The Klondike Captain

In January of 1971, during my senior year at Boonton High School, I had just received my Eagle Scout. It was a tough trail for me, earning scouting’s highest rank. Having had rheumatic fever at the age of 12, it was very difficult for me to earn the Physical Fitness, Swimming, and Lifesaving Merit Badges.

In early January, the big Kondike Derby was held at Camp Allamuchy in New Jersey. I was elected, by the other senior scouts, to be the Senior Team Captain for Boy Scout Troop 170. There were six towns all together, each town had a separate and distinct competition and series of tests. The six towns stretched all across Camp Allamuchy, in a trail that extended well over six miles.

Including myself there were seven senior scouts on our team. If you look at the above photo they were (from left to right): Peter Holler, Bill Small, Siegfriend Jansen, Dave Small, Don Obenhuber, and George Yost. One of the things that made the Klondike Derby unique was that it was a big foot race, where each team had to pull a Klondike dog sled through the snow. You were judged on both, the time it took to complete the course and how you did on each of the competitions and tests that were given in each of the six towns. The six towns were: First-Aid, Pioneering, Signaling, Astronomy, Map & Compass, and American History.

My strategy, as Captain, was to divide and conquer. The Small brothers were excellent at both Morse Code and Semaphore signaling. So, I let them focus on practicing on signaling at the scout meetings and senior patrol meetings for about a month before the big Klondike Derby.

I remember that Siegfried Jansen and Don Obenhuber were science geniuses. So naturally, I had them study astronomy and the skills needed for map and compass. Peter Holler and George Yost excelled at knot tying and lashing. So, I had them practice up on their pioneering skills about a month before the Klondike. I studied up on American history and first-aid knowledge, rounding up my divide and conquer strategy.

I remember that we took first place for the best time in the Klondike Derby dog sled race. On our points for our competitions and tests in the six different Klondike towns, we took fourth place. With the two total scores added together, the time to run the trail combined with our competition and test scores, we ended up in overall third place out of over 30 senior scout troop teams competing that year.

I remember how the cool kids in school often made fun of me for still being in scouts. I was determined to earn Eagle Scout and it took me a longer time due to having a heart murmur. When I look back, I’m not trying to be a big braggart, but I really do wonder how many of the cool kids could have endured pulling a big dog sled filled with all kinds of heavy scouting equipment. I wonder how many of the cool kids could have endured the mean, cold winter winds of Camp Allamuchy. I wonder how many of the cool kids could have built a fire with nothing but flint and steel, trying to start the fire in midst of the howling winter wind.

A lot of the cool kids called me a square because I was shy, didn’t smoke cigarettes, and didn’t drive up to Greenwood Lake to drink beer and get drunk. Yet the brotherhood and friendship that burnt brightly in the hearts of that Senior Klondike Derby Team of Boy Scout Troop 170, in January of 1971, would have put to shame the flame of friendship that any of the cool kids had for one another.

With harmony and good will, Richard

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