19.  BOY SCOUTS

William and I had been raised with a certain sense of purpose. He too had followed my dad’s example and had a passion for art. Working in sculpture as well as painting he also immersed himself in Seattle’s underground cultural happenings. He was a regular at Seattle’s art gallery scene and spent his spare time hunting rare jazz and blues records in thrift shops and used record stores.

In our younger years dad had compelled us into scouting. He was the Troop Leader at St. Margaret’s Church and had us fall-in with close order drills and visits to Fort Lawton to shoot in the underground rifle range. At one point, when he was Mess Sergeant, he had a military deuce-and-a-half truck pick us all up at the church and we drove over to the fort to have breakfast with the troops.

William was a bit resistant to wearing a uniform and conforming to a strict code of conduct but I went along. However, there was minimal support from the other parents in the church to get involved and keep the scout troop together. After one particularly embarrassing episode at Summer Camp where the un-chaperoned scouts of our troop took the emergency brake off a camp bus and rode it down a long rutted road in neutral and then had a mock battle with the camp’s fire extinguishers, they were asked to leave or be expelled.

Dad was determined to place me with another troop. I was introduced to the Scout Master for the troop at the other Catholic School on Magnolia, Our Lady of Fatima, who looked me up and down with his tiny eyes and long face. “Sorry, we can’t use you. We’ve already got more kids than we can handle. Dad located another troop nearer our house at the Magnolia Presbyterian Church who welcomed us with open arms and issued us red, white and blue bandannas specific to their troop, Number Eighty Five.

They had an active program of camping, hiking and community outreach, even selling Christmas trees in the winter. I was placed in the Flaming Arrow Patrol and started accumulating merit badges. During summer months we’d pile into cars, trucks and station wagons and head off to a national park on the coast or the Cascade Mountain Watershed. We’d maintain trails, learn to set up camp and compete every year in the Scouting Jamboree, an event where all the city’s scout troops contested for ribbons to decorate their troop’s American Flag.

There was a rowdy contingent in our troop. Several of the older scouts formed what they called “Axis Power”. They would stay up late playing cards, snigger when the scout leader was being too serious and even sneak cigarettes along on the campouts. I became a junior member of this fraternity and was the butt of the older scout’s practical jokes but it felt good to be a radical element within this otherwise responsible organization.

Dad would join us on campouts once in awhile and share his enthusiasm for natural objects and the play of light on different surfaces.

We also visited a horse camp over the course of a few summers. Dad would rendezvous with his friends Wandy, Gerring and a few others in Cle Elem, just East of Snoqualmie Pass and we’d continue on a short ways to the Lazy F Ranch. These were good times. They were my only occasions to ride a horse on a trail and we weaved our way through the woods and up to a lookout point above the ranch. The bunkhouse was huge, well stocked with games and books, balls and horseshoes. Dad’s horse, Rhubarb, was a speckled reddish mare that was slow but had lots of stamina. William and I favored Dude, a solid black steed that was high spirited and big enough for the two of us.

Here we could fish in the streams, catch crayfish and play with the children of my folk’s friends. Dad would usually bring a sketchbook or paint set along and render the scenery with a few well-chosen strokes of the brush. Later, in his studio, he would work the sketches into more finished and elaborate pieces.