By Tracy Robillard
CLARKS HILL, S.C.-David Quebedeaux has been in the "picnic table" business for 24 years. Among Quebedeaux's colleagues, that's an idiom for being a park ranger.
"While other people go to school to be doctors or lawyers, I majored in picnic tables," he said.
But in the last three years, Quebedeaux-commonly known as "Ranger Dave"-has added another occupation to supplement his career at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers J. Strom Thurmond Lake in Clarks Hill, S.C. He runs the largest Boy Scout troop in the Georgia/Carolina region, and this, he said, takes his park ranger experience to another level.
"Anyone who thinks that Boy Scouting is only about camping and tying knots is missing the true goal of Scouting," Quebedeaux said. "The outdoor stuff is just a vehicle for teaching life skills such as responsibility, respect, self reliance, leadership, and teamwork."
"We help build young men into the kind of people you want to live next door, date your daughter, lead your community, or defend your nation," he added.
Quebedeaux is no stranger to Scouting. He went through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as a child, earning the highest Scout rank of Eagle in 1983. During his college years in Texas, he worked as a back country ranger at the Boy Scouts Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. He spent many summers there backpacking in the Sangre de Christo Mountains and leading Scouts on adventures.
"That period of time turned out to be a life course changing set of events," Quebedeaux said. "I actually started college as a pre-medical student for several years, but then I realized that I wanted to be a park ranger for the U.S. government, so I transferred to Texas A&M to pursue a bachelor's degree in parks, recreation and tourism sciences."
While following his career path as a park ranger, Quebedeaux continued his service to scouting in support of his son, Mark.
"When I became an adult, I felt that I had a responsibility to give back to the Boy Scouts program-especially when I had a son of my own," he said.
Quebedeaux served as the Cub Master for his son's Cub Scout Pack when Mark was in elementary school. When his son reached age 11, he was ready to leave the Cub Scout program and graduate to Boy Scouts. That's when Quebedeaux and his friend Fred Ricketson decided to started their own troop.
At the time, both of their sons were in Scouts, and local troops were "bursting at the seams" with new recruits, Quebedeaux said.
"We felt that together, we could provide a quality scouting experience for our sons and their friends," Quebedeaux said. "We started the troop with only five boys. Three years later, we have the largest troop in the region with 60 Scouts."
The group is formally known as Boy Scout Troop 10, based in Martinez, Ga.
"I am very proud of my boys," he added. "They make our troop a success. They lead the troop. My job is to advise them and make sure the blood loss is kept at a minimum."
Marshall Knox, 18, is one of Ranger Dave's Scouts who has been with Troop 10 since it began. He, like many of the other Scouts, appreciates Quebedeaux's influence on the group.
"I think he [Quebedeaux] is very vital to the founding of the troop," Knox said. "If he makes a goal in his mind, he's going to accomplish that goal-and he's not going to let anything stop him. But at the same time, he has a lot of fun."
Knox, along with several other Scouts in Quebedeau's troop, earned his Eagle Scout rank this year.
"Earning the Eagle rank is the culmination of everything that you've learned throughout your Scouting career," Knox said. "It requires a lot of perseverance to get it. It focuses on your participation in the community and being active in your community, helping people, and using skills such as first aid."
"An Eagle Scout is something that you earn once and you are forever," Knox added.
In the last three years, Knox and the other the boys of Troop 10 have experienced many adventures, such as white water rafting, camping, hiking, riding in helicopters, and learning a wide array of survival skills.
Many of those skills came in handy this summer, when Quebedeaux led a group of eight scouts on a 130-mile backpacking trip at the Philmont Scout Range in New Mexico, where he had spent his college years.
"Our trip to Philmont was the pinnacle of my career as a Scout," Knox said. "Having Dave there was awesome, and having our other Scout Master Fred there was awesome. It was the first high-adventure trip that Troop 10 ever had, and I'm sure there will be many more coming."
"Scouting is all about the people that you meet doing the things that you love to do," Knox said. "I love being outside, I love camping and backpacking, I love just about anything that involves me and the sun. That's why I stayed in Scouts."
Even with all the outdoor adventures, Quebedeaux said the most important thing about Scouting is the impact it has on youth to change lives.
"None of this is about me-it's about the boys," Quebedeaux said. "It's about teaching these young guys how to be leaders, how to be self-reliant and responsible. I feel like it's making a difference in the next generation, because somebody invested the time in me, and now I get a chance to invest time in my son and his friends. And honestly, it's just a whole lot of fun."
His Scouts said they agree.
"If I have a son, I will involve him in Scouting," Knox said. "I hope that one day I can have an impact on other lives like Dave had an impact on me."