Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Remembering Jed

One of my favorite lines from C. S. Forester's "Mr. Midshipman Hornblower" is a tribute Horatio gives a Captain he admires. "To be half the man," he says, "would see my life fulfilled." These are my feelings about Jed Stringham.

When I was a boy working at Camp Bartlett, Jed was the Director of Camping for the Lake Bonneville Council. It was common knowledge that Jed could do anything. He fixed plumbing, sawing and sautering as he went, milled planks 20 feet long with a chain saw and moved whole KYBO's over the holes we dug and built buildings from scratch out in the woods. He was the archtype of a professional Boy Scout in my mind. It was Jed, who, with the support Tom Bird, suggested I become a professional Boy Scout. For the next five years I worked with Jed everyday. It was Jed that brought me to Camp Loll in 1977, as Craig Edwards Assistant Camp Director, and the next year it was Jed that made me the Director of Camp Loll. In the many years that followed he supported everything we did at Loll. In the Spring, he led the way, busting through the snow banks. Jed put the pipe in the spring and hooked up the showers. He would start up those frightful propane refrigerators, and get the lights on.

I was late in coming into Jed's service to Loll. Jed was here from the first. He brought the cabins from Grassy Lake; numbering the logs and reassembling them on foundations he laid. One year, when the snow stayed late, I remember following his big propane driven station wagon as it pulled his camp trailer over Teton pass. He had us set up camp in the Snake River Canyon; we cooked our meals over a campfire and the next day we dug our way in from the Flagg Ranch side. I have always followed Jed. He taught me everything that makes running a camp possible. He was my example of leadership through service. Jed always worked harder than anyone else. We all ran to keep up. Jed was unique in that he could take off one of his ears. That first year at Loll, the Star Wars movie came out, and soon we were calling our selves "Jed Ear Warriors". Many of us follow that force to this day.

Seemingly everywhere Jed went, he brought his wonderful wife Charlotte. It was Charlotte that taught us the camp songs we still sing. I remember so fondly our crew crowded into the old dining hall while Charlotte played her accordion and led the singing with a nod of her head.

To my children Jed, was and remains - Grandpa Jed. My sons remember the kindnesses and strength.

We live now in the beautiful Barlow-Wadman Lodge. It is a treasure, a generous gift of its namesakes and other patrons and of the hard work of our present Director of Camping, Bill Wangsgard. However, it seems fitting that the heart of that lodge, as in so many ways the heart of Camp Loll, should bear the name of its great founding and building force. So we call it the Jed Stringham Memorial Hall.

This past week Fred and Ann Hansen brought us some beautiful cut steel art to celebrate Camp Loll and to commemorate the memory of Jed Stringham. They were made by Leigh Huggins of Gordo Sales, and provided by the generosity of the Hansens (by the way, Fred is Jed's nephew) and Bob Stringham, Jed's son, and the former Council President of Trapper Trails Council who saw this Lodge erected. We thank them for their gift and we thank them for the chance to pay tribute to a great man, a hero of all who love Camp Loll, Jed Stringham.

If any who read here at the Agora have stories or information to share about Jed, please post it here.


Dan said...

I never knew him, but it clear from reading this that I have been blessed immeasurably by his life.

Reach Upward said...

"Jed always worked harder than anyone else."

You couldn't have said that better.

At the start of the summer of 1978 I was assigned (along with a couple of other staffers) to help Jed pump out a couple of KYBOs. Water had seeped in over the winter and filled the tanks. Jed revved up a pump with a Briggs & Stratton motor on it and stuck one end down in the water. We took turns manning the other end.

After a while, Jed manned the output end because he didn't like the way we were doing it. (As my brother Lynn says, "There's the right way, the wrong way, and the Jed way. The Jed way, of course, is the way it's got to be done.") We were relegated to watching for debris that the might harm the pump.

We watched various items surface: woodcarving projects from the previous summer, fish wrapped in foil, and finally a wifflepoof. This was an item that was featured in the Scout handbook of the day for making trails. 16-penny nails were pounded part way into a log that was about 9"-12" in diameter and about 16"-18" long so that the nail heads stuck out all over the place. A rope was attached to one end so that the thing could be dragged around to make new trails (something that is rarely needed nowadays).

We awkwardly tried to extract the heavy log from the KYBO water without much success. It kept submerging every time we tried to rope it or capture it with staves. Finally, Jed walked over, lay down on the ground, reached his bare arm down into the cold and disgusting water, fumbled around for a while, and yanked the wifflepoof out onto the dirt.

