Archive for June, 2014


Philmont Wagon 1984

Philmont!  I attended a week long session at the Philmont Training Center (PTC) this month and on the way back from the trip to New Mexico Bob and I looked at the pictures I had taken of my trip to the facility in 1984, which also happened to be the first time I visited Philmont Scout Ranch. It was interesting to see what had changed over the last three decades, and also what had stayed the same. If you have been to the ranch a few times over the decades you will know what I mean.

I thought those of you who have been to training center years ago might enjoy seeing this slideshow of my 1984 trip posted to the Melrose Scout Productions Podcast. Even those of you who have been there recently will enjoy seeing the new buildings and other changes to both the training center and the base camp from which the Boy Scouts leave on their 12 day treks into the backcountry. You will notice that one of the biggest and best changes has been the new Welcome Center at the base camp.

By the way, three of the songs used in the video are song by members of the Philmont staff over thirty years ago. They are from a cassette tape I bought in 1984 at the base camp trading post. The album is called Philsongs: Remembered Days. I checked the store this month and did not see this available to buy anymore, is cassette or cd formats. I converted the cassette to mp3′s several years ago so I could listen to the songs on my iPod.

Video Information: 640×360, time 10:31, 108.9 MB. m4v format.

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    Philmont Sunset 0871aA few things came to mind as I took a late evening walk around Melrose tonight that was different from taking a walk at Philmont Scout Ranch:
    1) It is a lot more humid in Minnesota then it is in New Mexico.
    2) It stays lighter about an hour later in central Minnesota than it does at Philmont.
    3) There are a lot more mosquitoes in Minnesota than Philmont, which reminds me that MN is where skeeters are raised and then exported to the rest of the country.
    4) There is a lot more traffic in Melrose than at Philmont Scout ranch.
    5) I already miss those late night Philmont walks with Scouting friends that would take us to the Base Camp trading post for an ice cream cone before heading back to PTC.

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      PTCdeerWell, the week is now a part of history. Last week I spent my vacation at the Philmont Training Center at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It was awesome! Sunny every day. Not a drop of rain. Great Scouters and instructors everywhere. And only one mosquito bit me. (Several dozen would bite me during a weekend outing in Minnesota.) And to top it off, I actually learned a few things about advancement, which is saying something after spending 30 years as a scoutmaster.

      The food was fantastic. I had lost 25 pounds before going to Philmont, from 193 to 168. Yes, I hit my goal, but I knew that going on vacation to PTC it would be hard to keep up the diet. So I didn’t. The food prepared in the dining hall by the PTC staff was great. I never went away hungry. If you did not like the main course, you could fix something at the hot bar. If that did not meet your taste buds you could always fix yourself a salad or a sandwich of your choice. And if those did not suit your mood, well, fix yourself a bowl of cereal. I was a little worried when I stepped on the scale this morning. I guess all that walking while at PTC paid off. I only gained  four pounds back. I should have that gone by the end of next week or sooner.

      My camera and iPad were busy during the trip. I usually took a few hundred photos when I was at Philmont in the past. I really outdid myself this year thanks to digital technology. In fact, I set a record not only for my trips to Philmont, but for any vacation I have ever taken. I have 907 photos of the trip between the two cameras. I also have 33 videos taken of various events through the week, including a talk given to my my class by  the National Commissioner Tico Perez. Photos and videos came to over 14 GB. Do you think I might have overdone it a bit?

      Yep, it was a great trip, made better by sharing it with Bob, my district executive from the Central Minnesota Council. Keep a watch on this blog during the next few weeks as I share more stories, photos, and videos from the trip.

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        PhilmontPTCpatrol1984My first trip to the Philmont Training Center (PTC) was shortly before my 24th birthday in 1984. It was my first trip on a plane. It was my first trip away from Minnesota on my own. In fact, it was my first trip anywhere on my own. Yes, I was quite nervous. Was it worth it? Yeah sure, you betcha!

        That training course was “Boy Scout Skills For Scoutmasters”. Scoutmasters from around the country came to learn about doing a great job in the role they held. The instructors were Carl Nelson and Jim Boeger. They did a fantastic job of leading the conference and made it both fun and enjoyable. I was even able to get Jim Boeger to sign a copy of his book The Scoutmaster.

        The course participants were divided into patrols, just like a Boy Scout troop. I was a member of the Daniel Boone Patrol. I think the age of the members of our patrol spanned forty years, but it did not matter. We were all there to learn new skills and have fun. And we did. (pictures of this trip can be seen in my Flickr album at
        https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevejb68/sets/72157622517598000/

        It will be thirty years to the month, this month, when I travel to PTC for a second training conference. Bob, my district executive, and I will be taking a new course for 2014, “Increasing Advancement By Delivering Excellence”. According to the brochure:

        It has long been said in the BSA that the best advancement comes through participation in exciting activities. Units presenting programs with “built-in” opportunities to fulfill advancement requirements not only retain youth through the rewards of recognition and develop confidence through advancement, but they retain youth because every meeting, every outing, every adventure, leaves them wanting more. How is such programming planned and promoted? What is the responsibility of the council and district advancement committees? What can commissioners, trainers, and members of camping committees do? If you are a unit leader, a volunteer involved in the advancement program, a commissioner, a trainer, or anyone else connected with district operations that is interested in building the rate of advancement through excellence in program delivery, then join us at Philmont!

