It seems particularly important to remember Richard Scott as more than a name attached to the Minnesota Men’s Conference Scholarship Fund. Each year those who remember the giant man are fewer. When I had known Richard for about ten years, and he was already in his eighties, we were part of a dedicated small group of men who met annually at Red Oak, to share the weekend that preceded the conference. We would give each man as much time as he needed to catch us up on his experiences since the last conference. Who was there? Tim Young, David Gross, Richard, Jack Gunderson, Bob Roberts, Walton Stanley—if I leave anyone out they will probably bite me. Edwin Lemus joined us when we needed him most.
Red Oak Small Group
Suddenly one year, I saw Richard and told him that he looked ten years younger on that day than he did when I had met him ten years earlier. It was remarkable. Richard seemed pleased. He said, “Yeah, they put in a pacer (pacemaker). It seems I was only ticking over at twenty-five percent.”
So, seeing him with that renewed vitality and walking beside him on that sandy path was another gift he gave me. But I was just one of so many who remember him with enduring fondness. Here is Bruce Heller’s story.
– Mark Gardiner
Richard Scott, 2003
Richard Scott: A Man Whose Heart Touched Many
Since 2009, I have journeyed three times to the forest beside Sturgeon Lake where I communed with the men I now know as my brothers. Among them was a man named Richard Scott. As a newcomer, I found him intimidating from afar. His appearance was that of a medicine man from a tribe in the American Southwest, and I felt inclined to revere him as an elder. He had the presence, breadth and slow gait of an Ent of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. He wore a thin, braided headband across his forehead and grey mane, walked with a staff, and his face resembled an older Hemingway. Once I was brave enough to approach him, I was surprised to hear the hippie cadence in his voice. He lit up and said “Hey, man!”, as if were old friends. His eyes smiled as if seeing me was the best part of his day.
Chris Reynolds and Richard Scott 2005
During an outdoor ceremony on a chilly, drizzling night, I saw Richard nearby wrapped in a thick woven blanket. I sat with him, and he offered to share his blanket. His massive hands holding mine, we kept each other warm. I thought that maybe I should use this opportunity to ask him to tell me stories, and to glean from him some wisdom that I imagined would transform my life. But sitting there with him felt like such a gift in itself. Me and an elder, huddled under a blanket, asking nothing of each other but warmth, sharing more than stories: kindness, kinship, connection. Stillness. A mere moment on our journey together. I was the young man hoisted upon the shoulders of Iron John.
Richard Scott and Joe Delfont, 2008
Each year Richard brought with him an assortment of knives with hilts he’d made from deer antlers & bones, decorated with rings of cedar, walnut and cherry wood. At the closing of the 2010 Minnesota Men’s Conference, Richard, the eldest man in attendance, ritually gave one of his knives, sheathed in leather, to the youngest man — 14 years old — as a blessing, a ceremonial passing on of our traditions, and a reminder to all that our stories must be carried from generation to generation if they are to endure. His blessing was more profound than we knew: Richard would not join us again at Sturgeon Lake. The following year, his health began to decline.
In early 2012, my struggle with addiction dragged me to a rehab in New Mexico. Upon leaving, I felt the need to reach out to those who had blessed me — those whose presence I’d felt at my back throughout my month in treatment. I sought out Richard Scott who I knew had moved from Minnesota to New Mexico. I learned that he’d suffered multiple strokes in the preceding months, and was living at a Veteran’s home nearby. I drove to meet him. His wife had warned me that he might not recognize me due to a gradual onset of dementia. She also gave me a tip: bring him chocolate-covered pretzels.
I found him reclined in a wheelchair in a hallway near his room. He was still an oak, but his shoulders, too broad for his chair, reminded me that such a formidable man just didn’t belong in a wheelchair. Though he had no need for his staff, he still wore his headband. I greeted him and told him who I was and where we’d met. Though I didn’t see recognition in his eyes, he greeted me the same as always in his sandy voice, “Hey, man!” as if he’d just stumbled out of a bus at Woodstock. We sat, ate lunch, and spoke of our lives. I learned of his service in WWII. Like me, he was an artist and teacher. We bonded over that, and I showed him some of my drawings while we munched on chocolate covered pretzels.
I could see that he was mostly there, but not a lot. I still don’t know if he knew me, but that wasn’t important. He was still Richard — gracious, kind, and full of stories. In our time together, I wish I could say that I learned the true meaning of life, or that a crow wearing a crown flew into the window and perched on his knee to tell us a story. Nothing like that. We just shared moments. As men. As brethren. As kindred spirits. We didn’t have to know each other’s names.
Eventually he grew sleepy. I wheeled him back to his room, and helped the nurse lift him into his bed. We sat for a bit. I made sure he knew where I’d stowed the bags of pretzels. As we exchanged a few parting words, I held his massive hand in mine. I pulled up his warm woven blanket to cover him. And waved goodbye. And wept on my way home.
Richard Scott passed away on March 11, 2013. In my Los Angeles apartment, I keep one of Richard’s deer-bone knives within sight. He’s still there, reminding me of why we gather every year by the lake to honor and bless each other as men. So many others knew Richard far better and far longer than I, but no matter. It takes but moments to connect with another in profound ways. I have found many such moments with the wild and wise men by the lake. I know I am not alone in this.
I hope to meet you sometime by the lake. In the spirit of Richard Scott, I will greet you as an old friend, and seeing you there will be the best part my day.
– Bruce B. Heller