People buy and sell cars all the time.
But this wasn’t just any car.
In the fall of 1998, shortly after my older son (who is now in medical school) came home from the second grade and told mom and dad that he wanted to join Cub Scouts, I bought a brand-new car, a small SUV, not knowing the adventures that lay ahead.
The car took us many places as a family – vacations, visits to the city, doctor appointments, shopping trips and outings – but it also took my sons and I many places in Scouting.
We drove to den and pack meetings together, where I’d drag in the flags, the refreshments, or my big bag of amusements to keep the boys busy when I ran short of material.
We went on our first campout together. I remember it well – we camped with the Boy Scouts on a snowy weekend in December and had the time of our life. Later, my younger son went with us on his first campout with the Cub Scout pack.
The car took me to Wood Badge, to at least a half dozen summer camps, to many OA events and excursions far and wide with the troop, to hundreds of troop meetings and pack meetings and committee meetings and district meetings and Roundtables. It was regularly crammed full of radio gear and antennas for our annual Jamboree On The Air operations and with training materials and equipment for countless leader training sessions. The back seat was a virtual Scouting “office on wheels.”
In nearly a quarter million miles of commuting, vacationing and errand-running, I can’t imagine what percentage was devoted to Scouting. But it’s been with me during my entire career as an adult Scouter. I have sometimes asked myself (and others have asked me) why I kept the car for so long, but it’s like Clarke Green said in his essay Extraordinary People:
Most of the time extraordinary folks have to pass up the slick two-seater sports car and coax another year or two out of the beat-up old mini-van or pickup truck because, you know, it’ll carry more gear, or more Scouts, or a little bit of both.
It has been a great car – a great Scouting car.
Now it’s time to say goodbye.
This week we picked up a shiny new car. It’s a hybrid, and gets twice the mileage of the old car and an even bigger improvement over the one that my wife drives (itself getting long in the tooth). She has started a new job that’s a longer commute, and we felt for many reasons that we needed a reliable car with better mileage, modern safety features and a reduced footprint.
Cleaning out the car, I came across memories stretched across the years:
- My hiking shoes that carried my feet over days and weeks of camping.
- The collection of jackets, fleeces, blankets and towels that kept me warm and dry when a campout got unexpectedly cold or wet.
- Extra shoes and socks in case my son or one of his friends needed them. (Or me.)
- My younger son’s fourth grade writing journal in which he described falling on a rock and getting stitches in his forehead.
- A tent stake. (I thought I was missing one…)
- Several hundred feet of rope for clotheslines, tent rigging or just in case someone needed a rope to practice tying knots.
- The Guide to Safe Scouting (as a good Scouter, I never travel without it).
- My Wood Badge hat.
- The service star that fell off my uniform several years ago.
I could go on and on…
My camping days are few and far between any more, and what driving I do for Scouting now is pretty much to unit visits, commissioner meetings and an occasional trip to the service center. Our transportation needs have shifted somewhat, and I no longer need a car that I’m not afraid to load up with gear and boys and drive across a field or on a dirty rocky two-track road only to return covered with a thick layer of camp at the end of a weekend.
Even though I’ve taken really good care of it, the Blue Book says it’s not worth much, so when the dealer and I agreed on a value, I decided to just hand over the keys and turn over a new leaf. The price it fetched in dollars is modest but only a fraction of the value of the memories it leaves behind.