As some of you may know, we had a pretty dramatic New Years Resolution this January. It was a bit of an esoteric resolution, and hard to quantify in business practices, but ONE of the tangibles that came from that exercise is to offer enthusiasts of our podcast some FREE field trips – something other historical organizations just wouldn’t do.
This past Sunday, the Resident Historian had a unique opportunity. My son is a Timberwolf scout in the 55th Cascadia. The 55th is a traditional scouting organization, that along with the parent organization, Baden-Powell Service Association, operates under the mission that everyone is welcome, regardless of gender, orientation or religious affiliation (or lack there-of). It’s just kids (boys AND girls), going into the woods, and doing traditional scout stuff – under the guidance of some seriously committed, amazing scout leaders.
The staff at ORHistory.com (Doug and Andy and Melissa the Intern) is committed to getting folks out into the wilds of Oregon, and learning about our state’s history, while having a good fucking time. And this is EXACTLY what an afternoon with the 55th afforded, albeit absent of any curse words (for the children, dude…). We decided to meet at Lower Macleay Park and begin our exploration into some of Oregon’s dramatic history… in a locale so seemingly different than the rest of Portland – but accessible to everyone.
I started off by teaching the scouts how to make plaster casts of animal prints (in case they are hiking in the woods and find the print of a cougar or a beaver or a Bigfoot). Every scout made their own cast, and had a “take away” to bring home. The idea was to just give them a practice run, so the next time they are in the woods and find a cool specimen they want to capture, it won’t be the first time mixing plaster and pouring away. Practice makes perfect! 20 casts were made of a wolf print impression that was carved for the exercise. And while not all of the casts came out perfect, it was a great “first time” for the scouts.
THEN it was time for the History Hike! When you go to Forest Park, of course you tell the story of “The Hanging of Danford Balch.” Which was kind of interesting… because many of the children didn’t know what a “hanging” was. None the less, we had a chance to explain how this amazing gift of natural history that our city possesses, was rooted in a horrific murder on the Stark Street Ferry.
It was a great afternoon spent with the 55th Cascadia, and I was humbled to be able to present to such a studious and woods wise group of scouts and leaders. They are a fantastic scouting organization, committed to community service and providing kids with a traditional scouting experience devoid of some of the anachronistic attitudes that have prevailed for too long in other institutions. Portland and Oregon are a better place because of them. Give them some support if you are able.
And get deep up into Forest Park and experience some Oregon History for yourself!!!
Photos by Ethan Jewett & Travis A. Wittwer