Yesterday I received Running Toward Danger: Real Live Scouting Action Stories of Heroism, Valor & Guts (WindRush Publishers) in the mail. It was a gift from Michael S. Malone, the author.
Malone, who wrote The Eagle Scout Handbook and a history of the Eagle Scout Award, Four Percent: The Story of Uncommon Youth in a Century of American Life, may have another bestseller with this book (Amazon lists Four Percent in its top 100 best sellers even now three years later). But from the moment you pick up his new book you are in for a rare reading experience.
The pages look and feel like my old World Book— you know, that thick-paged, slick feeling that invites a serious long read. The book’s layout moves from one to three columns with varying fonts, type sizes and colors. The illustrations are like a Marvel comic. In all it grabs your eye and moves you forward in a flow of fascinating copy and visual excitement.
I read fifty of the 384 pages in one sitting, but not because of the feel or look, but for the insight into early BSA history and a country that expected Scouts to save lives, which they did. I also love the insights into a nation of boys so eager for Scouting that our fledgling office could not keep up with the demand for awards for which boys qualified.
As an example, Arthur Eldred, BSA’s first Eagle Scout, was so taken by Scouting that in just two years he had qualified for the Eagle award, months before BSA would actually have the badges. Malone writes:
“… he would have to wait until fall for the receipt of his Eagle Medal because it had yet to be designed.
“Thus, Eagle Scout Arthur Eldred had to spend the summer of 1912 cooling his heels awaiting his official ceremony and the receipt of his medal. So, like other summers in his Scouting career, 17-year old Arthur decided to go to camp across the Hudson River in Orange Lake, New York. And it was there that fellow Scout Melvin Daly decided to wade into the shallow water near the bank.
“Daly was a popular member of the troop. Before this moment his most memorable Scouting experience had been walking through the snow to a troop meeting in nearly sole-less shoes because he had spent his shoe money on his first Scout Uniform. Now, as he waded out in Orange Lake, Melvin Daly suddenly stepped off an underwater ledge and disappeared beneath the water’s surface.
“He managed to claw his way back to the surface and scream for help before he disappeared again. Among all witnessing the unfolding tragedy, only two figures broke into a run for the lake’s edge—stripping off shoes and clothes as they went: fellow Scout Merritt Cutler and Eagle Scout Arthur Eldred.
“Eldred got to Daly first. Swimming to where Melvin last appeared, Eldred dove down. He found Daly in the mud at the lake’s bottom. Grabbing the boy and pushing off, Eldred pulled his way back to the surface, then pushed Daly’s limp form high enough to get the boy’s face above the water. There, Eldred was met by Cutler, who also gripped Daly and helped swim him to shore. It was at that moment Daly revived. Confused and terrified he flung his arms around Cutler—and in death embrace, the two boys again sank beneath the surface.
“As a future World War I combat veteran, a survivor of the Spanish flu, distinguished government official, a lifelong supporter of Scouting, (to date) the patriarch of three generations of Eagle Scouts—and, of course, the first Eagle himself—Arthur Eldred would accomplish many important things his life, and survive many dangers. But no act ever took, nor danger he ever faced, was greater than the one he met in the next few moments.
“Already exhausted, he again dove to the bottom of the lake and there found the two boys still locked together and struggling. Eldred pulled them apart, then assuming that Cutler was in the better shape, again grabbed Daly and pulled him to the surface. Unlike Cutler, Eldred had trained in lifesaving for his Eagle, and he knew enough to spin around the flailing Daly to stay out of his reach, grab him in a him in a cross-chest carry, and swim him to shore. Bystanders now had come down to the water to carry in the coughing, choking boy.
“Eldred had saved the boy’s life. But he wasn’t done. Looking back out Arthur saw that Cutler, battered by the struggle with Daly now, was losing his own fight and was within moments of drowning. Without hesitation and exhausted, Eldred dove back in. He reached Cutler in time and rescued him.
“Thus in a matter of minutes, Arthur Eldred, biding his time over the summer awaiting the presentation on his Eagle award, had saved the lives of two of his fellows scouts. Eyewitness accounts and subsequent affidavits and reports confirmed everything Eldred had done. So, even as his Eagle paperwork slowly made its way through BSA headquarters, Arthur’s Honor Medal form followed closely behind.”
Imagine another 170 of these little-known tales. These success stories in American history finally get the telling they deserve; this is the story of a century of the Boy Scout Honor Medal for Lifesaving and its impact on American life.
Scouting volunteer David Scott, publisher of Running Toward Danger, did the math and came up with the staggering number of how many people are alive today because of Scouting heroism.
“An estimated 3 to 5 million people—the equivalent of a city the size of Houston and Chicago—are alive today in the U.S. because they, or one of their parents and grandparents, had their life saved by a Boy Scout,” Scott says. “No volunteer lifesaving program … has had such an impact on a country.”
Scott says most people have never heard of the Honor Medal. “Little more than a thousand of the highest order medals (for risking one’s own life to save another) have been earned since 1912, and just 13,000 of the lowest three orders (for saving a life at little or no personal risk in the same period). These are stories of the most incredible acts of risk and bravery: stories that scream to be told and re-told,” he said.
I agree. Scouts may have read about a Scout saving someone in Boy’s Life, but they’re probably not aware of this unique heroism award and certainly they need to hear each of these amazing action stories.
I think Malone sent me a copy so that our editorial staff might share some of its inspiration with readers. However after reading for several hours last evening, I wouldn’t know how to share the inspiration it offers properly—you will have to get your own copy.*
How will use use these stories of heroism to inspire your troop, team or crew?
*You may pick up Running Toward Danger, this beautifully designed, full-color book now at Amazon.