SCOTLANDVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Ranger Joe Dorsey is wearing Boy Scout splendor as he greets 9News in his yard. A camp is set up to remember a friend, Albert Carter, who recently died.
He and former scout Woodrow Arthur Junior have met us here to talk about their adventure, their wonderful memories in Scotlandville's first all-black Boy Scout troop.
Arthur is showing WAFB's Donna Britt an original 1966 black and white photo.
"That was our Scout Master Earl Foster Sims," Arthur points to an adult on the front row. " I'm trying to find Collis Temple on here somewhere. He's about the tallest guy back there."
Surprised, Donna Britt asks, "Collis Temple?," a well-known local sports icon who was a star player of the LSU Basketball team years ago.
Arthur assures her, "Yes," the one and the same."
Britt called Collis Temple, now a successful Baton Rouge businessman. "It's true," she said, "I checked with Temple. He says he was 12 years old, but they let him go with them because he was so tall."
The troop at Greater Mt Carmel Church went to Philmont Boy Scout Adventure in Cimarron, New Mexico with the significant help of Lewis Sewell, a black employee at the Istrouma Council headquarters, to the challenging mountain-climbing adventure.
Dorsey is sitting at a table with vintage photos spread before him. He's holding up a color photo from current history.
"This is myself, Ranger Scout Joe, leading the Scotlandville High School drum line that marched us into history at the National Scouting Museum in Dallas Texas."
They recently were honored in Dallas for the way they crossed color barriers to bring Scouting to all young men. If money was a barrier to adventures like Philmont you wouldn't know, each boy worked hard and raised whatever money was needed.
"I cut grass, pushing my lawnmower up and down the street with my little gas can," Arthur said. "I dug in flowerbeds for people. I even sold ceramic art work that I would make at the park and when that got right. I would go and sell that 20 cent, 50 cent or something."
Arthur said he did laundry, he cleaned a lawyer's office, he sold vanilla extract with his fellow troop members. He sold so many bottles of vanilla extract that he won a contest in his troop and was awarded a free trip to Philmont. That meant that all the hard work he had done, raising $40, could be used as spending money on the trip.
"I didn't use it all there. Didn't need to," Arthur laughed.
We move from the yard of Joe Dorsey into his home and the gutted walls, the bare floors free of carpets and tile, signaled the disaster that struck this house and others in the Monticello neighborhood. Dorsey says he saw chest high floodwaters in his home. He and wife Geri managed to save some of his extensive Boy Scout trophies and awards. They are displayed, glistening once again on a wooden table and recessed shelves in the living room walls.
You can see from the trophies that Boy Scouting is a rich experience for the variety of things you can do.
"Scouting is not just going camping and hiking and cooking," Dorsey said. "It's more of learning, being educated to supplement the education you get in school."
Dorsey said they had learned so much at Philmont that when they returned home, about two weeks later, a member of the church told the troop, the rigorous work they did while packing tents and climbing the Rocky Mountains, was actually preparing them for service in America's military. The Vietnam War was still raging at the time.
Britt was surprised and delighted when the men told her the weekly meetings at Greater Mt. Carmel, led to frequent camping trips. And that the boys would head to The Bluff on Southern's campus.
Heading to a less steep slope on The Bluff, Dorsey heads down to the area where they camped. It was rich in opportunities.
"We have this wooded area to our North where we practiced survival skills, and we have the waterway here (the Mississippi River) where we practiced life-saving."
Dorsey heads down the bluff like a young school boy, with memories of their many campouts.
"Going down's easy," he quips, and adds, "I don't know about coming back up. About 10 years ago, we had a campout here and a soccer tournament. Believe it or not we had a soccer tournament down here!"
Dorsey's scout uniform boots seem perfect for trudging through the damp soil and weeds.
"We've got the Mississippi River for fresh catfish for dinner, and good cornbread oven-baked under the ashes."
Experiences like this one leave indelible memories for a young man. Kids also met some of the greatest challenges of their young lives but also celebrated their achievements.
"That was the time of our life," another original troop member tells Dorsey, who nods his head and says, "Couldn't beat it."
An old spiritual sung at The Bluff by Greater Mt Carmel troop leader Quintin Pullman III seems to say it well.
"Oh there were times that I thought I wouldn't last for long, but now I know I'm able to carry on. It's been a long, a long time comin' but I know a change gone come. Oh yes it will."
Pullmans' voice is extraordinary.
Joe Dorsey and Woodrow Arthur Jr. have written a book "Philmont: Journey of a Boy Scout Troop" that you can purchase in paperback on Amazon.