As I stated earlier, I was on track to make Eagle Scoutbefore my 14th birthday. Well, it took me almost four years to get my last three merit badges and to complete my project. Why? Well, to be blunt, earning my Eagle Scout meant nothing to me at all. In fact, I was resolved not to pursue that award. But I was so stinking close that I had a change of heart.
In February, 1978 I was contemplating what to get my Dad for his birthday on February 26. I had a job and I had money. But for a teenager to find an adequate gift to give to his parents is always a challenge. If parents truly want something, they have the resources to go get it. So, I was stuck with no idea of what to get my Dad.
Then it hit me. What if I gave him my last three merit badges? By now, the challenge of earning a merit badge was over. These requirements were designed to challenge 12 year olds. I simply had to swallow my pride, read the dumb merit badge book, perform the requirements, (making sure I chose the easiest ones possible), and need go see a merit badge counselor.
In a matter to two weeks I had all three merit badges completed and had met almost all the requirements necessary for Eagle. But there was still the project. All scouts dread the Eagle Project. It requires 100 man hours of labor. For some reason, to a young mind, 100 hours seems like in eternity.
Not only do you have to do the project, you first have to present it to a member of the Scout Council. Then, once the project is completed, you have to write a report and present what you did to a Board of Review. For someone who had done nothing with Scouting for four years, the prospect of that process was off putting. But, it was for Dad, so I swallowed my pride and paid homage to the process.
Matt had a cool project. He weeded the long-forgotten Ohlone Indian cemetery a few miles from our house. It was hard, hard work. But it was something that could be measured. Each day he worked on it he could see progress. When he was done, everyone who passed by could see the difference. I wanted something like that for me, but I had limited time.
By now I was working full time in San Francisco and had little desire to whack weeds for countless hours. But I couldn’t just hand Dad the merit badge cards without a planned project. I consulted with Mom and she told me to speak with Bishop Calyson. As I mentioned, he was my principal in Elementary school. He was still at Chadbourne and as principal he could easily drum up some sort of project. I didn’t care. I just needed something.
Well, within a few weeks of my Dad’s birthday, the sixth grade class would be going on its annual overnight campout. He needed chaperons but he knew simply babysitting a bunch of sixth graders would not qualify for an Eagle project. So we decided that I could create a compass course while there so the kids could learn how to use the compass.
Well, Dad was way into the compass. I was not. I didn’t even know how to use one. So, of course, I said I would do it. That allowed me to give Dad my merit badge cards and a planned Eagle project for his birthday. He was pleased. He had long given up on my ever getting my Eagle. But give him credit. He never did pressure me or hold my lack of Eagle over my head. I was coming close to being for first in two generations not to achieve the rank of Eagle.
Well, my project was royally lame. I went up to the camp. I chaperoned the kids, I made a compass course, I got everyone lost, and I was done. I quickly wrote up the project and presented it to the Board of Review. By April, I did it! I was an Eagle!
Dad was proud and you know, I am glad I did it, if only to make Dad happy. Mom, of course, was cold. She was always cold.