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I Was Never Nominated For The Vigil Honor

The record shows that I received the Vigil Honor from Cahuilla Lodge # 127 in 1993, three years after I attended my Ordeal. As it turns out, receiving the Vigil Honor was much more complicated than that.

It should be noted that the unique nature of selection for the Vigil Honor did not guarantee I would receive it in 1993, or any other year, for that matter. You must be nominated by a peer, and a committee of youth would then review the nominations and determine the most worthy of the nominees, with the ceiling on recipients determined by a 1-per-50 member ratio.

Still, by Summer 1993, my credentials were definitely worthy. I had distinguished service in Ceremonies, running the Lodge’s camping promotion programs for a couple years, Chapter Chief of the chapter receiving the inaugural Chapter Excellence Award, running a District Camporee, personally delivering a Lodge Excellence Award in a year Cahuilla was not an Honor Lodge, and a whole lot more. I was also the incoming Fall Fellowship Chair and was running for First Vice-Chief of the Lodge. The service record was there.

All that being said, I wasn’t nominated, and I was aware I wasn’t. It was deeply disappointing that my Adviser or some of my peers in my Chapter never bothered. But you can’t nominate yourself, so you had to accept it.

So how did I receive the Vigil Honor, anyway?

Vigil Honor selections that year were conducted at our June Ordeal at Camp Helendade. The main Lodge at Helendade had two rooms separated by a stone wall that housed the fireplace on one side. The Vigil selection committee was meeting at the “OA Table” in the side room on the West Side.

At that Ordeal, the only assignments I had were performing Kitchkinet in all three ceremonies, so I was not super busy during the day. Ceremony team members generally had the day off from service in order to practice, and since I knew my parts perfectly, I didn’t really need that time. At some point, I was simply having a conversation with Arrowman Bryant Walker near the double doorway entrance to the Main Lodge. We were mainly discussing how the Ordeal was going, things of that nature.

What I didn’t know at the moment was that the Vigil selection committee had backed themselves into a corner. They had picked 9 adults and 8 youth. In order to comply with National guidelines on selections, they needed to either drop an adult selection or pick an additional youth. They didn’t want to drop an adult, so they decided to find a youth.

“Hey Tracy, how long have you been Brotherhood?” came loudly out of the room.

I looked over a little bewildered, but simply answered, 2 years. They asked for clarification on the 2 years because another youth was rejected in 1992 when he didn’t quite have a full 24 months. I noted it was 25 months for me, and they quickly asked me to vacate the area.

I remember Bryant noting that must be exciting for me, but it really wasn’t. Again, I already knew I wasn’t nominated, and I was being discussed for reasons I didn’t know. I was only 15 years old, and some of this stuff wasn’t quite clear to me yet.

The person representing my Chapter in the room was one of my closest friends from my Troop and my predecessor as Chapter Chief. So I got the full details from him. Several people appeared to signal they would vote no for me because of personal animus. The oldest youth on the committee had the nerve to insinuate I was the kind of guy to use the Vigil distinction to put myself above others, which to this day angers me. Those of my friends who know my approach to awards know that his statement was unacceptably wrong.

In the end, I was selected as the 9th youth with about a 2/3rds margin, although that was mostly because my friend quickly came to my defense and nobody else had any better ideas for another youth.

So, I must thank Bryant Walker for chatting about the Ordeal with me, turns out he did more my Vigil Honor selection than anybody!

About 30 days later, the Vigil Adviser, who had stepped in in temporarily as Lodge Adviser, called me. He said that he had an issue because he had spilled coffee on my Vigil nomination and couldn’t read the Indian name selected. Obviously, I knew this was a lie.

Although this adult knew me pretty well, he was essentially asking me to describe myself for purposes of inputting an Indian name. He also stated that it didn’t guarantee I was selected, it was just to make sure the “form” could be read, but again, I already knew that wasn’t true and knew I was selected. He would choose the particularly generic Mechmauwikenk, meaning Camper. Considering that could describe every single member of the Order of the Arrow, I wasn’t too impressed with the name selection.

The indignity continued when the Vigil Ceremony commenced, during an August weekend when we could still have open fires on the ground. After the evening ceremony was completed, Vigil Guides took their candidates to their ceremony sites. Except me, because of course I was not nominated and nobody bothered to get me a Vigil Guide.

