ScoutingOctober 2001

Ode to the Leader of Many Boys

By David M. (Doc) Mills
Illustration by Richard Sparks

A Scoutmaster earns a special place in the hearts of young men who accept the challenge of being a Scout in his troop.

George Dickinson is yet another fine American whom you have never met. Three years ago, George celebrated the golden milestone of 50 years of voluntary service to the Boy Scouts of America. During most of this impressive half century, he has, by rank and title, been Scoutmaster of Troop 282, Flora, Ill.

Like most resourceful great American men, George has, out of both necessity and circumstance, been a jack of numerous trades and at least once has been a master in all of his endeavors.

One of 'George's boys'

During my time as one of "George's boys," I personally witnessed him wear the following hats in the completion of his noble duties as Scoutmaster: doctor, chef, mechanic, bus driver, judge, teacher, businessman, tour guide, preacher, coach, entertainer, and daddy.

With George at the helm, going to Scout meetings and functions was like spending a weekend with an eccentric uncle who lived a life of adventure and excitement that Midwestern parents traditionally keep hidden, wrapped up in a cloak of modesty.

While in his troop, we were always going places and doing things that we normally would not have done or believed we could do.

George has a haversack full of entertaining stories, the storytelling ability of a used-car salesman, and an insatiable appetite for high adventure. Combine this with the fact that as a modern-day true gentleman, George is a living personification of the Scout Law.

One could not help but want to become a better person when in the presence of George, an irresistible positive force. Likewise, he was one person you truly hated to disappoint.

As George so eloquently put it once, "I expect more of you, and then some. After all, you are Boy Scouts."

Inspiring stories

I have an encyclopedia full of entertaining and inspiring Scouting stories in my head that I could tell. Unfortunately, just like a funny joke loses something when told in a foreign language, my Scouting stories lose something in the translation from oral tradition to print.

I really have fond memories of my time in Troop 282, partially because of George Dickinson, but also because of the lifelong friendships with which I have truly been blessed as a result of my Scouting experience.

The cavalcade of characters that I did my Scouting hitch with resembled more of a gang fashioned after a cross between "F Troop" and "Animal House" than a wholesome Norman Rockwell painting.

Looking back at some of the smart aleck comments, high jinks, and pranks that my Scouting friends and I were responsible for, I'm convinced that George's love for us had to have been a daddy's love. A love that balances between teeth-mashing frustration and overwhelming pride, that shepherds young boys over the trying hills of the terrible teenage years toward the bounty of adulthood.

There was the frustration of watching one of the troop's boy leaders dance around a raging campfire at dusk in some sort of teenage exercise of free will. This, while his peers cheered and campers at neighboring campsites gazed on in shock with facial contortions of horror and humility as they attempted to shield their children's eyes.

There is also the pride of shedding a tear of joy while pinning the highly prestigious Eagle Scout Award to the uniform of a young man completing his Scouting career, knowing that you have done your part in seeing a dream become reality.

Making a difference

Through his sacrifice of friendship, time, talent, and energy, George Dickinson has modestly gone about shaping minds, bodies, and spirits of today's young men in a valiant effort to make a difference in the world tomorrow.

Whether it was taking time to explain the misunderstood or unknown, offering constructive criticism, or celebrating triumphs and accomplishments, George Dickinson has become the biggest part of an army of young men.

As important as his words and teachings have been in making me a better person, he has given me a gift that outweighs the lasting impression he has made on my life. The one thing that George Dickinson has done to touch my life more than anything is give me my closest friends.

To never have to walk alone down the road of life is truly a blessing. As children, we were very good friends in Troop 282. Today, we are no more than grown-up children. Our shared Scouting past has woven an inseparable common fabric that binds us all together, now and forever.

Number One

I'm convinced that George Dickinson's work is so complete that, even today, as the Scout Law is recited by Troop 282, you can hear my group of friends in the harmony of what Scouting means and encompasses.

Trustworthy and loyal banker Greg Perry; helpful and friendly educator/coach David Mills; courteous and kind environmental scientist Danny Brown; obedient and cheerful postal carrier Chad Traub; thrifty and brave research chemist Derek Lake; clean and reverent business administrator John Melton.

Yes, George Dickinson, I truly meant it when I called you a daddy. You have earned a special place in the hearts of every young man who accepted the challenge of being a Scout in Troop 282. You are still No. 1, and we still love you.

David M. (Doc) Mills lives in Flora, Ill. The above originally appeared as one of his monthly "The Voice of Southern Illinois" columns in the Pontiac (Ill.) Daily Leader.

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