Role models don’t always go by ‘dad’

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

There’s a framed black and white snapshot on my shelf at work. It’s of a smiling, jovial guy in a flannel shirt standing in front of a car with the hood up. Every now and then someone asks me, “Who’s the man in the picture?”

“That’s Scoutmaster Phil,” I say.

The car is Phil’s 1968 Rambler American. The hood is up because we just forded a creek and the distributor cap, which he’s holding in his hand, got wet and he’s drying it off. This photo caught a moment on a weekend ramble, one of many the Boy Scouts of Troop 62 went on with Phil.

I was thinking about Phil with Father’s Day coming up this weekend.

I thought about guys everywhere who are father figures to kids.

Maybe they don’t have children of their own or maybe their kids are grown. These guys have time to spare to be there for kids whose dads are too busy, too whatever or just plain gone. It’s not just scoutmasters, it’s teachers, youth ministers, coaches, neighbors, older brothers, uncles, any guy that a kid sees as a father figure.

I never knew why Phil spent so much time with our troop, he had a wife and infant daughter. He really liked doing neat stuff with us like building a cabin, excavating a pond with an ancient bulldozer he bought cheap, or setting up the new scouts for a snipe hunt.

Phil taught me about a lot of things that no one else had. He used to shake his head and laugh because he didn’t know how I managed to get to be 13 years old and not know as much as I didn’t.

Phil was not a by-the-book scoutmaster. It might have been that anti-authoritarian streak of his that made him seem so cool. We’d sit around the fire after a long day of hiking and he’d tell us stuff like ticking off the corporate guys at his company by coming to formal affairs wearing his suit and tie with a pair of jeans.

Along with all the Boy Scout stuff, Phil taught us about guns (“Keep that safety on until you’re ready,”) booze (“Wait ‘til you’re 21 and then indulge in moderation,”) good country music and the importance of taking rambling drives to nowhere on back country roads in an old car with your friends.

Phil’s advice about girls was simple. “Don’t rush things,” he said.

“The right one always comes along someday. And don’t have kids until you’re comfortable with each other.” As an early teen I had no idea what he meant. Looking back on things I wish I had.

The last time I saw Phil was over 30 years ago at a fast food joint in my home town. He had hooked up with a company that was doing business in Saudi Arabia. He was going over there and making “big coin.” He didn’t say anything about his wife and kid. We talked and laughed about days gone by.

Many of us knew guys like Phil, guys we looked up to when we were kids. I wish I could find him, shake his hand and say thanks for the time, the guidance, the advice and being there. But I can’t, so I write about Phil and send that energy out there. And I salute and give a tip o’ the hat to all of you father figures on Father’s Day.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: