Tales of Vashon


George is a retired pharmacist living in Davis, California and a devout fan of John’s and my stories in the Loop.  A friend for 60 years, George and I called ourselves “ski bums” and skied and taught skiing all over the western states and Austria.  George made the U.S. Olympic luge team and raced with a broken arm, with his physician’s permission.

George writes of the “Bean Hole Bean” story: Another fine yarn, Sean.

How many merit badges did you earn being a Boy Scout?  I was a scout for several years, but took but little interest in merit badges, and promotions.  I never even made STAR rank. I liked the overnight hikes to the mountains the most. I was in the wolf patrol, and liked most of the other scouts in the troop.

Seán writes back to George:
Dear George,
We had four patrols, the Raccoons, the Eagles, the Panthers and I can’t remember the fourth.  Like you, we were never too interested in rank and not too hot on uniforms either.  I used a hollow ham bone to secure my scarf and  was 1st class, same as you when I started working on my merit badges.  I think that it was one of the Kirkland’s who was an amateur radio operator and got me interested in radio.  I barely made the five words per minute or whatever the speed of the CW transmission was to get a Morse code merit badge.  I barely remember the 1st aid merit badge, everybody had to take 1st aid classes and we practiced on each other.

It was the cooking badge that almost stumped me. I had to cook dinner for four people at the council hut and I chose to spit a chicken on an open fire.  I was so scared of burning the chicken that I fed that fire for four hours or that’s how long I think it was and the drumsticks came out raw next to the bone and they gave me enough points to get my cooking merit badge.  I don’t recall how many merit badges it took to make Star, but I certainly didn’t work hard enough to make Life and never contemplated becoming an eagle scout.  We never had an Eagle Scout in Troop 294 in my time.  Camping, lashing poles together to support our tents, or building a coracle out of a circle of brush that was lashed together in the shape of a doughnut and placed over a 12 x 12-foot tarp and floated on Mukai’s lake.

Each patrol had a separate shake lean-to with 7 or 8 very hard cedar-shake  bunks. Our camp Thunderbird leader was an assistant scout master, Bruce Britton and we called him “Uncle Bruce.”  He worked at the naval shipyards, taking apart ships from WWII and brought home a bunch of canvass bunks that were lashed to pole frames for the leaders in the council cabin where we congregated around the council  fire to hear Uncle Bruce tell stories of a cave man-boy who survived in the wilderness of long ago.

My sleeping bag was navy surplus with a cotton liner and a woolsack that was covered with very light tarp material and totally inadequate for the cold Vashon nights at Camp Thunderbird.  My salvation was my Labrador, Pan, who would crawl into the navy bag and curl up at the bottom, keeping my feet warm.

As you can see, your response to the Bean-Hole Bean story prompted a whole lot of Boy Scout memories and probably another story of the early days of  Vashon scouting.

Your loyal friend,