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December 6, 2011

My speech for Alex at his Eagle Court of Honor - December 6, 2011

I'll try to keep this brief, and hopefully I won't cry too much. Alex, I am really proud of you. You've been at this a long time, and I know how hard you've worked to reach this point. Congratulations. Again, I'm really, really proud of you. As I thought about this evening and what I wanted to say I tried to think of some stories that would help frame your scouting career, really our scouting career, and two relatively obscure events kept popping back into my mind.

The first is from your first ever extended campout as a Bear Scout. You were going up to Camp Stearns for 3 nights, and for whatever reason, probably work, I couldn't be there for the first night. I told Scott that I'd be there the next day. So, I packed you up and sent you off to camp for a night without me. Like any father sending his son off alone for the first time I was worried about you. I was worried that you were homesick. I was worried that you weren't making friends. I don't think I slept that night. Anyway, the next day I drove up to camp, parked the car, and started to look for you. It didn't take me long before I spotted you and the rest of your Den walking along a trail. And lo and behold, you were happy! In fact, you were singing. You and Richard were singing some song, probably "Ain't that funky now," and you were laughing and having a great time.

I remember thinking to myself: he doesn't need me. He doesn't need me! I remember being both happy and sad about this. I was happy that you had obviously adjusted well without me, but I was sad that you really didn't need me there. I thought to myself, maybe I don't need to come on these camp-outs. Maybe I can just stay home. But then I looked again and saw how happy you were. I remember thinking right then and there, forget that! Even if you don't need me, I'm going to come on these camp-outs regardless and be with you having fun. I thought: I don't want to miss any of this.

The second story comes from a camp-out that we maybe didn't have the most fun on, the Whitewater Rafting camp-out of 2009. You remember that camp-out, right? It was the end of May, but it was really cold. We woke up the morning of our whitewater rafting excursion and it must have been in the mid-40s. We had to put on all the warmest clothing we had and then all our rain gear on top of that. And then we had to get into river rafts and potentially get really wet. It was crazy.

We ended up in separate rafts. The part of that adventure I remember most was when we were about to go down the most treacherous part of the river, what the guides called the "Electric Slide." The head guide had all of us line up and then he gave us instructions on how to raft through what was a waterfall-slash-slide that apparently a lot of people didn't make it through without falling in. The guide told us, "When you hit the slide don't lean forward too much, or you'll fall in. Also, don't lean back too much or you'll fall in. And when you hit the bottom, start paddling like crazy or you'll fall in." Then he added, "Got it? Let's go!"

Personally I didn't really get it. I remember thinking to myself, "You have got to be kidding me! I may as well just dive in now and get it over with." I looked over across the river at Alex to see if I could tell what he was thinking. Alex gave me a look that is difficult to describe, but one that I'll never forget. He shook his head quietly with a look of disgusted acceptance, anger, resignation, and determination all rolled into one, a look that non-verbally said, "Can you believe what this joker is telling us to do?" A look that ultimately said, "We're headed for a waterfall, surrounded by sharp rocks, on a raft in 40 degree weather with the outcome being we will most likely fall in. Bring it on."

I remember laughing. Man that look put a smile on my face. That look you gave me was exactly what I needed to get through the Electric Slide (and we didn't fall in). The reason I remember it now is because it also said, "Dad, what have we gotten ourselves into?" Really, what have we gotten ourselves into Alex? The whitewater rafting trip was just one of many things we got ourselves into during these last 8 years of scouting. And when you think about it all together it has been quite a remarkable ride.

On top of whitewater rafting we have done tons of kayaking, sailing, tubing, and probably close to 100 miles of canoeing.

We have gone swimming in some of the most beautiful lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

We have probably hiked well over 150 miles (including snow-shoeing), and biked together for close to 300 miles over some breathtaking countryside.

We have climbed the towers of Stearns, Many Point, and Tesomas, and the rocks of Basecamp. Well, actually you climbed and I provided moral and sometimes belay support.

We've gone orienteering, geocaching, fishing, and caving.

We've played Many Point water-polo and battled together for the greased watermelon. We've gone bowling, rollerskating, and rollerblading.

We've shot arrows, shotgun, BB gun, Paintball, 22 rifles, sling-shots, and we've thrown our fair share of tomahawks.

We've visited the state capitol, numerous museums, state parks like Itasca, St. Croix, Fort Snelling, and J. Cook, and a myriad of other cultural institutions.

We've done a ton of service projects together like food drives, buckthorn pulls, raking lawns, planting trees, flowers, and bushes, Feed My Starving Children, and shoveling driveways and sidewalks. We painted buildings here at the JCC for Richard's Eagle project, and of course, we built and installed anti-erosion bars at Westwood for your own.

We've been bitten by hundreds, maybe thousands, of mosquitoes, horse flies, deer flies, black flies, no-see-ums, and wood ticks. Thankfully no deer ticks.

How many nights of camping have we done together? 70? 80? More? I tried to add them all together but I gave up. How many campfires have we sat around, eating whatever delicious dessert Scott has cooked up for us? How many campfire songs have we sung, how many skits have we watched and done? How many nights of camping have we done now with Anders, with all three of us together?

How many times have we looked up, away from the city lights, to see those beautiful stars in the Minnesota nighttime sky?

How many memories have we built? Too many to count. And through it all, I've had a front row seat watching you grow up and become a leader, for this troop and in your everyday life. I'm proud of you reaching Eagle Alex. So proud. But I am most happy that we were able to go on this journey together.

I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Posted by snackeru at December 6, 2011 9:59 PM | Family

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