A NARRATIVE OF BOY SCOUT TROOP 38’S SOUTH DAKOTA TRIP
By Earl Kumfer, Assistant Scoutmaster
BSA Troop 38 continues in its mission of service and the adventure of exploring another culture. Four days of travel and five days of living in tipis without electricity on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in west central South Dakota (August 4-12) mark this year’s addition to the tradition for eight veteran and five novice pilgrims.
The last week of July was filled with final preparations. For months the travelers and their families had sought donations of food, money, wood and other resources and planned. The Sunday before leaving, five adults and five scouts gathered to cut and trim the wood for five picnic tables. Over the next several days the trailer wheels were packed with grease, the wood loaded, final donations picked up, and final calls on donors were made. On Thursday all travelers met to load personal equipment in the trailer lent to us by Troop 349. Friday was filled with the rental of a 15-seat van and a mini van, hooking up the trailer, checking lights, tour permit, permission slips, and several trips to banks, food pickup and chores.
Early light on Saturday, August 4th, saw the gathering of travelers and their families at Calvary United Methodist Church. Travel bags and gear were quickly loaded, and we were off. On the road we made frequent stops for refueling both the vans and stomachs. At a roadside park we devoured the donated foot long Subways. In the heavy humidity of mid-Iowa we were welcomed by the assistant ranger of Camp Mitigwa. We set up in the same cabins we used last year and feasted on a taco meal donated by Applebees. We didn’t turn down the skeleton camp staff’s offer of a swim in their pool.
Refreshed, we slept soundly, got a good start Sunday morning and headed west. At Chamberlain, SD we took a long break at the overlook of the Missouri River and a great Lewis and Clark exhibit.
This long day ended well after dark, looking for turn-offs and finally arriving at the tipi village at Brings Arrow Bottom camp on the reservation. The reservation highway is gravel. The “lane” from the road to the ranch house is nine miles long. And the tipi camp is another two and a half miles of rutted dirt path. Our hosts, Rita and Jerry Farlee, their son Lucas and his two pals, several other guests from Germany and Maine, and the new cook, Nelson Barbosa, welcomed and introduced us to “Indian time.” In no time we moved into tipis and set up for a restful sleep under a rising Dakota moon.
Monday starts early in big sky country. Breakfast by the great Captain Cook was tasty and plentiful. Wood was unloaded and the assembly of the tables began. After lunch one crew took material for two tables to the community church at White Horse and assembled them while the rest canoed to a swimming spot on the Cheyenne River.
Tuesday was another travel day. We headed south and west to Rapid City, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument and back by way of the badlands. We ate on the trail (fast food restaurants) and arrived back at camp, late and a little tired from all we saw, ate and did.
Wednesday was finishing up tables and pacing ourselves against the heat. A Sno-cat carried most of the group off across the prairie and through the willow trees to the river to swim; a few stayed in camp and doused themselves with a very cold hose a few times to get cool. By mid afternoon, strong hot dry winds were blowing and shifting. By evening, the winds gusted at 80 mph. The large 25-foot tipi took a decided pitch to the east and was only saved by human weights positioned on the west edge. Late, we had the only rain — brief and hard. The sky cleared. About 1 am the winds were back, testing the tipis again for a couple of hours. The big tipi, anchored by the Sno-cat, lost a pole to the battle and later had to be dropped and raised again.
On Wednesday Morning a great cheerful Lakota woman from White Horse came and began helping all who were interested in beadwork. The projects with her calm coaching filled many of the spare hours through Friday night. While the beaders began, a small crew left for service at Bear Creek. Terry Montreal, who lives in this small community, showed us a wooden bell tower in danger of falling on youthful climbers. Wise minds young and older probed and pondered. The quick solution was to gather some heavy wood and shore up the top of the 6-foot tower. Measurements and photos were taken for the long solution: an eagle project of building a new tower for the church bell.
Thursday’s highlight was a visit to a tribal elk herd. Many got closer than they ever imagined possible. Some photo footage will confirm the sights but not the sounds of the bleating calves and the smells. Many wild turkeys and white tail deer were also spotted. Back at camp we were joined by a Lakota couple from Pine Ridge for interesting talks.
Friday included an attempt to visit the 2nd largest buffalo herd in the country. But they had broken out at a distant fence, so the staff were too busy to escort us to visit them. We picnicked, visited an early white church and cemetery, shopped in Eagle Butte, and enjoyed a great feast with our hosts and their families. After the visitors left camp, Jerry Farlee stayed up late telling stories about this part of the reservation and his life. The drivers drifted off to gather some sleep; the riders stayed up late.
Saturday morning found everyone reluctant to separate. Another great breakfast, sharing of gifts, and a prolonged departure. We backtracked our route to Camp Mitigwa and arrived near midnight and woke our generous Iowa scout hosts. A good short night’s sleep and very comfortable quarters ended with a bright Sunday departure. Most of the scouts worked on citizenship merit badges instead of sleeping. Many prolonged stops for fuel and construction slow-downs delayed our arrival at Calvary UM Church, but spirits soared as we pulled into the parking lot to the happy faces of families.
The chatter about the adventures, little and big, happy and challenging, will go on for weeks. Just ask any of us! The scouts include: Ben Ehrsam, Evan Nolan, Josh Maze, Michael Runyan, Nick Turpchinoff, Preston Collins, and Ryan Russell. Adult committee members include Anita Weyer, Sheila Collins, Vickie Fox. Scoutmaster Jim Fox was assisted by Earl Kumfer-Assistant Scoutmaster and Jason Fox-Junior Assistant Scoutmaster and Troop 38’s newest Eagle Scout. All in all, while we performed meaning service cheerfully for many Lakota, we gained more than we gave.
(Note: Troop 38 wishes to thank American Legion Post 241, Sons of the American Legion Squadron 241, and the Anonymous WWII Fighter pilot for their generous donations of $500, $350, and $500 respectfully and for all the donations made by the rest of the good people of Waynedale, Indiana and the surrounding area. A more detailed list of generous donors will be published in a future SMOKE SIGNALS column. Thank you again.)
Ray McCune, Committee Member Troop 38
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