From Scouting to Batting
Bob Locke, Director of Publications & Small Grants Coordinator
Growing up in a blue-collar neighborhood of Houston, I had few opportunities to explore the woods – or even get a good look at them. The outdoors for us was The Vacant Lot down the street. I joined the Scouts as soon as I turned 11, in 1958, because friends at school talked about the monthly camping trips.
I’ve long since forgotten the Troop number, but I will always remember those visits to the Big Thicket of East Texas, usually to what we now call ‘managed forests’ that were owned by a big paper company. Our adult leaders were, of course, World War II vets and our meetings included just a touch of military close-order drills. Our Scoutmaster had four kids, all girls, and I suspect we Scouts were, collectively, the son he never had.
It seems now to have been a much simpler time. Our troop had an old army surplus truck with benches and a canvas top, plus several large tents and a small field kitchen. We spent our camping nights 6 or 8 to a tent with blankets laid over straw spread on the ground. Cooking was a group endeavor, as was setting up and taking down the camp and cleansing the site of our presence. I really got into learning knots (with a merchant-seaman neighbor as a tutor), and find many of them useful to this day.+ click to expand
But mostly I remember exploring those magical woods, usually with two or three other Scouts, but occasionally alone. After a few close encounters, I developed a fascination for snakes (including venomous ones) that I have never lost. We saw raccoons, ’possums, turkeys, coyotes, skunks, foxes, deer, a few bobcats and one ring-tailed cat, along with countless horny toads and other small creatures. We learned to connect tracks to critters. And we learned just to enjoy being in the woods with good friends when it’s so quiet all you can hear is the wind rustling the leaves – and the sound of a buck snorting or a panicky jack rabbit running for cover seems overpowering.
We moved to a small town (now a suburb) on the edge of Houston when I started high school and I joined the Explorers. The summer camps were terrific and well-planned, as were the educational outings to fossil beds and such. I ended up as a Life Scout, two merit badges short of Eagle, when I discovered other teen-aged pursuits.
But I will always remember my time in the Big Thicket with the Scouts. I became Science Writer for the Associated Press and the San Diego Tribune (along with editor posts at another newspaper and a couple of magazines) and sought out environmental stories: recovery efforts for the California condor, for example, or two unforgettable days in the desert with the world’s leading expert on the fringe-toed lizard.
For 10 years now, I’ve been running the publications department at Bat Conservation International. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot woods since I was a Boy Scout, but I find myself recalling often the sights, sounds and smells of the Big Thicket, when the outdoors were, for me, new and magical.
Bob writes that he doesn’t have any photos of him as a Scout because it was so long ago that he didn’t think that cameras were invented yet!
Jason Corbett, BCI Subterranean Program Coordinator
Eagle Scout and member of Order of the Arrow
I earned the rank of Eagle Scout in Troop 114, Tucson, Arizona in 1996. I started my scouting career many years earlier, having participated in both Cub Scouts and Webelos, where I earned the Arrow of Light Award before moving quickly into Boy Scouts. I stayed with my Troop until turning 18 and heading off to college to pursue my BS and MS degrees in Fish and Wildlife Management and Forestry from Northern Arizona University.
My strong beliefs in actively serving my community, state, and country led me to serve for 6 years with the Arizona Army National Guard. The skills I learned in Scouting served me well in the Army, and I continue to use them every day in my current job as the Subterranean Program Coordinator for Bat Conservation International. My position takes me across the western US in pursuit of subterranean bat habitat protection and compliments my love of wildlife and the outdoors perfectly. I am a life member of the National Eagle Scout Association, and I hope to work more closely with the BSA in the coming years.
Fran Hutchins, Bracken Bat Cave Coordinator
Eagle Scout and member of Order of the Arrow
I’ve been an Eagle Scout since June 1976, an Order of the Arrow member, and I went to the World Jamboree in Oslo, Norway in 1977. Scouting showed me the importance of teamwork and taught me values and leadership skills that I continue to use every day.
As I was growing up in central Florida, Scouting provided the opportunity to make friends and enjoy the outdoors. Beginning with Cub Scouts and through Webelos, the camping and outdoor activities showed me the importance of protecting nature. When I was elementary school age, Cub Scouts and Webelos were full of activities and chances to get together with friends. Then I moved to Orlando, a new neighborhood and school. Scouting gave me a place to fit in and make new friends. Troop 164 was meeting a few blocks from my house, so I joined the Wolf Patrol. We did a lot of camping, sometimes twice a month during the summer and during school breaks. I earned my 50-Miler award on a 7-day hike along the Appalachian Trail on one of those Christmas breaks. I attribute my love and appreciation for the outdoors to Scouting.
C. William “Bill” Steele, Director of Alumni Relations and the National Eagle Scout Association
I have had a love of caves since I was a little boy. When I was a 13-year-old Boy Scout I crawled up between some big rocks and emerged into a large tunnel passage that no one had ever found before. I felt like I was an explorer, and I was. I have never lost my interest and passion for caves since that day. I have been around a lot of bats and I like them. I appreciate all of the good things they do in nature, such as carrying pollen. I call bats "flying teddy bears," because that's the way I think of them. They're cute and furry. And their existence goes back many millions of years. I find them fascinating. But I also respect them and I avoid disturbing them when they are resting in a cave. That's their home, and I am just a visitor.