fortunately for us, Norm was a "happy camper"; he loved to go camping and didn't mind carting around a dozen or more of us with him.  He liked our company and we liked his as well.  Yeah sure, to us old Norm was probably a little nerdy.  He used to recant stories and loved to re-cast his voice in all manner of "character accents" in tellng them.  Most of his stories weren't really that funny but we'd laugh anyway because we liked him...and because he put up with far more unpleasantries from us.

As I recall, Norm started out driving us to camping sites in an old station wagon but, as the popularity of our campouts grew, Norm somehow commandeered an old Volkswagon Bus and a couple of other adults to meet the increased camper demand. 

I guess what we liked most about Norm is that he neither coddled us nor ignored us; we were expected to pitch our own tents, set up our camp, see to our own food and clothing requirements and behave ourselves, at least to minimally accepted degrees.  Norm did not try to be "one of the kids" nor was he a stuffy "adult" type; just a pleasant balance of the two.

And what adventures we took with Norm and that old VW bus!  While the other troop scoutmasters deigned to go camping a couple of times a year, Norm had us out on outings at least every month.  We travelled to Santa Cruz and explored the caves at Hollister and the San Andres fault.  We travelled high into the heights of Mineral King longed before it was well visited and marvelled at crystal clear lakes, hiked steep trails while bears pawed through the back packs of anyone stupid enough to bring chocolate and open food packs with them!  We ventured into the snow-packed Sequoia National Forest, got stuck in the snow, walked a couple of miles in hip deep snow to a cabin reserved for us, only to find all the windows broken, the cabin vandalized and where we all spent one freezing night awake and trying to stay alive in zipped sleeping bags, before hiking out again the next morning. 

During other campouts we made our camps beside swift flowing clear waters, bathed quickly amidst schools of rainbow trout in frigid water and loved every minute of it.

As we grew older it soon became evident that our "Boy Scout" days were nearing an end.  But, thanks to Norm, we were such a tight group that we didn't want to break the circle of unity and friendship that had developed with our troop.  We then decided to form an Explorer Post to continue our good times and we had many more adventures with Norm through our high school years.

Norm now resides with "The Great Master of All Scouts".  I just wanted to honor him here...hope all today's Scouts are lucky enough to have a "Magic Carpet Chauffeur" like our Norm.

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