Archive for May, 2010

Come Visit My Grave

May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008


Come Visit My Grave ©

Written By James D. Rolfes
I am a Veteran under the sod.
I’m in good company, I’m up here with God.
Come to my grave and visit me.
I gave my life so you could be free.
Today is Memorial Day throughout this great land.
There’s Avenues of Flags, Parades and Bands.
I can hear music, the firing squads and taps.
Here come my comrades, the Legionnaires, the Blue caps.
One of them just put a flag on my stone.
Some day he’ll have one of his own.
Some think of this day as just a day free of toil.
While others are busy working the soil.
They say they have plans, other things to do.
Don’t put us aside as you would an old shoe.
Come visit my grave in this cemetery so clean.
This is what Memorial Day means.
There are many of us lying in wake less sleep.
In cemeteries of green and oceans of deep.
It’s sad that for many who fought so brave.
No one comes to visit their grave.
They died so you could have one whole year free.
Now can’t you save this one Day for me?
There are soldiers, sailors, airmen up here.
Who went into battle despite of their fear.
I’ve been talking up here to all of those men.
If they had to do it over, they’d do it again.
Look, someone is coming to visit my grave.
It’s my Family, for them my life I gave.
My wife, I remember our last embrace.
As I left the tears streamed down your face.
I think you knew the day I was shipped out.
I wouldn’t return, your life would be turned about.
There’s my daughter that I used to hold.
Can it be that you’re nearly twenty years old?
Next month is to be your wedding day.
I wish I could be there to give you away.
My son’s here too, Dad’s little man.
Always love your Country, do for it what you can.
There is one thing that really did bother.
Is seeing you grow up without the aid of your Father.
I wish you could all hear me from up above.
That’s a father’s best gift to his children is love.
And what better way to prove my love to the end.
Is that a man lay down his life for his friends.
I see it’s time for you to go home.
Your visit made it easier to remain here alone.
Don’t cry honey, you look too sad.
Our children are free, you should be so glad.
Daughter, thanks for the bouquet so cute.
Thank you son for that sharp salute.
Come again, I forgot, you can’t hear me from up here.
But I know you’ll come visit me again next year.
I hope all veterans are treated this way.
On this day to remember, Memorial Day.

Troop 25 participates in the annual Memorial Day service at the local high school gym.  After the veterans have decorated the graves and returned to town, our Scouts present a wreath of remembrance, while the Girl Scouts lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The gym is set up for graduation the day before and the Memorial crowd is dwarfed in the large room.  I was honored to be asked to read this poem this year.  As is said, too many have plans, other things to do.  It seems like each year there are fewer veterans and their families gathered there.  I googled the text on a website gone 404 now, but did find this from Iowa nearby:

“As the roster was read this morning, there was a lot of friends on there,” says Jim Rolfes, American Legion 9th District Commander, who served in Vietnam.

“I think you knew the day I shipped out, that I wouldn’t return. Your life be turned about,” reads Rolfes, from his poem Come Visit My Grave

“Someday my name’s going to be on that list so I suppose it’s getting a little harder,” says Rolfes.

You can see this bit of the author of the poem on camera here.

The Google cache said it was OK to use.  I hope it still is.





Scoutmaster Minute—A Scout is Kind

May 16, 2010

A Scout is Kind.  A Scout treats other as he wants to be treated.  He knows there is strength in being gentle.  He does not harm or kill any living thing without good reason.

This point of the Scout Law is closely related to the prior.  To be Courteous is to be Kind.  Yet they each have their distinction.

In my mind, Kindness is more basic. It’s the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do onto you).  It may be dharma.  It may be simple human charity.

Being Kind is not something you stop and think about.  You don’t take more than you can eat.  You close the gate when you go through.  You put the seat down when you’re done in the outhouse.

You either treat others with kindness, or you go through life oblivious to anything greater than yourself.



For an experienced Scouter’s perspective, spend a couple minutes with this video on The Scoutmaster Minute.  This Philmont minute is guaranteed to leave you with a tear in your eye.


Northern Tier, If You Dare

May 10, 2010

I’m heading up North this week, not quite to the Boundary Waters, but close enough I wish I was.

The long-time triple-play of Scouting High Adventure has been Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, Seabase in Florida, and Northern Tier High Adventure Base in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, Ontario and Manitoba.  These are soon to be joined by “The Summit” (Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve) in West Virginia, but for now we do with what we have.

My only regret from my Scout days was not doing Philmont, but I brought back enough memories from Northern Tier to last a lifetime (so far anyway!).  We put in at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base east of Ely, Minnesota.  The guys (and gals) at Northern Tier know what they are doing and they can do everything but get you in condition.

The Charles L. Sommers programs are ideally suited for novice canoeists, but offer challenging routes for experienced travelers as well.

You may choose to visit beautiful waterfalls, travel into remote country, find the best fishing locations, visit ancient pictographs, or experience a combination of all of these.

