This Saturday is the 110th anniversary of that league of future extraordinary gentlemen, the Boy Scouts of America.
I don’t know if you experienced scouting, but if you once sported that blue and yellow neckerchief you’re in good company: Bill Gates, Gerald Ford, Neil Armstrong, George Takai, John F. Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, Bill Clinton, Steven Spielberg, George W. Bush, actor Chris Pratt, and the lead singer of Imagine Dragons. Oh, and yours truly.
My Boy Scout Handbook said, “a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” All things that make up a decent human being, although as a Boy Scout I have to admit to having a problem with the “obedient” part. My mother could’ve attested to that.
I couldn’t say for sure if being in Scouting through my teen years helped me, but I faithfully read Boy’s Life Magazine from cover-to-cover every month and did learn how to start a decent fire on camping trips. Unfortunately, I didn’t rise much above the Tenderfoot level since there was no merit badge for shooting pool, so there was that.
Anyway, we’re well into the border month between winter and spring, when we get the first clues that, yes, spring is right around that proverbial corner. You can take it from that shadow-fearing Pennsylvania quadruped.
Me, I get the itch to drive, and I don’t mean taking that beeline to Albuquerque. No, rather taking a two-lane blacktop out to where cell phone reception is spotty at best. I’m talking about the western part of Socorro County, west of Magdalena, out Highway 60 with its rolling hills, down into the Plains of San Agustin and then beyond to the forests of the Gila.
Speaking of the Plains, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus of how it’s spelled. Some spell it Augustin and others Augustine, even on maps. But, since there is a town in Spain called San Agustin, maybe that’s the way the plains were originally spelled. Back when troops of Don Juan Quote were scouting around the area, perhaps one of them came from San Agustin, or the one who perceived a woman's profile on a particular mountain that he took as the visage of Mary Magdalene, giving Magdalena its namesake.
It’s just a guess.
The San Agustin plains go on for about 15 miles, and right smack dab in the middle is the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, or the colloquial “vee-ellay,” if you will. I’ve driven past there a million times, and I’m always compelled to stop and take pictures. Yeah, I know, some people say if you've taken one picture of the dishes, you've taken them all, but I always think maybe the next one might be a little better. What I hope for is a few cows grazing around one of those giant dishes, capturing the dichotomy of tradition versus high tech, putting things into perspective — artistic like.
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever. If you see something that catches your eye, you can whip out your cell phone and instantly see if it looks right. There’s no having to take a roll of film down to the drug store to get it developed and then waiting to get your prints back, like it was in the olden days, say, the 1990s. That is unless you had a Polaroid camera.
Those awkward old instant cameras were a hoot in their time. Take the picture, wait a few moments, then open the back and pull off the picture. And a few moments later, voila, the image slowly fades in. Then you had to wipe it down with some chemical goop and flap it around in the air to help it dry.
Now don't get me wrong, I love the new digitals and will be using one this Saturday at The Community Arts Party, but in a way, I miss those old Polaroids. They were tactile, very hands-on, and this gets me to reminiscing.
My first camera, I think, was a Kodak Brownie where you had to spool the film by hand into the back of it carefully, all in the dark. Again, tactile and hands-on. The now mostly extinct 35mm cameras were like that, too, and took much better pictures, although as much as I've tried I never was able to understand apertures or f-stops or light meters. But I do miss collecting those little 35mm film canisters that you could re-use to keep aspirins in.
All in all, we sure have come a long way from the days when Paul Simon sang about his Nikon camera and his ballyhooed Kodachrome film. When that song comes on the radio, I’m wondering if kids are asking their parents:
"What does Kodachrome mean?”