Steve Borgerding was playing softball in a Melrose park in 1980 when he saw Scoutmaster John Schofield and his troop taking down a tent. He walked over and uttered the fateful words, “Need some help?” Almost 32 years and a few hundred tents, boys, and memories later, the Scoutmaster of Troop 68 is retiring. He was honored at an open house at the Melrose Legion Club on February 25. Steve was born in Melrose to Tom and Ginny Borgerding. He enjoyed being a Boy Scout for three and a half years. “We didn’t do nearly the stuff we do now,” he says. He never made Eagle Scout, the highest rank, because that type of advancement wasn’t stressed as much as it is now. John Johnson was Melrose’s first Eagle Scout, before the current troop was organized. Jeff Hegle was the first of 20 Eagle Scouts under Steve’s watch. “Eagle is the sixth of the ranks,” he explains. “You have to earn 21 merit badges, spend time doing service projects in the community, and show leadership skills within the troop.” Steve served for a year and a half as assistant, and became Scoutmaster in September, 1981. He maintained the troop website and an interactive blog, attended district and council events and one National Jamboree at Fort A.P Hill, Virginia. Occasionally he took the boys to Philmont High Adventure Camp in New Mexico, where in addition to 12 days of backpacking and camping in tents, they took part in activities such as burro racing, shotgun shooting, Indian lore, gold mining, and archaeology. “Philmont used to be a big gold mining area,” Steve says. It was long ago tapped out, and boys might be lucky to find a tiny flake of the precious stuff, but the thrill of the hunt is still there. Since Philmont is the place where traces of tyrannosaurus rex were found, there is an actual archeological site in operation. For camping a little closer to home, Steve helped to establish Camp Whatchamagumi. “We were looking for a place to camp in the mid-eighties,” he says. “Melvin and Vern Klasen said we could go to their land by Ward Springs. For the first few couple of years we camped up there wherever we could put a tent. Then we decided we’d like to go there every spring for weekend camping, so they gave us permission to clear out some brush to make a few campsites. One of the kids came up with the name.” Troop 68 goes to Whatchamagumi every year, where they do ” basic Scout stuff,” such as pioneering, which involves making structures like towers and camp gateways out of logs and rope; fire and campfire safety; knife and ax safety; and nature studies. They play softball and disc golf, and do the annual egg drop. “We give the kids a raw egg and just using things they find in nature, they have to create a package for that egg, so when they drop it, it doesn’t break. They use leaves, sticks, mud, moss—usually it’s a combination to get the job done. We start about waist high and drop it to the ground, and each level gets higher. We’ve had the kids get so good at it that sometimes we’re on a ladder dropping eggs 15 to 20 feet. Some years they get a prize and other times they get the bragging rights to champion of the egg drop.” Many Scout activities today wouldn’t be found in Steve’s collection of old handbooks. For example, they used to be told to dig a trench around their tent to prevent flooding. “Go to a camp area now and dig a trench, you’ll be in big trouble because it will cause erosion. In the 1920s they didn’t realize that yet.” Scouts still learn to build fires and tie knots, but they probably wouldn’t have worked on a computer badge or done an LRMPB: an afternoon and evening of laser tag, rollerskating, attending a movie, eating pizza, and late night bowling. Other activities include downhill skiing, tubing, and visiting the Melrose Area Museum. July brings a week-long summer adventure up north at Many Point Scout Camp. “They work on advancement in the morning, in the afternoon they do troop activities, and in the evening they can swim, sail, canoe, row, do pioneering, learn cooking in the wilderness, rock climb, learn about nature, or do the archery or shotgun range,” Steve says. Of course, camping wouldn’t be camping without an evening of scary stories. Their favorite–and Steve’s—is about the vicious beast known as the wolfen and how to be prepared for it if they encounter it in the wilderness. “It makes cougars and tigers look tame by comparison,” he says, tongue in cheek. Scouts have been known to adopt the buddy system when returning to their tents from the outhouse after hearing such a bedtime story. Sometimes real beasts take part in camping. Assistant Scoutmaster Eymard Orth, all alone in camp, once encountered a bear, which ended up in a tree, and another bear once walked past the camp. But Steve notes, raccoons and skunks pose more threat than bears. They can smell improperly-stored food and are used to humans. If you chase them away, they just return. Steve was once awakened at night in camp, shined a flashlight into beady little eyes, and saw two raccoons at the food supply and two skunks waiting their turn. Another raccoon once found his way into a camper’s tent. Steve’s troop once went on an “eight-mile five-mile hike,” winding up a fair distance from base camp. But apart from a few bouts of homesickness, there have been very few instances of illness or injury while camping. “I can only think of three or four that had to go home in a camper. I think we’ve had a really good track record in 30 years. I’ve heard some horror stories from other camp leaders.” As a long-time member of the Board of Directors of Mel-TV3, the now-defunct community TV station, Steve made a number of shows with the scouts, including “Bobby’s Biking Blunders” and “The Warning of the Ring.” For 13 years they videoed the courts of honor, and created a program called “Laughs for Lunch.” In addition to Eymard, Steve has help from Buttons, the Radical Boy Scout; Buttons’ brother, Randall; and Bones, the dog. Via video, these Muppet-like characters do exercises, get ready for camp, and otherwise make scouting fun. About his decision to retire, Steve says, “Thirty-two years is long enough. The community doesn’t seem to respond to scouting as much as it used to any more. We topped out with 41 scouts. Now the troop has only eight scouts, and one is from Long Prairie and two are from Sauk Centre. The Cub Scouts have 10 boys. If the community isn’t interested in keeping the troop on, they’re going to lose them.” He adds, “I totally see the value of having boys in scouting. You talk to any Boy Scout who is now in his 30s and 40s, and I think they’ll strongly support the program. In fact, some of my former Scouts have kids in Scouts now.” One of them, David Hasbrouck, is currently the Cubmaster in Shakopee. Mark Ettel has taken over as the Melrose troop’s scoutmaster, while Steve replaced him as treasurer on the scout committee. “I think he’ll do a good job. He seems to care for the program. He’s also the Cub Scout leader too, so hopefully somebody will step up take over as Cubmaster.” Steve has turned down offers to serve on committees at the Central Minnesota Council, B.S.A. “I’m going to make sure things are running well here first,” he says.
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