Actor William H. Macy, reminiscing about his days in Scouting, helps send Scouts to camp

William H. Macy (top row, second from right) poses with the members of his Region 7 Canoe Base crew.

William H. Macy was weeping.

But there were no cameras around; these tears were real. The year was 1965 — decades before the Oscar-nominated actor gained fame for his roles in FargoJurassic Park III and Pleasantville, among others

Macy, a member of Explorer Post 10, was halfway into a mile-long portage at the Boy Scouts of America’s Region 7 Canoe Base in northern Wisconsin. Macy was 15 years old and weighed just 110 pounds at the time, but he carried a 75-pound pack on his back and a canoe on his shoulders.

He was carrying more than his weight.

“I kept hearing everyone saying, ‘Let’s not stop. We don’t need a break. We can do it. We can do this,'” Macy said. “And I kept walking, and I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and I thought I was going to die.”

After another 500 feet, he reached the end of the portage. 

“And they lifted this canoe off of my head, and a couple of people looked at me and sort of laughed,” he said. “But it wasn’t a derisive laugh. They were sort of laughing with me. My face was covered with dust from this long walk, and I had been weeping for about the last half mile. And there were these great tear tracks through the dust.”

The tears weren’t because Macy was sad, he said, “it was just it was so painful it squeezed it out of me.”

Then Bob Moreland, one of the post’s advisers, came up and complimented Macy with words the actor remembers 51 years later.

“He said something to the effect of, ‘You got a lot of spunk, kid.’ And I’ve carried that with me to this day — that I have a lot of spunk,” Macy said. “Carried more than my weight, more than a mile.”

Watch the video in which Macy recollects this memorable moment at the end of the post.

His start in Scouting

These days, Macy stars in the critically acclaimed (but not-safe-for-Scouts) TV series Shameless on Showtime. He plays an alcoholic on the show, but the real Macy is pretty much the opposite of the character he plays on television.

He has supported numerous charitable causes, including the Alzheimer’s Association, UNICEF and United Cerebral Palsy. That’s no surprise, given that Macy got his start in Scouting — and still has the Boy Scout membership card to prove it.

Macy was a member of Exploring, which was split into two programs in 1998: a career-exploration program called Exploring and a co-ed Scouting program called Venturing.

Explorer Post 10 was chartered by LaVale United Methodist Church in LaVale, Md. Last month, Post 10 held a 50-year reunion during which members reminisced about that 1965 trip to Region 7 Canoe Base, which closed in 1983.

The former Explorers talked about selling lightbulbs to raise money for the trip, drinking water directly from the lakes (a no-no today) and the scenic, 1,000-mile journey to Boulder Junction, Wis., in a school bus.

Macy couldn’t make it to the reunion, so he sent in the video below. He’s never forgotten the way a high-adventure trip can shape a young person for life. In fact, the actor was so inspired that he made a donation to Post 10’s scholarship fund, meaning more Scouts will experience high adventure.

Fifty-one years later, William H. Macy is still carrying more than his weight.

Thanks to Chip Zimmer, Doug Schwab and Charles Nicholson for sharing their memories and photos for this post.


    • “Fifty-one years later, William H. Macy is still carrying more than his weight.”

      Someone wanted Mr. Macy to have special recognition for donating to scouts. Unless he contributed a very large amount, he is no different that anyone else who donates to scouting. We can all tell our stories about scouting trips.

  1. This is not a story about anyone giving back to Scouting. This is a story about a famous person that feels that the values that he learned in Scouting helped him go the extra mile in life. These kind of experiences wether at a National Scouting location or just at a district camporee Scouts can learn this kind of determination that is taught in a non competitive manner.

  2. Thanks Bryan. As a Scoutmaster, some of my “Scoutmaster Minutes” are devoted to highlighting positive things that scouts are doing in our Troop, in our country or even in the world. I also like to highlight famous people who were once scouts and who are today still commenting on their positive scouting experiences. I think that it’s important to let my scouts know that they are part of something that is bigger than just our Troop. For example, at a recent meeting I printed and taped, a copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Troop Roster that you blogged about this month. Many boys are amazed as to who was once a scout. Thanks again for these posts.

  3. A whole lot of posts that don’t exemplify any of the 12 values. How about the cool fact that here we have another successful person that is giving back to Scouting. How about the next time one of your boys is talking about Scouting not being cool you can throw in Jurassic Park and say, that guy was a Scout. Be positive. If your post isn’t aimed at improving Scouting or illustrating one of its fine values it might be better left in your head…

  4. During the early 1990’s, he also gave back as an adult – he was my assistant scoutmaster for several years. He was very active, and got fellow actors to help support the troop financially.

  5. Bill, I too have many memories from those days at Troop 10 at United Methodist. To this day, I still laugh about some of the tales that occurred on those camping and hiking trips and the challenges that our troop leaders faced in pushing us reach the goal. Whether it was swimming the mile at Camp Potomac on Fridays which traditionally served fish that evening for meal, due to the strong Catholic presence in the community or waking up several times through the night to chart the constellations and moon tracking across the sky for astronomy merit badge. Those were learning adventures that carried us through life.

  6. As a teenager I did the same thing in an Explorer Post at Sommers Canoe Base / Region 10 / Mn…..and had a similar particular tearfully difficult portage I also have remembered all my life…..and one Scout buddy that helped me not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically…..and I’ve carried that, to help thy neighbor…all my life. Scouts build character.

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