The Vigil Chief was cleaning up the site, turned around and saw me, and immediately said, “what are you doing?” I answered earnestly that I did not know what I was supposed to be doing. He asked about my Vigil Guide and at that point, I wasn’t sure what that was. He then stopped what he was doing and marched me up the hill to my site. At least that was set up in advance.

I have heard so many stories from people who had inspirational evenings keeping their Vigil. After not being nominated, being selected because I was actually standing in the right spot at the right time, being lied to, and not even having a guide to support me, all I could feel was Imposter Syndrome.

I gained some measure of esteem back after the morning ceremony. During the evening, the Voices of the Night did their visits, and because the Vigil Chief and the other voice were from my chapter, I knew exactly who they were. Neither could read well. During the second visit, while they were stumbling over their words, I corrected them. Our Section Chief, Cody Barnett, was one site down from me and heard the entire thing and happily told our group that I apparently knew the script better than the guys reading it, and crowned me the Vigil Elangomat. I enjoyed that.

But no good moment could last, as the same Vigil Adviser who lied about spilling coffee on my form saw I had a really nice leather bag made. Indeed, I realized that mine was much nicer than everybody else’s. What happened is that he ordered a nicer bag for one of his friends who was also at the induction, and it was accidentally given to me. He even wondered if I should trade it out to his friend who had an inferior one. My campfire ashes were obviously already in it, and I said in no uncertain terms that the bag was mine and nobody would be taking it away from me. I still have it, by the way.

So, that Imposter feeling continued. I had no idea I was 12 months from being the Lodge Chief, and I would be directing my selected Vigil Chief and Mr. Coffee Spiller as Adviser in how the selections would be improved.

As for the people who voted down my nomination, well, they were all replaced on the Lodge Executive Committee. I don’t forget.

My biggest point of emphasis, indeed, was making sure people were nominated and nobody was left behind. As an adult, I advised the Vigil Chief and his Committee 4 times. The experience was always rewarding. We went to anonymous nomination resumes, and largely eliminated a committee member saying bad things about a nominee.

When we moved the membership roster to Excel (and later, LodgeMaster), it was easy to to create a list of eligible members. I was very aggressive in assigning people to complete nominations, and kept after them to get it done. I would not allow any member to be forgotten or left behind.

My first year as Vigil Adviser, the person nominating him included “Youth Protection Training” on his form and the room immediately laughed. Unfortunately, the youth labelled him “YPT GUY” and while I got them to stop being condescending about it, they voted him down.

This was a chapter adviser who had a 60 mile one-way commute just to his chapter meetings, not to mention the district, council, and other activities he was involved in. I really felt he didn’t get a fair shake on his nomination, but of course, I stood by the decisions of the youth.

The next year, I personally nominated him, using information from the adult who turned in a form the previous year, with my additions about how much of a sacrifice it took for him to do the job. This time, the youth didn’t question it, and voted for him unanimously. He was no longer Chapter Adviser, but he got the call to report to the ceremony. I remember sitting there, as the guy was in tears, explaining that he could not for the life of him figure out who nominated him, and that he wanted to thank that person endlessly. This was a truly humble Scouter who was worthy of the Vigil, and while staying in silence on my role in his selection, it was one of the most satisfying moments of my OA life.

As for my chapter adviser who never bothered to nominate me, well, I never nominated him. Perhaps that is holding a bit of a grudge, but if he didn’t think it was important enough to turn in a form for me, I wasn’t sure how much he would value being a recipient. He is a Brotherhood member today.

This brings me back to my Vigil Name, which has always bothered me. I suppose I am a Camper, along with hundreds of thousands of other Arrowmen since 1915.

So, I chose a new name for myself.

I, Tracy Schultze, shall henceforth be known as Wishalowe, translated as Rattlesnake.

I joined a Lodge whose totem is famously, the rattlesnake. I was always quite the Cahuilla partisan, especially at Section W4B Conclaves. The selection of snakepower.org as the Lodge’s website was done by me. And perhaps, in a moment of serendipity, it was fate that I was born during the Chinese Year of the Snake.

28 years later, with help from a couple friends, I was able to fix something that has long bothered me. And I do this knowing in my heart that I paid forward the spirit of the Vigil and hopefully brought joy, humility, and happiness to succeeding generations of Arrowmen who were worthy of being honored as well.

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