We were duly impressed, but we didn't shake Jed's hand.

I remember visiting Jed in the hospital when he broke his leg quite seriously. As I recall, he was fixing something on a council van up at Camp Kiesel in the winter when the van fell on him. A bunch of us made him a huge get well card and took it up to him.

Gordon Banz told me that they were once working with Jed at tearing down an old shack at Camp Kiesel when an unusual spider climbed out onto the wall. Jed was not only a hard worker; he was a decent naturalist. One of the youth called Jed over and asked, "Isn't this a Brown Recluse, one of the most poisonous spiders in North America?" Jed, I was told, quickly smashed the thing with his bare fist and replied, "It sure was."

So Jed had a sense of humor too, although, it often seemed rather muted.

Still, when I think of Jed Stringham, I think of the hardest working man I have ever met in my life. He was deeply devoted to Scouting and he demonstrated that devotion day after day through sustained hard work.

Anonymous said...

My first Jed experience was in 1976 at breakfast at Camp Bartlett. I was 15 and wondering what I had gotten myself into. Because of the Snow I slept on the Mountain Man side trading post. I counted 15 mice.

Then came breakfast. French Toast. That day I met Jed and Sasquatch. One on each side of me.

Jed sat down and then his ear fell off and into my french toast. He then casually picked up his ear and then said.."Damn Ear Glue". He then reglued his ear and stuck it back on.

Needless to say, I lost any appetite that I may of had. 2 minutes later DC then asked me.."you gonna eat that"..I said no and we are friends to this day.

As you remember Lysis when I came home from my mission I was Ill and he and you took me up to close Bartlett and we created the "Jed Work Memorial Drinking Fountain".

Jed will always remain in a tender spot in my heart. This is a fitting tribute to a man that loved and served all.


Lysis said...

Thank you all for your comments; they bring such sweet memories. One point: Reach, Jed's words on smashing the brown recluse were, "Not anymore." I know, I was there, I also drove him to the hospital the day the van fell on him. He never flinched, he is my hero.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Curtis said,

Initially, I only knew Jed from a distance. In fact, I was afraid of him. My first memory of him is his rant through the old mess hall. He had huge feet, and an even longer stride. He made it though the building's main room to the kitchen in a single step.

"Where's my ear glue?!"

What the heck is ear glue?

I was with Scott when we pumped out the snow melt from the latrines. I'll leave it to Lysis to decide if he wants to reveal how that waste was disposed of. It definately was the Jed way.

Then Lysis gave me the gift of Jed. I don't know why. I certainly didn't deserve it. We needed logs cut in order to rebuild the campfire bowl. Lysis sent me to the Ashton Lumber Mill with Jed. I was scared to death. How could I spend an entire day with Jed? What would we talk about? He was old, and he had a plastic ear, for crying out loud!

I don't remember the trip details. I do remember it was a wonderful day. Jed was great to me. He was kind. He talked to me like I was important. I never thought of him the same after that.

Not only did Jed travel with his wife, Charlotte, he also brought along Grandma Pine Cone. I don't know if Grandma Pine Cone was his mother or his mother-in-law. I do know Jed loved her. Grandma Pine Cone struggled with memory. But she loved Camp Loll. She would sit outside her trailer for hours and gather pine cones. When the pile of cones grew too large, she would suddenly notice, and would become quite embarassed. Jed made it a habit to pass her several times a day. As her pile grew, he would scatter the cones. When I first noticed this ritual, I thought he was cruel. I didn't understand why he scattered the cones. Then Lysis explained it to me. He told me about the embarassment and guilt Grandma Pine Cone felt when the pile got too large. Jed's objective was to help her avoid that guilt. It was a simple act. It seemed silly.

He loved.

Jed treated everyone the same. He treated them with respect, and he treated them with kindness. All of us could use a little more Jed in our lives.

Lysis said...


What Jed said about the KYBO water, as it grew a little thick and brown, was: "Don't worry, at soon as the sun hits it, it turns to fertilizer."

I think I will take my own advice and tell a Jed story. Back in my boyhood at Bartlett we on the Nature Staff were always the last to shower at night. There was only one wood stoked boiler heated shower in those days. It was a gang shower to the north of the camp, just down from the rifle range trail.

Fife Lake being what it is, the Water Front Staff had to shower everyday. When they had used their tank we nature boys would heat up an entire tank just for ourselves. Then, under the stars of heaven we would shower until every warm drop was gone. We were all together and naked, but it was dark, so who cared.

