Making a career in any part of the music business is challenging and difficult. The rewards come later. I learned the lessons from this meme when I was 12 and 13 years old in the Boy Scouts. I nearly drowned while developing my skills for the swimming and lifesaving merit badges. The requirements for each merit badge were almost a deal breaker; the two hurdles I dreaded most because of a fear of deep water. I nearly chopped my left thumb into two parts (blade to the bone) while learning how to handle a hatchet; my poor vision. I wanted to return to the comfort of air conditioning while hiking (in boots with full pack and equipment) 10 miles one afternoon. I really missed my mom’s and my late grandmother’s cooking while learning how to survive on only two matches, an uncooked egg, a strip of raw bacon, no cooking equipment of any kind, and wilderness training during a rain-soaked weekend. I nearly sliced my left index finger off learning how to develop woodcarving skills. I jabbed my left palm a number of times with an awl making a pair of moccasins and with the needle while applying the beadwork. I nearly burned down our lean-to for four people on my first weekend camping trip during a cold and windy February in the middle of the night. I quickly learned how to fight fires in windy conditions. I challenged myself to overcome my fear of the dark by walking the trails on the scout reservation during the darkest nights by myself with the flashlight turned off. It is amazing how heightened your senses become in woods that are very secluded. The scout reservation bordered the back of Ft. Rucker Army Base and we could see the flares and hear the firing runs of the Huey helicopters on their night maneuvers.
There were other fast learning-curve moments when I really considered saying, “Enough!”, but I made a promise to my dad, who told me when I wanted to start the Boy Scouts, “If I invest in all this scouting equipment, uniforms, travel, etc., you need to stick with it.” I had quit the Cub Scouts when I was 10 years old. Of course, my response to him was, “I won’t quit.” I never knew or learned until that time how hard it is to live up to your commitment; especially to your dad. I began realizing how much I had taken my comfy life for granted. My parents would give advice when I asked, but the work was entirely my own.
Shortly after my 14th birthday (5 weeks as matter of fact in August of 1967), I received my Eagle Scout Award at the Eagle Ceremony for the council. I still hear my dad’s words of wisdom from time to time and I miss him often. “Never give up” is more than a phrase; easy to say – difficult to do. After earning my Eagle Award, 30 merit badges, earning my Vigil membership in the Order of the Arrow, being selected Senior Patrol Leader of our council’s delegation to the National Jamboree, serving on the Summer Camp Staff for 6 weeks each summer for 4 or 5 summers, and several other local and regional opportunities, the skills I learned have helped me through difficult situations throughout my life. I still had to work on some of the concepts for a few more years, but I’m really glad my father set the bar high. “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.” The lessons regarding perseverance also carried in to my music studies, practice, growth and experiences, and continue to do so to this day.