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Chief No-Nose


Bob Hyman

This story is a brief glimpse of a boy, at a couple of critical milestones in his life, as witnessed and shared by his Scoutmaster.

I remember Rusty's last Blue and Gold Banquet. He wore the strangest  neckerchief slide that I had ever seen. It was a carved wooden figure. I think it started out to be a pirate, then somewhere along the way it went though various stages as a sailor or fisherman, and finally ended up as a somewhat disfigured Indian. The most noticeable feature was the lack of a nose. But Rusty was prouder of that neckerchief slide than of anything else he had ever done.

He was an eleven year old Cub Scout, and I was the Scoutmaster of the Boy Scout Troop he was about to join. He was a very outgoing young man, full of exuberance and Scout Spirit. After the banquet we held the cross-over ceremony, and I did a quick Scoutmaster conference with each of the new Scouts. I asked each of them the same questions: what did they expect to get from the Boy Scout program, and what were they prepared to give in return? Most spoke vaguely about looking forward to camping and hiking, and all said the mandatory words about doing good turns and helping their community. But Rusty was somewhat more specific; he boldly stated that he was going to be the first Eagle Scout in our Troop.

Now, our Troop was quite new, and it is true that we didn't have any Eagles yet, but I cautioned Rusty that there were several Scouts already a full year ahead of him on the Eagle trail. He wasn't phased at all, and told me he would catch up with them quickly. I was happy to see his dedication, but I was somewhat fearful that he might be setting unrealistic goals for himself that he couldn't accomplish.

After the Scoutmaster conferences were completed, we held our first meeting as new Boy Scouts. All of the new boys wore their hand-made slides that they had carved as Cubs, only now they were on brand new Boy Scout neckerchiefs. We had an impromptu contest and the older Scouts selected the prettiest, most original, and several other categories for the new boys' slides. When Rusty's turn came around, the Scouts laughed, and nicknamed his slide "Chief No-Nose." He easily won the award for the ugliest slide. Rusty laughed along with them and accepted the criticism without blinking.

Later that evening, as the service patrol was cleaning up after the banquet, one of the older Scouts brought me a neckerchief slide. It was Chief No-Nose; it had been found in the trash.

Since Rusty and his parents had already left, I took it with me, planning to return it to him later. But the following week, at the next Scout meeting, Rusty was wearing a new neckerchief slide. It was a very nicely carved Indian, obviously store-bought, with perfect facial features. I commented on it, and Rusty told me he had decided to replace the old one; he thought the new one looked more "Scout-like." Sensing that this might be a touchy subject, I didn't let on that I knew he had thrown away the original.

Years slipped by, and - true to his word - Rusty became our Troop's first Eagle candidate. I remember the evening I took him to his Eagle Review Board. We sat outside the room, waiting for his turn to be called before the board. I don't know who was more scared, he or I. I had never seen him so unsure of himself. He was nervous and fidgety, and kept asking me if his uniform looked okay.

I told him to stand up, and let me take a final look. He sure looked sharp, from his freshly pressed uniform to his well-filled Merit Badge sash. I paused as I looked at his neckerchief. It was our standard Troop neckerchief, but he wore a special slide. It was Scouting's Diamond Jubilee year, and Rusty's slide had a carved "75" on a Scout emblem background. I frowned, and told him I didn't think the slide was appropriate. He looked puzzled, and told me how hard it had been to carve it just right. I told him I had another one that might look better. I pulled Chief No-Nose from my pocket and presented it to him.

"Why don't you wear this one instead, and tell the board what you've learned since you carved it," I suggested.

Rusty looked in shock at the treasure he thought had been lost forever. Slowly a smile came over his face. "You know," he said, "That thing sure is ugly!"

"Yes, it is at that," I agreed.

"But I suppose," he continued, "that it says more about me trying to do my best than this one ever will. I guess it doesn't really matter if others think it's funny-looking."

I nodded my head in agreement, but didn't say a word. I didn't have to. As we stood there together, Scoutmaster and Scout, both about to face the unknown for the first time, I saw a familiar air of confidence return to his face. A look that said "I know how to meet this challenge, because I've faced tougher ones in the past."

Rusty put on his Chief No-Nose slide and I introduced him to the review board. As I waited outside the room, eagerly awaiting the outcome, I thought of all the adventures we had been through since that long-ago Blue and Gold Banquet. Later, after he successfully completed the review, we laughed at the idea that Chief No-Nose had been there to share in his victory.

Several months later, after his Eagle award ceremony, Rusty's parents hosted a reception in his honor. At such receptions, it has become commonplace for the new Eagle Scout to present his Scoutmaster with a token of appreciation. I've had several of the Norman Rockwell "The Scoutmaster" plaques given to me over the years. But there is something special about that first one - the one that came along with an ugly neckerchief slide by the name of "Chief No-Nose." Only Rusty and I will ever know the true significance of that gift, the one that meant so much to him then and the one that means so much to me now.

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