Monday, October 5, 2009

Scouting at Bear Lake and Tell Gubler

I mentioned before that my dad has told me that one of the funnest things he had ever done was be a camp commissioner at a Boy Scout camp at Bear Lake, which straddles the Utah-Idaho border. I asked him the other day about how he got involved in this job, and here is some of the story he told me. I am assuming that Tell Gubler has long since gone the way of all the earth, so I am using his real name here.

During Papa's freshman year at BYU, he worked at the Cannon Center Cafeteria, where, because at that time they did not wear earplugs, he believes (and who will disagree?) that he got a good start on his adult hearing loss. After his mission, he worked for the BYU press, which was a job he enjoyed because he wasn't stuck all the time in one place; he got to go all around campus, delivering printing jobs. One day towards the end of the school year, he delivered a job down at the Richards Building--one of two P.E. buildings on campus, and the one that housed (and still houses) what is now the RMYL major-- Recreation Management/Youth Leadership. On one of the bulletin boards, he saw an advertisement for a job as a truck driver and canoe guide for a boy scout camp, the following summer. He thought that sounded pretty interesting, so he went up to Salt Lake City, where the Great Salt Lake Council Boy Scout Offices were, in order to apply. While he was talking to the guy who was in charge of the canoe job, he heard an old voice behind him. "You don't want to do that. You want to come down to Bear Lake and work for me."

[This begins the part of the story where I typed almost as fast as Papa talked, making him wait every couple of sentences while I caught up. I have rearranged and added bits at will, but I read the finished product to Papa and had him approve it. The italicized parts are where I was talking.]

The voice belonged to a man named Tell Gubler. He was slow of speech. That may have been his last year-- he was just a couple of years before retirement. There was nothing about him that would make him seem exciting, I guess would be the word. He really came across as dull. He just kind of emanated a feeling of-- what's the word?-- I guess old school? Do you know what I'm saying?


It was almost like he came out of a previous generation-- well, he WAS out a previous generation, he very much was. Part of this was colored by what I learned about him later. He didn't tell me that he knew my parents, that he had made a life of Boy Scouting.

Of course, you couldn't get more Swiss than Tell Gubler (name-wise-- William Tell and all). He hired me as camp commissioner.

What did that mean?

Hmm. It sorta meant I did oddball jobs. I taught rope-tying, and orienteering, and helped with the canoe trek sometimes, kind of. I guess it was quite a help when that storm came in. [Another story for another day...] Killed rattlesnakes. Played Risk.

So, if you were the camp commissioner, what was Tell Gubler?

Camp director. And there was B---- -- can't remember his last name-- and, oh, what was the other guy's name? His wife was D----... can't remember. They were the assistant directors. The assistants were also professional scouters.

I did tell you what Mom said when she found out?

Your mom?


When I went home between that time that I signed on with him and when camp began, my mother, finding out where I was going to work and who I was going to work with, said "Your dad and I don't know anybody we love and respect more than Tell Gubler." You don't get anything more shiny than that. [Dear siblings and relatives, I must tell you: Papa got a little choked up at this point in the story.] Before the year was out, I understood. And agreed. That was what was so profound about Tell. There was nothing immediately impressive about him, that I could see.

Tell was the professional scouter of the Teton Peaks council when Lloyd and C------ and Grandpa Cox got their Eagle Scouts (and G---- got his Life Scout that night). It was our last Sunday in Shelly, before we moved to Moreland. I think it may have been in sacrament meeting that they did the court of honor. So, Tell knew Grandpa Cox, and I think that the family connection gave him a lot of confidence in me, at least in the scout camp. He had no idea that I had never gotten past tenderfoot.

But you did hold up your end of the deal.

Yeah, there was one day at the end of the camp when he and his two assistants cornered me-- all three professional scouters-- and tried to talk me in to going in to professional scouting. I thought about it, but I knew that when you're a professional scout, you spend at least two thirds of your life fundraising, and it just didn't seem worth it to me. Well, not all of your life is fundraising, but only a couple of months of it would be at camp, and overall it just didn't seem that fun to me.

I suppose that part of the reason why the camp was so good was because I felt so successful at what I was doing.

Did I tell you that the thing that impressed me the most was digging the trench? It was a couple of weeks before camp actually began, and we had a two-day retreat for all of the scout camps, all of the professionals and all of the staff for the scout camps, at the Bear Lake camp.

So what area did this encompass? How many camps did they come from?

I imagine that there were at least three, if not six, camps in the Bear Lake region.

So, yours wasn't THE Bear Lake scout camp, it was one of them.

Yes. There were at least a couple of others on the other side of the lake. Our side was on the west side, and it was very barren. They had planted trees, and I was in charge of moving the water lines. I think that the trees eventually died, which is really sad, because I think it would have been really nice to have had them there.

Oh! the thing that impressed me. They needed a trench built for a water line. I remember Tell didn't say anything about it. I mean, he was old enough that he looked kinda fragile. So, he went out without saying anything to anybody, and started digging this trench line. Here's a couple of dozen scouters, maybe more, and it's pretty clear that he's the oldest of anybody. And within, oh, I'd say fifteen minutes, there were at least half a dozen, maybe a dozen scouters, that were manning pick and shovel on the line, because it made us feel guilty to see him working without anybody to help him.

It reminds me of something he said at one of our campfires to the scouts. He talked about when he was younger, he worked on a Turkey farm, and he could tell when he fed the turkeys and took care of them, their chirp was a little different. It was a sort of an idealistic thing, that even turkeys can tell when they're being taken care of.

[Note on how I have told this story: the first paragraph is my retelling of what I remembered of a coversation about how this all went down; much of the rest came from a conversation which started as me trying to verify the details of what I had written, but ended up being a recollection session about Tell Gubler, with Papa mostly talking and me interspersing questions. In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that the one piece of dialogue with quotation marks around it is made up-- it happened mostly like that, but not exactly.]


N said...

Yes, the POV shifting is too confusing. It got in the way of my enjoying the story far more than the judicious use of italics would, I think - I thought of suggesting different colours of font, but that would be distracting.

SAC said...

That any better?