        Bob and I are looking forward to this conference and bringing back new ideas for our troops and district. I also look forward to meeting Scouters from around the country. I hope to get a little patch trading done while I am there. I was not prepared for trading council strips when I first attended in 1984. In fact, now that I think about it, things could be a bit different this time around. After all, in 1984 there were no home computers, iPhones, iPads, or digital photography. I thought I took quite a few pictures last time. That will be a small number compared to what I plan to take this time.

        If you are there during this time I invite you to look me up. Let’s trade patches!

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          Philmont SMT19840008I had been a scoutmaster for only two and a half years when I received a letter in the mail inviting me to attend the Philmont Training Center (PTC) for the Scoutmaster Fundamentals course. I had always wanted to go to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico so I jumped at the opportunity. The troop committee thought it was a good idea and agreed to fund a portion of the trip. The Melrose business community provided most of the rest of the funds. So, in 1984 this 23 year old scoutmaster received his first experience at the ranch.

          I have returned to Philmont five times to participate in backcountry hiking treks, but I have never returned to the PTC for another training training course. The last time I was at Philmont was in 2004 when I was an advisor for a trek crew. As the years slipped by I began to think that would be my last trip to the ranch. I was beginning to miss the place.

          I received an invitation to attend the training of my choice at PTC early this year. I was thrilled to receive the letter but also a little skeptical since I had stepped down as the scoutmaster of Troop 68 two years ago. Yes, I remain active with the troop and serve on the committee but why would the council recommend me for training at Philmont Scout Ranch? No particular course was recommended this time. I would be allowed to sign up for whatever interested me.

          I called Bob, our district executive, and asked him what was up with this. He replied, nothing special, no particular reason. The council thought I might be interested, that’s all. We chatted a few times about this over the course of the next few weeks. Before I knew it we had both registered to take a course in June, this month.

          I am thrilled to be going back to Philmont. The course is just the carrot on the stick for me. I am really looking forward to seeing the silver on the sage, starlight skies above, and aspen covered hills once again. Philmont truly is a Scouting paradise. And a great place to have a training center.

          I wonder if the old stagecoach is still there.

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            alexeagleOn Sunday, May 4th, there was a court of honor held for Melrose Boy Scout Troop 68′s newest Eagle Scout. Alex is the 22nd Scout to attain this honor since I began serving as an adult leader of troop in 1980.As far as I know, there was only one Eagle Scout in Melrose before 1980, thus Alex would be the troop’s 23rd Eagle Scout, historically.

            Twenty Boy Scouts earned the rank of Eagle Scout while I was the scoutmaster of Troop 68. The last two, Thomas and Alex, were Boy Scouts during my last years in that role. It is great to see them continue the advancement trail and received Scouting’s highest higher. In another two or three years I hope to see the first Eagle Scouts of Troop 68 who joined Scouting after I retired as the scoutmaster. That will fell a little different but no less important.

            Alex asked me to serve as the master of ceremonies for his court of honor. This was the first time I have ever served in the role for such an event. As the scoutmaster I would usually get a chance to speak about the Eagle Scout and his accomplishments during the ceremony. I presented the Eagle Scout rank at several of them or was asked to serve in some other role, but I was never a master of ceremonies. And you know something, that was fine with me.

            This court of honor was going to be a slightly different experience, but I was looking forward to it. One of the duties, of course, was to introduce the guest speakers and presenters. There was also a spot on the program for me to talk about Alex and his Scouting accomplishments, so that part of things has not changed.

            As I have for the last twelve Eagle Scouts, I presented a video featuring pictures of the Eagle Scout’s years in the troop along with some family pictures. Alex picked out the music himself, and brought along a few pictures he wanted to include in the video. I also snuck in one or two that he did not know about until he saw the video during the court of honor. This video will be posted to the Melrose Scout Productions Podcast later this year.

            I also video recorded the ceremony. I will edit it and burn it to dvd as I have for nearly all of the Troop 68 Eagle Scouts. The dvd is a great way to remember this important moment in the Scout’s life. His parents will also receive a copy.

            Alex’s Eagle Scout court of honor went very well. A lot of people were in attendance. There were good guest speakers, and four previous Troop 68 Eagle Scouts attended and took part in the ceremony. I think the younger Scouts were quite impressed with the whole ceremony, as were many of the family members and guests. I had a good time being the MC, and I was told a did a good job. I do believe I talked to much at one point but you know, I could have talked for much longer. Alex is a good Eagle Scout. There is always a lot to say about good Eagle Scouts.

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              bloggerI am not really sure why I started doing it. Maybe it was to keep a kind of online journal. Maybe it was to see if anyone would be interested to read what I had to share. I did know I did not want to write about how a Scouting leader should be trained or how an adult could be an effective leader. There were already blogs about that subject. I just wanted to share my thoughts and experiences.

              My first post to “A Scoutmaster’s Blog” appeared on May 18, 2006, eight years ago! Blogging was just starting to gain in popularity. There were not many blogs about Boy Scouting at that time. I wanted to keep mine fun and, hopefully, entertaining. There have been a few changes over the years. I switched from Blogger to WordPress, which has worked out well. Two podcasts became a part of the blog. I have even had a few guests writers.

              One of the biggest changes was when I stepped down as the scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 68 at the end of 2011. I gave a lot of thought to changing the name of this blog but finally decided to leave it alone. Some of the names I had thought about changing to were already taken by others. Besides, I will still be writing from a scoutmaster perspective. It is hard not to after holding that role for over 30 years.

              I am still very active with Troop 68. That means I will still have things to write about. Hopefully, you will continue to find these posts fun and entertaining, and maybe even gain a bit of knowledge or two. Who know, maybe there will be a tenth anniversary of “A Scoutmaster’s Blog”. That is not that far away anymore.

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