“Oh, okay,” his mom said after her son Ron Shiflet asked for her help.
She hit pause on her ball game to go through a pamphlet on child abuse with him. They sat together in the living room, flipped through pages, and talked over things. Then, she signed his Scout Book.
He had just completed a necessary Scouting requirement to read over the pamphlet with his parents, as many Scouts do.
The difference? His mom was in her 70s, and he was about 50.
Since his mom was still alive, Shiflet, of Thatcher, Arizona, drove over to her home to spend quality time with her and because he had made a decision:
He, a father and grandfather, wanted to complete the requirements for an Eagle award.
His younger son was an eleven-year-old Scout, and his elder son was an Eagle Scout. But, Shiflet himself never earned his Eagle, something he regretted in later years.
So, after being invited to be a Scout assistant for his son’s troop, he bought a book and thought about working on it for a few weeks. Then, he determined that he would go through the program himself.
Despite knowing he couldn’t actually earn his Eagle, he got to work.
He sat down with his eleven-year-old son (also his Scoutmaster). They looked at the first requirement, which said he needed to be a boy between eleven and eighteen.
He said his son sat there, looking at him, and knew he couldn’t pass. They simply wrote ‘FAILED’ on that portion and moved on.
“You flunked, Dad,” his son joked.
Still, he kept going.
It took about two years for him to complete the necessary merit badges and accomplish his Eagle Project. He participated in the same activities as the young men he lead–yet the experience was different for him than it might be for many teenage Scouts.
“My mother didn’t do it for me,” he said, laughing.
In ways, things were a bit easier for Shiflet. His adult insight and years of experience helped him when accomplishing merit badges. After being involved with music his whole life, the Music merit badge seemed pretty easy. And while others struggled with the Bugling badge, he’d been proficient as a trumpet player for years. So, it wasn’t too hard.
He also wasn’t being pushed by someone else to accomplish the tasks. The drive came from his own desires.
On the other hand, some things seemed a bit more taxing for a man in his early 50s.
Camping in a tent for 20 days just didn’t seem as fun as sleeping in a hotel. And, the Personal Fitness badge was very difficult. He started it, quit, then had to begin again.
“That was the hardest but probably most beneficial to me.” he said. “I’m still trying to keep it going.”
Shiflet also faced other obstacles. People didn’t want to help with his board of review because they knew it wouldn’t pass. (So, he asked his young son to be his Scoutmaster, and his wife became his board of review–a beneficial learning experience for his son.)
But, through effort and perseverance, he made it to his Eagle project. He helped switch an email list over to a Facebook page. With the aid of others, they developed a Facebook committee to ease the work of a single individual. They established rules and made critical decisions. The project is ongoing.
After years of not being an Eagle, he had done it! He unofficially earned his Eagle badge.
“It was definitely worth it,” he said. The experience helped him better understand the Scouting program. He learned how essential it is for a young man to have a coach or mentor because many of the requirements were difficult and confusing for even him to do on his own.
“Some Scout leaders just go play ball,” he said referring to activities with Scouts. “Some Scout leaders take them camping. Scouting has little to do with camping and activities and a lot to do with growing up.”
He explained that the role of a leader goes beyond spontaneity. In order to help boys grow and achieve goals, there needs to be a lot of planning and organization.
By looking at things from the eyes of a boy, he was better able to understand his role as a leader.
Even better than working on his Eagle, he said the opportunity to work with youth has been most rewarding. From skunks at camp to whipped cream messes, he’s seen boys learn and grow through their Scouting adventures.
He wants that opportunity to be available to other Scout leaders as well. Completing Scout requirements is something he thinks may help Scout leaders receive insight into boys’ needs.
“I wish they (the BSA) would open it up for leaders (to become Eagle Scouts),” said Shiflet.