Read this Texas Poet Laureate’s ode to his departed Scoutmaster

Like most of us who were in a Boy Scout troop growing up, Dave Parsons had a Scoutmaster who changed his life.

But unlike most of us, Parsons is a gifted writer able to put his memories into beautifully written words. The 2011 Texas Poet Laureate was so moved by his Scoutmaster that he wrote the brilliant poem below to honor the man’s memory.


For Jack Wilkes

Every first Monday of the month

you would pick us up, 6:30 P.M. sharp

for Boy Scout meetings: Troop 1

at the O. Henry Junior High gym,

my school, the same space I learned

to dance in socks, doing the two step,

and how basketball was a kind of dance

from five foot tall, Coach Herman Wiese.


My traveling salesman Dad never being home,

your zeal was the only thing that kept me

in Scouts, you made it so easy, always

picking me up for meetings, weekend camps

and then helping me in securing a summer job

teaching Canoeing and Rowing at Camp

Tom Wooten.  I remember how you would

go out before our camping trips and leave

Indian trail markers for us to find and follow

and how to make wild berry tea and survive

eating plants and grubs. Time and again, I

have found aspects of  the ideal man in small

examples you planted in my head; in five decades

I never thought of you not surviving anything.


You were the most honest, self-resourceful man

I had ever known. I can see you now, tanned,

tall and slim with graying temples, impeccable,

Atticus Finch in a Scout uniform with your

ever present, Eagle Badge and knee socks.

After the Scout meetings, we would always

play a pick-up game of round ball, while

you would pack up the scout stuff and re-clean

what we had missed in our half-hearted attempts,

though firm, you never ranted or raised your voice.

On the way home we would frequently stop

At Scotty’s Bakery, where I would buy a dozen

hot, out of the vat glazed donuts and wolf down

the entire bag before being dropped off,


After all these years, I can still feel

the huge knot of sugar, grease, and dough

tightening my gut, not unlike the feeling

I had when my old, fellow Scout Bert told me

you were gone and I had missed your funeral,

and yet, even if I had been there, it would have

been too late to tell you what I regret never saying,

simply, Thanks, Mr. Wilkes, I do not know who

I would have become without having known you

and after all these years, I am still discovering myself

in memories of your many edifying ways, trail markers.


By David M. Parsons


This poem is reprinted from Feathering Deep (Texas Review Press), copyrighted 2011 by David M. Parsons.

About Bryan Wendell 3140 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.