A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Versailles teen learns Scouting program is all about service to others

By Steve Flairty
KyForward columnist

Recently a Versailles friend told me about her teenage son, Jack Landin, who was working his way toward the prized Boy Scout rank of Eagle Scout, a well-deserved achievement that likely upgrades one’s life success resume considerably.

He would soon complete it, and I was invited to come to his conferring ceremony. I was both intrigued and curious for a couple of reasons. I wondered what the requirements were and also what it was like to go through the process.

Additionally, I knew Jack as a quiet, unassuming sort, not a Type A personality. That didn’t fit my idea of an Eagle Scout candidate. Yet, Jack was nearing the finish line and would become a part of a pretty select group. I wanted to know more.

Troop 14, Versailles. Jack is in center, standing over “Creator” (Photo Provided)

As an aside, though always interested, I was never a Boy Scout, let alone an Eagle Scout. Brought up on a small tobacco farm that required almost year round tending, our family also raised a sizable vegetable garden, making it difficult to do the extra-curriculars. I did manage to convince Dad to play some Little League baseball — five years’ worth — but it involved a time squeeze, often with me leaving the field to go to practices or games, then returning to the same later. Mike, my brother, seemed content to stay home and do farm work on the tractor.

But back to Boy Scouting and Jack.

I approached Jack about interviewing him for a Kentucky by Heart column, and he obliged, though he seemed a little shy about it. We met at the Woodford County Library a few days after the big day, Aug. 13, when he was conferred with his Eagle Scout Rank, called “The Eagle Scout Court of Honor.”

Though my young friend patiently measured his words, I found him to be appreciative and quite open about his experiences in the Boy Scouts in his Woodford County community. I learned that he joined the Cub Scouts while in the first grade. He mentioned the “hands on stuff” and having fun with “race cars rolling down the track.”

Enjoying those experiences right off, it seemed natural to progress to the next level. He became a regular Boy Scout in the fifth grade as a member of Troop 14.

“The leaders motivated me and all had some lasting effect,” he said.

Besides attaining his Eagle Scout status, Jack mentioned a couple of other highly memorable events while participating in the club since being a young child. Both situations, ironically, had to do with uncomfortable weather temperatures.

It started with his first summer camp at Camp Roy C. Manchester, in western Kentucky’s Land Between the Lakes. There was no air conditioning available, only “a big fan in the mess hall,” said Jack.

Jack Landin, Eagle Scout

“It was a new experience for all of us, (and) we’d never been to an all week long summer camp,” he said.

Despite the uncomfortable high temperatures, it was educational.

“We were able to use our skills we learned the last few months, and it pushed me to have other skills that other troops had, like making fire, cutting wood, (making) certain knots, basic survival skills, and how to cook. We also learned about poison ivy and ticks!”

Then there was Jack’s freeze time on a winter weekend cookout, called “Klondike Derby,” at a park. “It was so cold,” he said. “I guess I didn’t have enough on. My parents came I don’t know how many miles to give me clothes.”

In the area of social relationships, he said, being in the Boy Scouts “is a great way to make friends because you have common interests,” whereas in school classes, “there’s a wide range of interests.”

I asked Jack how he would define the term “leadership,” as that is such a feature of Boy Scout education.

“I’ll tell you what it’s not, first,” he replied like a wizened old sage. “It’s not for your personal gain…not about yourself. It’s for the entire group. It’s taking initiative to do what you have to do with others to reach a common goal or do the right thing.”

Might leadership be portrayed as “telling people what to do” or something similar? I followed. “It’s more about respect,” he answered. “If you don’t have their respect, you’re not going to be good at leading them.”

Among other items, Eagle Scout requirements include completing a total of 21 merit badges in areas such as camping, family life, communication, and citizenship in the world. Coming down the finish line, however, a significant, challenging, and approved community project must be completed.

“There was a time when there was a little ‘stop arrow’ when I wasn’t quite as involved,” Jack said. “I got lazy about it.”

But apparently, a good kind of peer pressure kicked into the equation when it came to going for Eagle Scout.

“I did want to do it, and I realized that my friends were getting their Eagle Scout…and I thought: ‘They’re doing it. I can, too. I buckled down.’”

And when it was time for the project to begin, he liked the idea of relating it to horses, and he got in contact with President Michael Blowen at Old Friends, in Georgetown, a place known as a “home for retired thoroughbreds.”

Blowen, a former film critic for The Boston Globe, founded the compassionate organization sitting on 136 acres which now has approximately 175 horses living out their twilight years and being treated with great kindness.

Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood day trips (and sometimes overnight ones) orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points being in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state now. After teaching 28 years, Steve spends much of his time today writing and reading about the state, and still enjoys doing those one dayers (and sometimes overnighters). “Kentucky by Heart” shares part and parcel of his joy. A little history, much contemporary life, intriguing places, personal experiences, special people, book reviews, quotes, and even a little humor will, hopefully, help readers connect with their own “inner Kentucky.”

Both the Eagle Scout committee and Michael Blowen were happy with Jack’s proposal to help at Old Friends. He would lead in a project, along with Boy Scout colleagues and leaders, as well as his parents, to initially build twelve colorful “salt boxes” for use by the horses.

Danny Luckett, parent of a fellow Eagle Scout, was crucial in helping him cut the wood and build the boxes. The troop painted the boxes black and attached the roofs. Jack painted decorative silks, a special touch that individualized the heritage of each horse. Later in the process, six more were constructed for the farm.

“Mr. Blowen gets real excited when new stuff is added to his farm,” Jack said.

Indeed he does, especially with the kind of pride in workmanship that Jack and his many helpers provided with constructing the unique salt boxes.

“We were so impressed with the quality of the work and the ingenuity Jack brought to this project,” said Blowen. “Each box represents the original horse that lived in that paddock, showcasing their racing silks. So the boxes are not only functional, they are also historic, lending a provenance to the paddock and to Old Friends’ early days. And the people on the tours love them—they keep asking if they are the horses’ mailboxes.”

On the day Jack presented the boxes to Old Friends, there was deep appreciation shown but no ceremony or parade, and that was fine with Jack. He’s learned from Boy Scout culture that it’s about service to others and personal humility.

“There didn’t need to be a ceremony,” he said. “Eagle Scouts take initiative and they’re known as leaders. Once you’re an Eagle Scout, you’re an Eagle Scout forever.”

Jack recently launched a new venture, his freshman year at the University of Kentucky. How fortunate the school is to have students of his status.

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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