We must have been 12 years old when our scout troop first went skiing with our new Boy Scout’s scoutmaster Rick. He seemed cool, had a great manly beard, nice dark full head of hair, a friendly smile, lived in a big house, and wore perfectly fitted clothes to Church.
Thinking we were all pretty hot stuff as pre-teens, growing up in Park City, UT, where they give you a week off of school during the winter called “Ski Week” just to perfect your skills on the famous snowy mountains, we went up to the top of one of the toughest runs at Park City Resort and looked down at the moguls before us.
We pretended to not be scared, but this run was extra crazy, if I recall it was called Thaynes Canyon.
To a kid the moguls were mountains unto themselves, and watching the best of the best try this run and eventually biff it into a yard sale as we laughed from above riding up the lift, always reminded us to take a different route down.
As our scoutmaster, Rick, looked at us he said, “Guys, you can do this”, he must have sensed our nervousness. And then he did what Legendary Leaders do: He said, “Watch this…see you at the bottom!” and went first.
Dropping into the gauntlet, bounding through the snow like a dolphin cutting waves, Rick was headed straight for the biggest jump on the run, smack dab in the middle, as we watched in horror screaming for him to turn.
I’ll never forget the feeling of sheer terror as our only adult leader launched into the air, and began turning upside down, skis over his head…
It wasn’t until he began twisting into a 360 upside down, called a helicopter, and in perfect tight form, folded his arms across his body doing this other-worldly back flip, and then spread his arms back out in triumphant glory as he landed flawlessly and continued to the bottom of the run.
Our little troop of scouts stood at the top of the mountain, stunned at what we’d just witnessed. Who in the heck is our Scoutmaster and did he just really do that!?!
We were screaming in complete excitement, cheering and jumping, high-fives and clapping our poles, as one by one we braved the run and steep slope, following the Legendary Leader that was soon to be one of our greatest childhood heroes.
Courage. Bravery. You Can Do This. That’s the mark of a real leader who instills confidence beyond what we actually had, and we made it down the run unscathed.
Once at the bottom of the run, Rick high-fived us for making it down, big smiles, and showed admiration for a few of us that tried to emulate his grace by trying a jump on a little mogul, as we went back to the ski lift with our leader.
We asked, “How did you do that jump?”
He said, casually, “I was a ski jumper working on being in the Olympics when I was younger, and had some decent success at it.”
He left it at that and made the day about us, never him.
This was the first time I had seen another man, other than my own Father, as someone who would become a Father Figure in my life. There have been too many to count since. I have been so very blessed with leaders, friends, mentors, those that have inspired me and been the Father Figures that have kept The Promise of being what every man can be to a kid, whether their dad or not.
Truth is, I don’t remember if Rick actually did that helicopter and full back flip as it is still burned in my mind all these decades later, but that is what I choose to remember of The Legend that was this man.
These are the Legends that make up our lives. Whether you are so blessed to have a child and get to be called Father, Dad, or whether you are the ultimate scoutmaster, coach, teacher, mentor, neighbor and friend, who are your Father Figures and how will you celebrate them this day?
Perhaps you can reach out and say Thank You, or even just tell the stories that you recall to your family, it is important to keep the memories alive.
Hoping to be creating the same memories for my little ones, as we go skiing and have a fun time, just without my doing back flips and trading them for backbreaking slips as we inch down the slopes. Between the trips and travel, or just being home and fully present, this is how I keep The Promise to my family as life goes along.
I’m so grateful for my own Father, John Hewlett, and that he’s still with us, while so many friends my age have lost theirs.
I’m also so grateful for the Father Figures, such as Chris Poulos, Tony Ingle, Bob Staley, Ray Limberg, Mark Dietlein, Denny Crockett, Todd Winters, Hal Johnston, Floyd Weston, Johnny Stuart, Lou Heckler, Mark Scharenbroich, Mike O’Laughlin, Rick Sutherland, Greg Ezell, Presidente Bentim, my cousins, uncles, teachers, church leaders, mentors in the speaking business, and so many who have shaped my life.
To the Men reading this blog: Who are you acting as a Father Figure to? And if you can’t think of it, it’s time to keep The Promise and find a young person who is in need of your mentoring, as only you can offer, with your unique Signature Moves.
Happy Father Figure Day! Thank you to those in my life for being a Legendary Leader who kept The Promise to me and all those you play HERO to.
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