If your Troop or Crew is up for more of an adventure, check out Atikokan or Bissett up in Canada.  Our District Advancement Chair still talks about his trip years ago with a Scout who is now a Council Exec.  Set your sights high and you’ll never know what you can accomplish.

My Troop put in out of Sommers on Moose Lake and did a one-week loop.  The root beer lady was still there when we went (too many years ago) but you will find your own special memories among the crystal clear lakes and towering pines.  It’s a good time for a First Class Scout or a fitting capstone for newly-minted Eagles.

Reservations are open now for Summer 2011.


Selling Out

May 7, 2010

Excuse me while I get a bit political here.

I work in land use and natural resources professionally—that’s my day job that pays for my Scouting adventures—so I get my nose out of joint when I see professional Scouters messing with the use of Scout lands and natural resources.

At the same time, I work with many communities and community organizations that struggle with balancing budgets in times of declining revenues and changing customer expectations.  We just can’t continue to do more with less.

We have seen many youth-serving organizations (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church-based camps) look at divesting property as counts decline and expenses rise.  Our shared mission is serving youth, not maintaining property.

Nobody would disagree with that.  However…

There is an inherent trust placed in us by the community as conservators of the natural environment.  We’re supposed to be the good guys.  We’re supposed to Do Our Best.  People donate time, talent and dollars because they trust us to take care of  both the boys and the woods (prairies, lakes, streams, mountains).

Otherwise we’re just another nameless, faceless out of state corporation peddling snake-oil and nostalgia.

The Easy Thing Isn’t Usually the Right Thing

Selling off parts of historic camping property may look like the easy thing to do on paper, especially to harried Council executives in the big city 200 miles away from an isolated campground.  Develop 10 acres to save 100.  Cut off 100 acres to save 1,000.  Consolidate 3 small camps into 1 that’s easier to manage.

I noticed, in a professional publication, a March 2010 Michigan Court of Appeals decision upholding a local community’s zoning decision counter to the desires of the Chicago Area Council BSA.  Camp Owasippe is located on 4,800 acres near Muskegon, MI,  in operation since 1911.  The Court Opinion states that “Camp Owasippe is the oldest Boy Scout camp in America,” which may settle some Centennial arguments floating around the net.

The first 40 acres that became Camp Owasippe was purchased in 1910 near Whitehall, Michigan. In 1911 a small group of scouts and workmen dug a well and built the basics of a camp. In 1912 they held their first summer camp operation there. The camp was originally at Crystal Lake and was called Camp White in 1912. In 1913 the name was changed to Camp Owasippe. Since vacant land is not really a camp, 1910 would not seem to be the start date for Owasippe. They took a steamship to get there for camp in 1912 so it isn’t likely troops were hiking in from Chicago for weekend camping in 1911. The 1919 camp manual gave the original name of Camp White and actually said the camp was established in 1912 (when they held their first camp). The Chicago Council was using the 1912 date in 1972 as the Owasippe patch that year says it was the camp’s 60th anniversary. In 1961 they used a patch that said 1911 was the start date (their 50th anniversary patch). In 1996 they put on their camp patch that it was Owasippe’s 85th anniversary (using the 1911 date). They seem to have been undecided as to which of the two years to use. I suppose you could take your pick (and many will) of 1910, 1911 or 1912 but I would have gone with the year 1912 since it wasn’t used as a camp until then.

Even though it started out with 40 acres it eventually grew to about 14,000 acres in size. Some of it was sold off in recent years including the original 40 acres so that the camp currently contains about 5,000 acres. This is NOT to say there were two different Owasippes in two different locations as there was not. They didn’t buy a second site, move to it and sell off the first. The original and current acreage was all included in one massive reservation. It is still a very large camp with a tremendous history. Their camp manual, which is online, has an extremely interesting story in it about Chief Owasippe and his two sons.

But I digress.  In 1981, the local township (a legal jurisdiction in Michigan) placed the camp in conservation zoning, which permitted special uses such as campgrounds and trails.  By 2002 nearly half of the township was categorized in a similar zoning designation.  The Chicago Area Council, though, wanted to sell the camp to developers and asked for rezoning.  They were denied, and sued the township.

The Chicago Council, the property owner, initially sued the township over the zoning at a time when it was trying to sell the property for $19 million to a Holland-area businessman. The township had turned down the Scouts’ request to rezone the property in a way that would have allowed the construction of up to 2,400 homes….

In February, the Chicago Council announced it was working with the Nature Conservancy to find conservation-minded buyers for the property so that it could remain in its natural state. The Council intends to keep some of the property for continued Boy Scouts camping.

The particular situation is interesting, but not essential.  We see the pattern repeated across the country.  Property was donated in trust, donations received in trust, service given in trust.  We repay that trust by selling off our heritage.

Even a Tenderfoot knows that’s no way to run a railroad, merit badge or not.