It all started when two young boys walked into Charlie Milner’s yard and asked him to lead their scout troop.
The boys who approached him way back in 1956 were Daniel Reid and Brian Hill, who felt the forestry ranger would make the perfect leader for their Scouts Canada unit in Middle Musquodoboit.
It was a humble start for the six decade-plus brotherhood between a unique circle of friends and their old scout leader, bonding over hunting trips, springtime fishing and music around campfires, held as always in Wittenburg, Colchester County.
“It makes me feel I was part of something special,” said Milner, now 90. “I feel that … I put something of myself into these boys, that they turned out the way they did. That’s scouting, it’s something which will carry them through in their adult days.”
Today, the group is composed of the original ‘regulars’ including Milner, brothers Dan and Jim Reid, Gordon Milne and Alistair Macdonald. In later years, the group welcomed Macdonald’s brother John, Franklin MacKay, Eckhart Schroeder, Dan Reid’s brother-in-law Bill MacDonald and also Greg Simms on a few special occasions.
Milner’s ‘boys’ are now all in their seventies and retired, but they left the scouts to become doctors, a scientist with the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, an electrician, real estate agent, musicians and a survey assistant.
Even as they went their own separate ways, landing jobs and starting families, the yearning to reconnect was strong.
It was the Reid brothers who first managed to reach their old leader and in 1979 the trio spent two days hunting in the woods.
The following year, Milner built his own camp, named Arlenboro, in the woods at Wittenburg and this marked the true start of their ritual.
Every fall, the group goes hunting around the Remembrance Day holiday, followed by a fishing expedition in May.
“For the next 38 years we never shot a deer, maybe just a few partridge, but we did manage to land a few healthy fish,” said Milner.
Reconnecting with their scouting skills, the friends all enjoy some music around the campfire after a day’s hunting or fishing, with guitars and an accordion being played well past midnight under starlit skies.
This included composing songs about certain situations in their lives, the titles like ‘The Boy Scout Song’ or ‘The Camp Upon The Hilltop’.
“A total of five songs were written, some better than others, including a satire about the controversy of arming game wardens here in Nova Scotia, called ‘The Game Warden Song’,” said Milner.
Second only to the music was food – and the group are graced by “gourmet cook,” Jim Reid. The friends run a competitive skeet hunt every fall – but it is yet to be decided who the best shot is.
Finally, the one-time scouts have spent many hours in deep conversation over politics and spirituality, or perhaps indulged in games of Trivial Pursuit and cribbage.
“I feel honoured to have known these people over all these years,” said Jim’s brother Dan Reid.
And 63 years after his brother was one of two boys who walked into a forest ranger’s yard, Milner is still very much their scout troop leader.
“He’s still hanging out with us, still the life of the party, he leads our prayers every time we sit at the table, he taught us the big lessons in life,” said Dan. “There’s things bigger than all of us.”