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‘Beetle Bailey’ creator joins Boy Scout camping weekend

October 21, 2017 GMT

REDDING — As nearly 600 Boy Scouts moved through activity stations on Hoyt Scout Reservation Saturday morning, a small group of them stopped to watch cartoonist Mort Walker draw characters he created 50 years before any of them were born.

“Beetle Bailey is actually me, in uniform,” Walker told the group, holding up a sketch of his famous comic strip character. “I’ve got about 20 characters and they’re all after friends of mine.”

The scouts, watching intently as he drew another, had just heard Walker describe his time serving in World War II, the theme of the Powahay District’s weekend-long Fall Camporee. Walker, who lives in Stamford, was one of several veterans honored as special guests at the event.

He spent the morning telling stories at one of the 14 stations set up around the campgrounds, along with watercolorist Bob Callahan.

With one group, Walker discussed with the scouts what they want to be when they grow up. He said he decided on his career when he was just 3 years old, after watching his dad enjoy newspaper cartoons.

“I would look at him and think, ‘What a nice thing to do to somebody, to make him laugh,’ ” Walker said. “I said, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to be a cartoonist.’ If you decide what you want to be, and begin to perfect it, you’ve got a head start.”

Other stations around the reservation ranged from Spam cooking contests to water-balloon slingshots and learning Morse code. Each of the activities was designed by Darien’s Troop 53, which hosted the weekend camping event.

“The whole point of scouts is to give them opportunities to have fun and, while they’re not realizing it, teach them leadership skills,” said the Troop 53 Assistant Scoutmaster Craig Flaherty. “At least half (of the activities) require the patrol to work together as a team to do something skillful or accomplish a task.”

One of Troop 53’s scouts, 13-year-old Khrystos Yika, said he wasn’t sure what troop leaders had in store for the rest of Saturday, but he was already enjoying the weekend spent camping. The troops had all spent Friday night in tents throughout the 170-acre forest, and would sleep there again Saturday.

“I got involved in Boy Scouts because I like adventure and camping,” Yika said. “I like the hiking, biking and outdoors stuff.”

Some of the stations gave scouts an opportunity to pass on their skills to peers.

Ryan Farrell, a 13-year-old from Troop 19 in Norwalk, said he was looking forward to teaching a station on signs, signals and codes with his fellow scouts.

“I like learning new things and getting to do new experiences,” he said.

Farrell said one of his favorite parts of scouts is camping, like at the Fall Camporee or an annual week-long summer camp, because he gets to enjoy the outdoors with his friends.

The Powahay District, which serves Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Wilton, and Stamford, holds three camporee events throughout the year.