Dicy McCullough: Scout camping trip becomes father-son retreat

  • Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013 12:34 a.m.
Robert Ake and son, Alan, enjoy outdoor activities.
Robert Ake and son, Alan, enjoy outdoor activities.

Have you ever met someone who could boast they’ve worked on a high rise in several cities in New York?

I think most people would probably say, “No,” they haven’t. I hadn’t either until I met Robert Ake, two years ago.


Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Robert grew up learning how to build things from his construction worker dad, Joseph Ake. Discovering that Robert had worked on skyscrapers, I wondered if he was the “guy” who walked across the high beams. Robert explained he hadn’t done a whole lot of that kind of work, but on occasion had, with the highest floor being 12 stories.

When asked if he was ever scared, he said, “Everyone is scared at first, but once you do it long enough, you kind of don’t pay it anymore attention. While it’s true falling is always in the back of your mind, it doesn’t affect you as much.”

Two years ago, ready for a change to a slower-paced, more rural lifestyle, Robert and his wife, Elizabeth, along with their two children, Rebecca, 13, and Alan, 8, made the move from New York to Salisbury. Settling in their new home, they had a neighborly visit, not once, but several times, from a beautiful black and white dog, named Jessie. In the process of retrieving their beloved pet, Bobby and Betsy became friends with Robert and Elizabeth.

It was during one of those visits that Bobby invited Robert and his family to church, where I met them. After getting to know Robert, I learned how talented he was with a hammer, so it wasn’t long until he was cutting, sawing and hammering at my house. Needing repairs and painting done not only at our house, but a rental house next door, my husband, Michael, hired him for several jobs.

One evening, cooling off on our patio with a glass of water after a long day, Robert began sharing details of an adventure he and his 8-year old son, Alan, had shared a few weeks earlier. Alan is a member of the Cub Scout Pack Troop No. 315. They and other troops from the N.C. Central Council were part of a four-day camping retreat at Camp Barnhardt this past June. Located in the Uwharrie Mountains, Camp Barnhardt sits halfway between New London and Badin.

On the day Robert shared about the camping trip, Alan was with him at our house, so as soon as he heard his dad talking about the experience, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. In a matter of minutes, he was sharing details as well, including fun activities they enjoyed such as swimming, archery, canoeing and tent building.

The theme for the retreat was the Knights of the Round Table, with members from the Knightly Order of the Fiat Lux (Rowan County Chapter) volunteering their expertise and time to teach the scouts about medieval history. One of the things Alan learned was that knights lived by a “code” of helping others in distress or need.

A highlight for both Robert and Alan was a demonstration on the last day when two of the knights fought in full battle armor. Sitting in a circle to watch, the scouts were encouraged to participate by cheering. The louder the cheers, the harder the knights fought. Although Robert enjoyed the demonstration, he said, “I kind of felt sorry for them because they were wearing about 120 pounds of battle armor on a hot day. One even got a cut on his head. I suppose getting smacked around like that can take a toll on a person, even a knight “in shining armor.”

As I listened to Robert, I couldn’t help but wonder how someone growing up in a big city like he did would come to enjoy roughing it with the Boy Scouts. When asked, he said, “Oh, that’s easy. You see, although I wasn’t a Boy Scout, my two older brothers were. By the time I was old enough to join, family circumstances had changed, so I didn’t have that opportunity. I was always jealous of the fun my brothers had and was determined, if I ever had a son, he would be a member.”

Hearing the excitement in Alan’s voice as he shared about the experience, I had no doubt he enjoyed every minute of it. When asked what he enjoyed the most, at first he answered, “Everything,” but then, after thinking for a minute, he quietly added, “What I enjoyed the most was spending time with my dad.”

Hearing that comment from his son, Robert smiled and said, “While it’s true the activities were great, bonding with Alan was the most important aspect of the entire camping trip.”

Listening to father and son as they talked back and forth, I realized they have a deeper relationship than just a weekend of memories. From my point of view, sitting on the patio that warm afternoon sipping a glass of sweet tea, the exchange between father and son was a beautiful thing to watch. What a shame more fathers and sons don’t share that same kind of bond.

Perhaps if they did ...

Dicy McCullough’s books are available at local bookstores, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Call her at 704-278-4377.

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