1991 – Scouter T.O.

The Gnometown tale of “Scouter T.O.”
T.O. Vaala

Many years ago the “little people” were gathered near Gnometown to honor one of their own for his commitment to the community. This was an annual festival that all looked forward to with great excitement, for it was filled with many fun activities. And so they were gathered, one and all, wearing red hearts on their sleeves that signified their kind spirit and willingness to give of themselves for the common good.

As the time drew near for the storytelling to begin, the gnomes drank in the sights and sounds of their idyllic setting at Lac qui Parle State Park. It provided a perfect backdrop for the tale of Scouter T.O., a gnome committed to helping with the early development of some of the youngest “little people”.

Some of the gnomes in attendance that evening were former scout gnomes and they were especially excited because they had actually shared in many of the experiences that were about to be retold. Visions of past spring and fall camporees began to stir their memories. “Now T.O. was born and lived almost his entire life in or around Gnometown”, the story-teller began. “He had been involved in a great many community activities over the years, but none seemed more important to him than working with the young scout gnomes. He began as a Cubmaster then Scoutmaster, Troop Committee member until 1979, and finally the Troop’s Advancement Chairman where he focused his attention for the next decade on helping many scout gnomes become Star, Life, and Eagle Scout.”

As the storyteller continued, several of the past scout gnomes in the crowd began musing about their own experiences with Scouter T.O. here and in Manypoint Scout Camp, the World Jamboree, and Philmont Scout Ranch. One remembered how right here at Lac Qui Parle State Park during his first camping trip. T.O. had taught him how important it was to always leave the campsite in better shape than when you found it. He smiled to himself now when thinking how this simple rule had deepened his appreciation for nature.

Another past scout gnome reflected on how T.O. had worked with him on what being a good citizen really meant and how earning those merit badges had given him insight into some of his capabilities. Another remembered how T.O. had emphasized physical fitness and, then, to show how serious he was about its importance, had taken up the challenge of one of the older scout gnomes and had beaten him in the obstacle course exercise. Finally, another past scout gnome remembered the just plain fun he’d enjoyed camping, swimming and canoeing at Manypoint Scout Camp.

As the scout gnomes turned back into the words of the story teller, they heard him talking about the many scouting awards T.O. had earned over the years for his efforts with the boys, such as the VIGIL honor from the Order of the Arrow, the Silver Beaver, the highest award a leader can be awarded in scouting, a 35 year Scouting Veteran Pin, and the Lamb Award bestowed on T.O. by the Lutheran Church of America. In addition, Scouter T.O. was awarded WCCO Radio’s Good Neighbor Award twice, the Distinguished Service Award by the Gnometown Jaycee’s, the Lac qui Parle County’s Outstanding Senior Citizen Award and was named the State of Minnesota’s Outstanding Senior Citizen in 1989. “Scouter T.O.”, the story teller continued, “had played a role in helping more than 50 scout gnomes achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, a record not only in Gnometown, but far and wide.

“Always leave the campsite a better place than when you found it; don’t ruin or waste anything in the environment.” This is what Scouter T.O. has also tried to do with the “human resources” he’s been privileged to work with. He has strived to help young gnomes learn some very important, simple truths and to experience a sense of accomplishment. Scouter T.O. ha in the way made Gnometown, too, a better place than when he first arrived. So heed Scouter T.O.’s philosophy:

“Always leave the campsite a better place than when you found it; don’t ruin or waste anything in the environment.”

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