Shared Stories: Listen and Learn

Steve Zaragoza is an observant man. The boy scouts probably learned a lot under his leadership. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns


By Steve Zaragoza

It was picture-perfect springtime in Joshua Tree National Park when a group of Boy Scouts visited in 1984. All the colors were sharp and the air was crisp and clean. It is a time I captured and kept in my mind.

I was a scout troop assistant scoutmaster and advisor for hiking and backpacking. We had two patrols of six boys and six leaders. Friday night evening dinner was jumbo burritos.

Next morning started with seasoned potatoes, scrambled eggs, and bacon. After clean-up, we all helped each other to prep for a day hike.

The trail we took would lead us to the boulders area. Throughout the hike, we pointed out the different cactus -  the Joshua tree, teddy bear cholla, Mojave yucca, chuparosa, desert lavender, creosote bush – just to name a few. During our hike in a dry creek bed, we also saw small desert life – rabbits, squirrels, and birds.

At the point of about two miles, we had reached an area at the boulders. All of us agreed to rest. That started a lot of chitter chatter. While that was going on I noticed a signal to have our lunch and snacks.

My favorite snack on hikes is salami and cheese with crackers (Ritz, of course). Some of the boys wanted salami and cheese, so I made a trade – peanut butter and jelly for salami and cheese.

While everyone was eating I noticed a rock climbing group ahead of us. As I was watching, I heard one leader giving instructions to one boy on where to place his hand and foot.

The instructor made himself very clear, telling the boy, “Right arm straight out and about two hand lengths up, and place four fingers in the fissure. Then slide your right leg up slowly till you feel a bump with your foot.”

At the base of a boulder, one of the other instructors was prepping another boy to climb. “Pull yourself up,” he yelled.

That instructor also told the boy to, “Hold and feel my hands to know the movements of tying a knot.”

At that point, I turned back to my group of boys and said, “Hey, guys, look and listen and tell me what you see.” About five minutes in, the boys said they just saw others rock climbing.

I told them, “Listen, guys, they’re in constant communication while climbing and rappelling.” 

The group of kids we were watching were blind. It told our boys that we had a lot to learn about how to listen and work together.