After Mark VanDevander joined Cub Scouts in first grade, his grandmother, Marlene VanDevander, became his scoutmaster.
A year later, younger brother Luke joined the same pack.
Thirteen years later, Mark has his Eagle Scout rank, and Luke will soon follow. And Marlene is seeing the last members of the fading Troop 156 through to their Eagle ranks.
Mark’s involvement in Scouts was influenced him, Luke said. But he mostly just thought all the activities the Scouts did looked fun.
“He couldn’t stand it until he could participate,” Marlene said.
The brothers share memories of the cooking challenges their grandmother would give the troop on camping trips. Marlene would give each boy a box of ingredients and they would have to come up with a meal. The results were sometimes unusual, such as zucchini pancakes.
Other activities included trips to the survival course at Camp Atterbury, to which Marlene had access through her work as a civilian medic.
The boys even got a shot at the computerized weapons simulators used by the military — which might have helped the troop take the top six spots at a Boy Scouts-sanctioned rifle and shotgun event at Camp Atterbury, Marlene said.
Even for a Brown County kid who spends plenty of time in nature, Scouts still offers a lot to learn about life, Mark said.
Luke said that even through the merit badges which seem boring, there is a lot of useful information to gain, like how government functions or how to track finances. Marlene gave each boy a check register and a balance, then texted them expenses to deduct over the course of a month. Then, she had them balance to a simulated bank statement.
For their Eagle Scout projects, both brothers focused on Church of the Lakes, where Troop 156 meets.
Mark’s project transformed a deteriorating hillside which had been stabilized with railroad ties into a terraced planting area.
The plan is to fill them with flowering plants. The project was delayed during last summer’s flooding, but still completed in time for Mark to receive his Eagle Scout rank in November.
Luke took on the fire pit on the other side of the church, which will be restored and surrounded by new benches they will build. Most of the work still needs to be done, but he plans to earn Eagle Scout this winter.
No one has stepped up to take over as scoutmaster for Troop 156 when Marlene retires, she said.
So, the troop stopped recruiting new Scouts a few years ago, and Troop 156 will cease to exist after the last of the current Scouts receives his Eagle rank.