Growing up on a farm did afford young Paul with access to the outdoors, and he became an expert fisherman, marksman and hunter. In order to make some extra money, Paul ran a trap line in the woods near the Gauger farm. He described trapping fox, muskrats, and even skunks to save for his dream of owning one of the first Ford Model A cars. The Model A was introduced in 1927 when Paul was 16 years old and cost just under $400 for the basic model with no frills.
I benefit greatly from Dad’s love of fishing and hunting, particularly fishing. Dad lived to fish and introduced this great hobby to our family early in life. When we were not making a long road trip to Iowa, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, we were camping at Huntington Canyon and fishing. Dad was a great shot with a shotgun and never used a scope on his hunting rifle because he “did not need it.”
Besides the love for the outdoors and outdoor activities, another talent of Paul’s prepared him to be a great scout leader. He could make, fix or repair anything. Growing up on a farm taught him these valuable talents. He made a camper for our truck that our family used in our fishing trips, kept our home, automobiles and motorized equipment and tools in good condition and repair. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I did not observe him enough, help him enough or have him teach me enough of these valuable skills. Although he realized this would be of value to me, Dad was content to always give me the time, opportunities and money to participate in the many sports, school and other activities that he did not have the chance to enjoy as a young boy and man.
When I turned eight years old, I became a Cub Scout. I remembered we had some fine leaders that first year, but the program in our ward really did not get off the ground. The leaders of the ward considered dropping the program, until they made an inspired decision. They called my father to become the Cub Master for the program. This was an interesting calling at the time because Dad was not truly a member in full standing, which generally was the requirement for any man called as a leader of boys. Dad went to Church with his family, served in some “token” callings such as a secretary or record keeper for the “Senior Aaronics”, or men in the ward who had not received the Melchizedek Priesthood or been to the temple with their wives and families. Dad was a member of this group.
Dad was instantly a success in this calling for two reasons. Number 1, he loved and cared for young boys and the boys in the ward could see and feel this. There was nothing artificial or phony about Paul Gauger – what you saw was what you got. He was creative in his approach to Cub Scouting. He followed the program as best as he knew how, but put his building and outdoor skills to work to make our Cub Scouts fun and exciting.
I remember one of the first “pack meetings” we had under Dad’s direction. The theme was the Knights of the Round Table, and Dad made round wooden disks on curved wooden bases that wobbled and required balance and agility to stand on. With these, he created jousting staffs with cushioned ends that the two “knights” would use to try to knock each other off the disks. Of course, authentic looking helmets were designed and made by Dad out of large ice cream containers, and vests were made out of burlap sacks. Dad was not much of an artist but he did design some rudimentary crests and dragon designs for the helmets and vests. This was just one example of how Dad went beyond what was required to make a difference for us in the program.
Paul Gauger, Cub Master, Dennis Gauger, Cub Scout
When my age group turned 12 years old and moved on to Boy Scouting, Dad moved on with us and became our Scout Master. This scouting involved camping out and more activities in the outdoors, which only increased the creative juices flowing in Dad. Our camping trips were always planned around fishing opportunities, including our trips to Camp Maple Dell, the organized camp for the Utah National Parks Council in Payson canyon. Maple Dell had a small lake that was frequently stocked with trout and Dad saw to it that every boy had the opportunity to catch fish. I believe some of the boys in our troop had never before caught a fish and probably have never caught a fish since. Dad also saw that we had the opportunity to leave camp temporarily on occasion and fish on the Payson River. Under his expert coaching, we usually caught a bunch of fish there, and always had the most fish caught in our daily report at the morning flag ceremony.
Trips to Huntington River, the location of most of our early family camping and fishing trips were especially memorable for “Troop 14”. We caught lots of fish, made rope bridges across the river, and spent hours around the fire listening to Dad’s stories about growing up in Iowa and other tall tales. When you got Dad going, you had difficulty determining when the truth ended and the lies began. But the boys did not care and loved spending the time with Dad. Dad always made sure that each boy, regardless of his financial situation or prior experience camping and fishing, had a wonderful time and a successful camp.
Troup 14 Returns With The Fish
While the fishing, tall tales around the fire and outdoor adventure are the easiest things to remember about scouting trips with Dad, with hind sight it is easy to see that characters of these young men, including mine, were also being developed. Dad was not the greatest spiritual advisor we ever had, but we learned teamwork, sense of humor, respect for each other and adults and other valuable traits that prepared us to be missionaries and future fathers. At one time, we had 17 missionaries out at the same time from our ward, most of whom had been active Boy Scouts under Dad’s leadership.
A true demonstration of Dad’s love of and commitment to Scouting was his continued involvement in the Boy Scouts of America after my age group moved on from Boy Scouts. Dad did not continue to serve as Scout Master or work directly with boys, but he did serve as a trainer in roundtables and other district leadership training meetings in American Fork for a few years. He was always proud to wear and be seen in his full scout uniform.
I was proud to share my father with my friends and love to hear them, over 40 years later, talk about Dad and the influence he had on their lives and how he taught them to have fun and enjoy the outdoors. This is a major part of the legacy of service of Paul Gauger.