Norwegian heritage meets scouting

Raising an Eagle Scout takes a village

Photos: Bill Solum Einar with his picnic tables.

Photos: Bill Solum
Einar with his picnic tables.

Barbara K. Rostad
Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho

“Nothing tests your true Vikingness more than building and sleeping in your own snow cave—or pulling your own dog sled.” With these words Eagle Scout Einar Silk acknowledged the link he sees between his Norwegian heritage and his love of scouting. “The chance to be outdoors enhances my Norwegian heritage.”

Einar, who reached the rank of Eagle Scout November 1, 2014, bears a Norwegian name, studied Norwegian through Sons of Norway, and attended Norwegian Heritage Camp for six years. He missed one season of that camp due to a conflict with a scout trip to South Dakota where they conducted a flag ceremony at Mt. Rushmore, a memory that ranks right along with caving on that same trip and a visit in 2014 to the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

Photos: Bill Solum Einar celebrating his acheivement as as Eagle Scout.

Photos: Bill Solum
Einar celebrating his acheivement as as Eagle Scout.

Einar, a high school senior, just turned 18. He and his brother Eric, almost 21, now an Electrical Engineering major at University of Idaho, have been involved in Sons of Norway since ages five and eight respectively.

Eric also has fond memories of Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, particularly “summiting the Tooth of Time right at sunset and seeing the desert and mountain ranges split by the falling light. It was a great sense of accomplishment.”

The Tooth of Time, he explained, is a molar-shaped granite formation in New Mexico. It marked the point from which San Francisco could be reached in two weeks by pioneers. Hence the name for this peak rising 2,500 feet above the valley floor at an altitude of 9,003 feet.

These two brothers intertwined scouting with Norwegian heritage in ways that impacted not just themselves but other members of both organizations.

All three Silk children have been immersed in their heritage through language lessons and Sons of Norway activities. The lodge welcomed their participation in cultural activities and offered substantial financial support for their camp attendance. Both boys were Heritage Members of the lodge until turning 16, at which time they became full lodge members, categorized as “Unge Venner” (Young Friends) until they reach 23.

With respect to his heritage, Erik believes “The contemporary culture is just as important as ‘the old world,’” and adds, “I’m a big metalhead so I love seeing the music that comes out of Scandinavia—Kvelertak is one big name.”

By helping at many social functions and reporting back about their time at camp, Eric and Einar have added much to the lodge’s heritage experiences. They’ve sold popcorn to members as scout fundraisers. Einar also sought financial aid for his Eagle Project. But the connections between the lodge and the Boy Scouts went beyond these two boys.

More than once Troop #228, to which both boys belonged, conducted the flag-raising for Syttende Mai and also fulfilled that role when the Coeur d’Alene lodge hosted the Sons of Norway International Convention in 2010. A joint hike for Boy Scouts and Sons of Norway members took place during the convention to honor the 100th Anniversary of Boy Scouts and of Harald Haarfager Lodge, both founded in 1910. Participants all received a special patch featuring a Viking ship, and funds raised were donated to the Northwest Boy Scout Council.

For his Eagle Project Eric got a grant from the City of Hayden Lake to build a horseshoe pit in McCall Park. Horseshoes is a game enjoyed by lots of folks with Norwegian heritage, and is part of the annual agenda for the summer barbecue to raise funds for Trollhaugen, one of the Sons of Norway camps owned by District Two.

Photos: Bill Solum The picnic tables honor the Sons of Norway's funding.

Photos: Bill Solum
The picnic tables honor the Sons of Norway’s funding.

Einar’s Eagle Project also involved a park. He sought to fulfill a need expressed by the city of Hayden to acquire additional picnic tables. The city declined to provide funding, so Einar tapped other sources, including Harald Haarfager Lodge. In addition to the lodge’s help, he got money from Hayden Mayor Steve McIntyre, Capone’s, a local restaurant chain, and an anonymous donor, plus material at cost from a local Ziggy’s.

When Stoddard Park was dedicated this past October, Einar attended in his scout uniform. His five picnic tables, built by him with the help of five fellow scouts and three adults, including his dad, are now under a red-roofed shelter. Asked what he liked best about this project, he said, “Buying and pre-cutting the wood with my dad.”

Eagle projects are meant to provide a community service, but such a project is only one facet of the many activities a scout does to reach this highest rank. A review of Einar’s Eagle Court of Honor provides further insight into this achievement.

Following the Presentation of Colors, the scoutmaster of Einar’s troop offered introductory remarks, stating that “the Eagle Scout rank is the highest recognition that Scouting offers to a Boy Scout. It is earned through the advancement program and only a small percentage of boys who begin in scouting will be recognized with this honor.” He also noted that scouting alumni comprise 64% of Air Force Academy graduates, 68% of West Point graduates and 85% of FBI agents plus 26 of the first 29 astronauts.

This was followed by the Candle Ceremony in which a candle is lit for each of the 12 points in Scout Law. Eric Silk enumerated these expectations at his brother’s Court of Honor. A Boy Scout is required to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind. He is also obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Though many boys begin as a Cub Scout, then move into Webelos, before becoming a Boy Scout, these early preliminaries are not required. What is required is advancement from the Boy Scout badge through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and finally Eagle. By this time, a Boy Scout has completed approximately 325 different requirements.

Asked which of these numerous tasks were his least favorite, Einar remarked, “I didn’t have one. I had some difficulties early in the leadership position but that’s expected. There was nothing that’s considered useless; it was all justified.” To this same question his brother Eric responded, “I didn’t care for the sheer number of requirements but that’s just the nature of the beast.”

Who is the Eagle Scout? First and foremost, he is an outdoorsman. He has spent at least 20 days and nights camping, is comfortable in nature and embodies the scout motto, “Be prepared.” The Eagle Scout is also a good citizen, knows how to manage his money, and has set and worked toward fitness goals. He is a good family member.

He has completed 12 required merit badges and nine elective merit badges, served in troop leadership positions for 16 months, and spent at least 13 hours on service projects, not including the many hours devoted to his Eagle Scout Service Project.

After this review of the qualities and qualifications of an Eagle Scout, Einar and his parents were called forward and his mother pinned the Eagle medal on his uniform. In turn he presented her with the Eagle Mother’s pin. His father next handed over Einar’s Eagle Scout Certificate and his son gave him an Eagle tie tack. His scout master noted that “Becoming an Eagle Scout is not the end of a journey; it is merely a beginning.”

Brother Eric described the charge of an Eagle Scout, explaining how these obligations are represented by colors and symbols in the Eagle Badge. “As an Eagle your first obligation is to live with honor. Let the white of the Eagle Badge remind you of honor.”

He went on to note the blue is for loyalty, the red for courage, and the scroll for service. He concluded, “Your final obligation as an Eagle Scout is to have vision. Just as a bald eagle soaring high above the ground can look far in the distance, so too must you look far into the future.” The Silver Eagle hanging from the badge is a reminder of vision.

Eric and Einar lifted their hands into the scout sign and repeated the Eagle Scout Pledge, joined by the other six Eagles present. In part they said, “I thoughtfully recognize and take upon myself the obligations and responsibilities of the rank of Eagle Scout.”

Now officially an Eagle Scout, Einar accepted a gift from Sons of Norway local lodge president Asbjorn Rostad and bestowed mentor pins on several who had helped him achieve his goal. This included his brother Eric, who later confided, “I was surprised I got the mentor pin.”

Photos: Bill Solum A Norwegian spread awaited those celebrating Einar’s Eagle Scout, and the table was made more lovely by the drinking horn he received from Sons of Norway.

Photos: Bill Solum
A Norwegian spread awaited those celebrating Einar’s Eagle Scout, and the table was made more lovely by the drinking horn he received from Sons of Norway.

Following the ceremony everyone enjoyed a meal in the lodge dining hall with shrimp and pickled herring, both favorites of Einar, plus krumkaker, rosettes, and sandbakkels. Table decorations focused on Viking ships placed amid fall foliage along with figures of 1994 Norwegian Olympic mascots Kristin and Haakon, a stabbur, and even a small statue of Harald Haarfager.

In his thank-you note sent later to the lodge, Einar acknowledged these Norwegian foods and decorations as well as his gift. He wrote, “I would like to thank you for the authentic drinking horn with the medieval eagle etched on it. It was a great way of tying my heritage and scouting.

“I also wanted to share with my fellow scouts the years of support that I received from my lodge family. I want to thank you for this support. My Mom stated in my ceremony that it takes a village to raise a boy to become a man. I am glad you were all part of my village.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 16, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.