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End of a journey? Or launchpad to another?

By David Rogers. BLOWING ROCK, N.C. — Now a freshman at Watauga High School, Blowing Rock School alum Evan Cutlip will undoubtedly remember Oct. 17 as the culmination of an early life journey. It was on that evening at Boone United Methodist Church that Troop 109 celebrated him as the High Country’s latest Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouting.

As Arvil Sale, one of the Scoutmasters proclaimed during the solemn ceremony recognizing young Cutlip’s accomplishments, “There is nothing in Scouting doctrine or practice that says you WERE an Eagle Scout. No, once you attain it, you ARE an Eagle Scout for the rest of your life with all the responsibilities that go with it.”

Scoutmaster Arvil Sale introduces new Eagle Scout, Evan Cutlip. Photographic image by David Rogers

For Cutlip, the final step in achieving Eagle Scout status was completing a community service project. His was ambitious, requiring him to stand before the Blowing Rock Town Council, request the rights to a small parcel of land adjacent to Davant Field, and persuade the board of commissioners to let him design and build Blowing Rock Bike Park.

Then, of course, he had to marshal together the resources to get it done. The parcel — filled with a tangle of rhododendron bushes, trees and even a small stream — would not be a proverbial “piece of cake” to transform it into a biking asset. It required ingenuity and a lot of hard, physical labor.

Evan Cutlip enjoys a first ride on his Eagle Scout community service project, the Blowing Rock bike Park. Photographic image by David Rogers

In fact, the Scoutmasters reported, Cutlip’s project required more than 600 hours of labor provided by Cutlip, his family members, friends, other Eagle Scouts, and community members. Without question, young Cutlip was in command of his vision for the Blowing Rock Bike Park, considering unforeseen challenges as they presented themselves, approving some suggestions, deflecting others as not in keeping with what he hoped to achieve.

To marshal together the material and volunteer labor resources, as much as anything Cutlip was the consummate salesperson with his energy and enthusiasm for what the project could mean for the community. This was not just a matter of calling in favors but of persuading people to get on board with the mission. And the mission was not to become an Eagle Scout. The mission was to build Blowing Rock Bike Park for the enjoyment of the community.

Parents Ron and Cheryl Cutlip join Evan on stage Oct. 17 for his Court of Honor ceremony upon becoming an Eagle Scout. Photographic image by David Rogers

At the outset, Cutlip estimated that it would take three weekends to complete the project. That proved optimistic. Instead, it took about three months, but his enthusiasm and commitment never wavered.

Upon addressing the crowded sanctuary honoring him for his Eagle Scout achievements, Cutlip acknowledged and was thankful for the help he had received with his project, but in reflecting on the experience noted one of the most valuable of life lessons: self-discipline.

‘Mom’ gets to do the honors on Oct. 17 at Boone United Methodist Church during Evan Cutlip’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony. Photographic image by David Rogers

You have to go back a few years to find the beginning of Cutlip’s early life journey through Scouting. Much of that journey is comprised of earning merit badges. There are 138 of them in all, according to Scouting.org, across a range of subjects to suit just about every educational palate, from energy to engineering, from fly fishing to forestry, from nuclear science to oceanography, from photography to plumbing.

Several merit badges, not all, are required to have been attained on the journey to becoming an Eagle Scout: lifesaving, camping, hiking, personal fitness, sustainability, first aid, emergency preparedness, communication and cooking, to name a few. To be sure, all are useful life skills.

The end, or just the beginning?

Some, of course, will see Cutlip’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony as the end of a boyhood journey. Many others look at it as the beginning of yet another journey, perhaps one of accomplished adulthood.

A roll call of young-boys-becoming-men attaining the Eagle Scout rank in the 113-year history of Boy Scouts is dotted with the featured profiles of accomplished historical figures, as well as role models.

For Cutlip, he looks no further than the man sitting across from him at the dining room table. His father, Ron Cutlip, is an Eagle Scout and now an accomplished landscape architect and golf course designer with completed projects up and down the East Coast.

Evan Cutlip gets to ‘pin’ his father, Ron, during the Eagle Scout Court of Honor Ceremony. Photographic image by David Rogers

Eagle Scouts are present in nearly every walk of life. They include astronauts, doctors, explorers and inventors, guys like Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of modern television.

They include athletes, coaches and sports executives. Don Garlits, now 91, is an engineer considered the father of professional “drag racing.” Their number also includes former NFL head coaches Ray Malavasi, Jim Mora, and Ken Whisenhunt.

Former App State football head coach Jerry Moore likes to tell his own story of being a Boy Scout in Texas, and the values it helped instill in him growing up. Photographic image by David Rogers

Eagle Scouts include authors and journalists, like the late Clive Cussler, an underwater explorer and award-winning adventure novelist, as well as Harrison Salisbury, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the civil rights movement in the U.S., the Kennedy assassination, and the Vietnam War.

They include civil rights leaders, like Percy Sutton, a Tuskegee Airmen pilot in World War II who came home to revitalize the famed Apollo Theatre in New York City.

Eagle Scouts include entertainers, too. Steven Spielberg, the Academy Award-winning director of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, among other iconic movies of the last half century, was part of the Eagle Scout “Class of 1961.” David Lynch, the Academy Award-winning director of The Elephant Man and the hit TV series, Twin Peaks, is an Eagle Scout.

Evan Cutlip cuts the first slice of celebratory cake following his Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony. Photographic image by David Rogers

In 1995, I met an octogenarian Eagle Scout, William Hanna, at the Oysters restaurant and bar in Corona del Mar, Calif. He was a creative genius, a cartoonist and animator who created Tom & Jerry, and with business partner Joseph Barbera, arguably created the most successful television animation studio of its day, Hanna-Barbera, creating such shows as The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Smurfs, The Jetsons, Scooby Doo, and Huckleberry Hound.

Politicians and public officials are Eagle Scouts, too. Former New York City Mayor and business icon Michael Bloomberg is one. So is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, U.S. President No. 38 Gerald Ford, former independent presidential frontrunner Ross Perot, former Governor of Texas Rick Perry, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and former Secretary of State and former CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson.

Like Tillerson and Paulson, business leaders abound in the list of Eagle Scouts: Stephen Bechtel Jr. (Bechtel construction and civil engineering), Sam Walton (Walmart), Charles Dolan (HBO), and Bill Marriott (Marriott International), for example.

Being an Eagle Scout is not a requirement for being successful in life, but it is a good launchpad, given the weight of the evidence. Up what path will Evan Cutlip’s journey take him? He, and other boys-becoming-men Eagle Scouts like him seem to have a headstart.

Ron, Evan and Cheryl Cutlip. Photographic image by David Rogers
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