That particular night we were talking about "the scouts". In those Vietnam War days a common pejorative was gook, so we were calling the scouts gooks and talking about how dumb and useless they were. Suddenly we heard the hiss of a Colman lantern, light shot under the walls and then heavy footsteps on the wooden floor of the shower house. Jed entered the shower. We were so many naked deer in the headlights. Feeling very exposed, we listened as Jed explained to we cocky young staffers that "no boy scouts, no boy scout camps; no camp staffs, no summers of fun and adventure." Then he walked away, leaving us enlightened in the dark. I hope I will never forget that lesson, one of many Jed taught, and through those who follow him, continues to teach.

Reach Upward said...

Lysis, I think you should relate the story about your young son when he said, "Grandpa Jed, you've got a hole in your head!"

Lysis said...

Well, since you asked.

This "Jed story" actually begins with my son Lafe. Lafe spent his baby to little boy days in Jackson Hole Wyoming. There the only black people to be seen were on the T. V. He and his brother Bryon were particular fans of Mr. T of the A Team. After two years in Jackson, our family moved to Logan, where I studied for a Teaching Certificate at USU. On a day, our family was in line at the grocery check out and a big African American gentleman got in line behind us. Lafe exploded with excitement. "Mr. T, Mr. T." he cried. Our new friend was very gracious to us all. At the first opportunity I explained to Lafe that there are all kinds of people, some are white and some are black, but they are all people. He was a very bright little boy and accepted this information as completely reasonable.

The next summer our family went to Camp Bartlett, to serve with Tom Hunsaker. We went in to camp with the first party, led by Jed. As always, one of the earliest priorities was hooking up the water. We turned the water into the lines and waited for them to charge. Unfortunately the previous Camp Director had failed to drain the pipes in the new Wade Lodge and in the two staff cabins at the top of Mosquito Valley. It was not long before the ceiling in the Lodge collapsed under the weight of the water soaked insulation and a brisk stream was flowing out from under both cabins.

Jed began repairs. Once the Lodge was in order we started on the cabins. The process required Jed and I to crawl under the cabins into the mud soaked crawl-space under the floor. Jed would cut the split copper pipes away with a hack saw, then sauter in a new section with a propane blow torch. Lying on our sides in the cold mud, it was not long before Jed's ear fell off. He shoved it in his pocket and continued working. We were communicating with Janice through the bathroom window. We would yell up from below the cabin and she would turn the water on and off as we searched for splits. My little boys were soon hanging out the window watching the process as best they could. Mission accomplished, as it always was with Jed, we came up from underneath the building. Standing up - Jed was face to face with Lafe as Lafe stuck half his body out the window. They were mere inches apart.

Lafe stared at Jed, wide eyed. "Grand-pa Jed," he said, "you have a hole in your head. Grand-pa Jed, you only have one ear." Lafe got a very philosophical look on his little boy face. "Some people have two ears;" he opined, "some people have one." Then facing Jed eye to eye, he explained, "I saw a black man once."

Reach Upward said...

I never tire of hearing that story. I can see it all happening in my mind's eye. Thanks.

Jodi said...

It's fun to read these stories. I am a little jealous that, being related to the man, I didn't ever have a chance to get to know him (or Grandma Pinecone/ Grandma Wally). I suppose I have gotten to know him through all that I have been able to experience at camp.

Jared and Alisha Bailey said...

Thank you for all the great stories you shared on this blog and in the comments. Jed Stringham was my grandfather but he retired from scouting when I was about 5 years old so I wasn't able to spend much time (that I can remember) anyway with him at scout camps.

I will have to add these to our family history, they are great. I don't think I knew he was such a hard worker.

I remember spending weeks during the summer with him after he retired. He taught me to love applesauce on my french toast. He taught me to fish.

I must admit that I had always thought of him as being kind of quiet and reserved.

These stories have changed my opinion a bit.

Alisha Stringham Bailey

muebles ciudad real said...

Oh my god, there's a great deal of useful material in this post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing such wonderful stories of my Grandpa Jed. I am also one of his granduaghters. I remeber my Grandpa Jed being very industrious and always keeping himself busy. He was a great man and love scouting and passed that love on to his sons and grandchildren. Thanks you again.

Kevin and Lou Hunt said...

This is Kevin Hunt, Scouting author and Blogger. I just posted an article about Jed on The Scouting Trail blogsite. Check it out and make a comment there if you wish.