I can’t remember not knowing Skipper. He was my father’s best friend. Everyone called Earl Farnsworth, “Skipper” as he was, among many things, a Sea Scoutmaster. Skipper and my father loved the outdoors, photography, camping, cooking, eating and sleeping in the woods, which they did at least once a quarter, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. I was allowed to go along. They were about thirty years older but I believed I was the third Musketeer: Skipper, Mac and Charles.
Skipper loved to cook, my father loved to eat Skipper’s cooking even more than Skipper loved to cook. We would head out on a Friday night and arrive at camp after dark, build a fire and prepare a sleeping bag. Skipper would cook, we would eat,they tell exaggerated stories of their youth (the stories improved with each retelling), fall asleep and wake up cold the next morning, go mark a tree, make a fire, cook and eat. My father would show his cameras, take a few pictures, take a walk in the woods, eat a sandwich lunch, then afternoon naps, read, cook dinner, eat, talk, sleep, repeat.
In the Summertime, Skipper ran a “Stay at Home Camp” for about seventy-five boys, about 8-12. It was similar to going to school except it was outdoor games, swimming,(it was Skipper who first taught me to swim) and each day ended with Skipper reading a book to the entire group in the gym, for probably thirty minutes. Everyone was still and listened. He was like Charles Laughton reading something like
- Mutiny On The Bounty
. On the wall behind where Skipper read, was a large inscription:
“When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he marks not if you won or lost, but how you played the game.”
When I became twelve, I was allowed to join Boy Scout Troop 12, the most desirable troop in town. Skipper was my Scoutmaster. I started to Middle School; Skipper was the Middle School Principal. Three years later in Senior High School, Skipper was promoted to be Principal there. For five summers, (my 15-20 years) Skipper lead a group on a month-long trip to The Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, taking me along. He and I sang and played ukulele duets, with other boys around the campfire.
Earl Farnsworth graduated from Kansas State Teachers College in 1929, the year the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began; jobs were scarce. He moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas where he got a job teaching the manual art of printing in the Middle School. The idea of job descriptions had not occurred to anyone in those years and one did whatever was required. It was quickly obvious that Skipper could do almost anything and he had twice as much energy as anyone else; soon he was in a leadership role everywhere. Skipper was my first and probably best experience of leadership by example. He could do anything and made us assume that we could do that!
Earl Farnsworth was responsible for the education of most of the students in Fort Smith, Arkansas for nearly forty years. My class size was about a thousand; I would guess that in his time, he guided the education of twenty-five thousand young people. Except for his own children, I think I was the most fortunate of them all.