Not Your Typical Fish Story

Not Your Typical Fish Story

As I walked toward his house, I kept asking myself would this be the day that I finally figure it out. I was nervous, it wasn’t the first time … but I was hoping it would be the last time. I arrived at his house. I knocked on the door. A tall man answered the door and looked down at me, and offered a hello and invited me in.  As I walked in, I had thoughts running through my head.  Would this time finally bring me what I wanted to achieve? Would I finally be able to repeat what I had been shown, and taught so many times before? Would this be the time when he finally lost his patience with me, threw his hands up, raised his voice, and gave up on me? I hoped for a better ending to this day.

His name was Richard DeWolf. He wasn’t just another man in my eyes, he was bigger than life.  He was an achiever, a leader of young men. He was my Scout Master. A gentle man, a noble man, a man of patience and character. He looked after a group of young boys who would soon be men, and it was his calling to bring these young men through a rite of passage, to manhood through self-improvement, hard work, and achievement. Today would be my day to experience what would be a life changing, lifelong lesson that has stayed with me to this day.

My challenge was to complete a ritual, to tie a bowline knot by myself. This was part of my journey to my second-class award. This award was much challenging than completing my tenderfoot, which was more about accountability, than completing challenging tasks. This would be my third two hour meeting with Scout Master DeWolf. My frustration level was high and quite contrary to my master’s patience and understanding. I felt a sense of guilt for not completing my achievement sooner and taking up much of my Scout Master’s time. I sincerely hoped this would be the day.

We settled in, the rope came out, and at that point, the only knot I could tie was the knot in my throat. But his confidence slowly helped me to untie my knotted throat and we took on the task at hand. Teacher and student with one goal in mind… to tie a bowline knot.

He meticulously tied the bowline knot, and explained each bend, weaving the white rope slowly toward it’s intended finish. As I watched him, just as so many times before, I told myself I could do this if I could just remember the specific steps that he showed to me. I vowed that today would be different, the day that I conquered the rope. I took the rope, and I started to my journey. A bend here, a tuck there… Oh, wait second, that’s not what he showed me. He stopped me and reminded me of what he showed me. “No, it doesn’t go like that”, he said.  Now, I’m frustrated again. 4 tries later I’m getting close.

With each try, I feel a sense of small elation as I move further along, and a feeling that victory is near. I had one big hurdle yet to overcome. I had to tie the knot from beginning to end without any help. Up until this point, Scout Master DeWolf was still guiding me. It was now time for me to show what he carefully and diligently showed me.  In this moment, I recall how, with all my heart, wanted to make him proud of me. That the prize for the teacher would soon be presented.

OK, here goes… I took the rope, a wrap here, around there, underneath here, back around there… Oh no, I always struggle with this part…I thought for a moment, as the knot in my throat was being tied faster than my fingers could tie the rope in my hand. I took a deep breath, and I started again.  I was feeling like I was close, and I began to gain confidence as I recalled Scout Master DeWolf’s painstaking instruction. Almost there… two more moves… one more wrap… through there…. Victory !!!!  I did it!!!  Finally. I could breathe. I looked up and Scout Master DeWolf was beaming. My achievement became his reward. This life changing experience brought a huge lesson to me at an early age, that would not be understood until my daughter was born so many years later. Helping others to achieve is something that will live long after we are gone and becomes our legacy. However, the much bigger lesson… showing someone how to succeed, is more important than just telling them how. Had I not been shown how to tie that knot, one twist, one tuck at time. I may have never learned how.  Teach a man to fish, so he can feed himself long after I have moved on. That day, Scout Master DeWolf, with love, understanding, and undying patience taught me how to fish for myself.  That my friends are what legacies are built on.

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