The memories are decades old, but to Claude Stout, many of the details remain as clear as they’ve ever been.
He remembers the days that followed Nov. 22, 1963, and the role he and three fellow Cub Scouts played in his community’s attempt to recover from the shock of the Kennedy assassination.
He remembers when he and those same three friends became Boy Scouts.
He remembers the troop meetings, the merit badges, the campouts, the camporees, the trip to Philmont and even the 1969 National Scout Jamboree.
He remembers his Scoutmaster, Paul Crutchfield, and he remembers the day in 1972 when he and his three friends were awarded the rank of Eagle.
In a detailed and impassioned letter to Scouting magazine, Stout details those memories, and more. How he and those three friends grew up, had careers, got married and had families — and remained friends all the while.
Stout and his pals — Worth Little, Darrell Moore and Wilton McMillan — were deaf, as was Scoutmaster Crutchfield. The boys attended the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, N.C.
Crutchfield — himself an Eagle Scout — was the school’s woodworking instructor.
“The four Scouts took the journey together for nearly a decade to reach the top rank in Boy Scouts,” Stout writes. “It gave them special, lifelong-learning memories that were inspirational, educational, character-building and insightful.”
How it started
Stout’s story begins in the days after the Kennedy assassination, when NCSD officials asked the four 9-year-olds to raise the school’s flag to half-staff in honor of the fallen president.
“Little did the four Cub Scouts realize then that in nine more years, they would be together before a packed house to attain Scouting’s highest honor,” Stout writes.
After crossing over from Pack 3 to Troop 182, the boys participated with other Scouts in the weekly Wednesday meetings in a room on the top floor of the school’s supply warehouse.
“These meetings would usually start with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Scout Oath, and the Scout Law,” Stout writes. “Then Mr. Crutchfield would captivate their attention with his stories about past troop activities and former Scouts.
“He shared some words of wisdom, including the one about a twig as opposed to a bundle of them, to demonstrate the power of an individual versus a group of individuals in a social, political or cultural setting.”
Stout remembers a hike along a creek as the boys learned about conservation of natural resources. He remembers swimming laps around the school’s indoor pool as they worked on the Lifesaving merit badge.
He remembers doing five 10-mile hikes and one 20-mile hike to earn the Hiking merit badge. He remembers learning to cook and bake, and he remembers how he and his friends loved to admire Crutchfield’s personal collection of stamps and coins.
Working up the ranks
The boys communicated with Crutchfield and each other using American Sign Language. It didn’t seem to slow them down. If anything, the challenges they faced made them stronger.
In 1969, they attended the National Scout Jamboree at Farragut State Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“Astronaut and Eagle Scout Neil A. Armstrong sent greetings to those at the Jamboree from outer space during his historic voyage to the moon,” Stout recalls. “Lady Baden-Powell, the wife of the Boy Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell, made an appearance at the closing ceremonies.”
In 1971, the boys attended the Camporee for the Deaf, hosted by the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. That same year, the group spent ten days hiking the backcountry at Philmont Scout Ranch.
“One night, while they were away for an activity, a bear stopped by their campsite and took down the bag with their food and supplies that was hung from the tree,” Stout writes. “The mistake was that the bag was too close to the trunk of the tree, enough for the bear to reach it.”
On May 26, 1972, the NCSD’s students, teachers, counselors and officials attended the Eagle Scout award presentation for all four boys. The theme of the event was “As They Grow.” Other Scouts presented five skits portraying the four boys’ journey from Cub Scouts to, now, the rank of Eagle.
Earning their Eagle
Stout still remembers Crutchfield’s Scoutmaster Minute.
“He said, ‘Today, I would like to call your badge the living badge. This badge is very special and is different from any other badge, medal or honor that you will ever receive. In your future life, you will see your badge again and again whenever you open the case, drawer or wherever you keep it. You will, perhaps, wonder if you are worthy to wear it, and sometimes you will feel you are unworthy. But the badge is still yours, and it will always help you remember that you can do your best.’ ”
Crutchfield died in 1990. He dedicated 50 years of his life to the service of Scouting and helped produce 46 Eagle Scouts along the way.
Worth Little graduated from NCSD as the class valedictorian, and later got married and had two children. He served as vice president of the North Carolina Deaf Campers Association for five years. He died in 2019.
“Scouting was a big part of Worth’s life,” Little’s widow, Diane, told Stout. “He loved sharing his Scouting stories with his children to teach them the importance of building healthy relationships with their friends, giving back to their community and doing the best they can in everything they do.”
Darrell Moore eventually married and had two children. He served as a volunteer for his local fire department and as a member of the North Carolina Deaf Golfers Association and the Southeastern Deaf Golfers Association.
“Boy Scouts has painted a bigger picture of life, our country and the world for me and many others,” Moore told Stout. “I will always be an Eagle no matter what I do, or where I go.”
The story continues
Wilton McMillan would marry and have three children. He worked for 38 years in fields related to the education of the deaf and hard of hearing.
“I believe in the golden rule, and being in both the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts shaped my life to what it became and still is today,” McMillan told Stout. “The Scout Oath and Scout Law still hold true for me in that we all must create an even playing field for everyone.”
And Stout, the teller of this story, got married, had two kids, and worked over the years for the National Association of the Deaf, the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and the North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. He was chair of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network for 18 years, and worked for 23 years for Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inc.
“We feel closer to God when we go camping or hiking,” Stout writes. “As we met the requirements with the merit badges and projects for the Eagle badge, it was an extra curriculum for our future as highly functional Americans.
“We have seen over the years how mutually beneficial it is to do volunteer service for our community. And we identify more today with the founder Robert Baden-Powell’s famous Scout motto, Be Prepared.”