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The Man Scout: Friendship is the best adventure there is, especially when your patrol is involved

By Chris Cole
Special to NKyTribune

Growing up, my best friend Beth lived four or five houses down from me, next to the corner store where we cashed in our bottles to buy candy and toys.

I’m sure there were other kids in Newport, but mostly I remember Beth. We played together every day – riding bikes, playing video games in her basement, swimming in the little galvanized pool in my backyard. She was my best friend until we moved to Grants Lick when I was in fifth grade.

The next year, I met a kid named Brian, who would become my new best friend. And we’ve been best friends ever since.

I like to keep my circle small and I’m also an introvert. At parties, I tend to spend a lot of time on my phone unless Brian or my wife, Megan, is there. But they’re both extroverts and will only spend so much time in the corner joking with me before they have to mingle, so. . .online Euchre anyone?

(Left to right): Chris Cole, his wife Megan and Brian in 2015 at Bunbury about to enjoy an Avett Brothers show.

Anyway, I was reading this week in my Boy Scout Handbook about something called a scout’s “patrol.” Patrols are described as a scout’s “gang” – the small circle of friends you scout, hike and camp with. Patrols have their own name, flag and song.

I weren’t no Boy Scout, but Brian is definitely part of my patrol. We’ve been through everything together during a friendship that has spanned parts of five decades. Weddings, divorces, kids, illnesses, funerals, career changes. You name it.

I was trying to think of a story that might sum up our friendship. There are so many. I could tell you about our days at Campbell County High School or Northern Kentucky University. There are some hilarious stories about our time working together at Toyota headquarters. I may share some of those tales later.

But today I want to tell you about the Brian who is my concert buddy. About a decade ago, I discovered a band called the Avett Brothers and instantly fell in love with their music. So when I learned they were coming to the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, Ohio, in 2012, I dragged Brian with me even though he’d never heard of the band.

We have since been to 50 or 60 Avett shows together, which has taken us all over this great nation. We’ve rang in the new year center stage, celebrated birthdays in the pit, dressed up for Halloween concerts. If the band had announced a Christmas Day concert along the way, I’m pretty sure we’d have found a way to be there.

Patrols are described as a scout’s “gang” – the small circle of friends you scout, hike and camp with. Patrols have their own name, flag and song.

A pair of Asheville shows a few years back were particularly memorable. I’d suffered a pulmonary embolism just a few weeks earlier, so Brian had to drop me off at the door so that I wouldn’t have to walk very far. As is always the case, he did everything he could to make sure I was safe and healthy. He even missed the first couple songs, but never complained.

I would have griped all night long. In fact, I would have probably griped the whole way home. It seems every time we go on one of our trips – embolism or not – when the excitement of the show has passed, I get grumpy. I start complaining the minute we leave the hotel and don’t stop until I fall asleep a few hours later, leaving Brian to drive the whole way home.

A year or so later, Brian and I were at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo., for a three-night Avett run. And run is the appropriate term. You see, Avett Brothers fans are passionate. Some might say crazy. We got in line hours and hours before the show each day, and when they’d open the gate, there would be a mad dash up the side of a mountain to get the best seats.

As we sprinted past a kindly usher reminding everyone not to run, Brian and I realized we were losing ground. You see, neither of us will ever be confused with a vegetarian. He says to me, “Give me your stuff and go.” So I handed him my backpack, picnic blanket, iPhone, backup phone charger, water bottle, sweatshirt and kitchen sink, and off I ran.

I ran like the wind. As a general rule, guys my size are built more for distance than speed, but when a prime spot for an Avett Brothers show is on the line, I find second gear. I managed to get us great seats, and Brian got to hear me complain the whole way home about what would turn out to be a torn meniscus.

Whether it’s scrambling for position at a concert, recovering from a life-threatening illness or just putting up with a bad temperament, it’s important to have a patrol. Life is hard and aging is even harder. Knowing there is someone who has your back no matter what can make all the difference.

My advice for anyone picking their patrol is simple – look for people like Brian. Surround yourself with folks who make you want to work harder to be a good person. As the Handbook says, “The strength of your patrol is the strength of each Scout. Do your share to make it strong.”

Until next week, Do a Good Turn Daily!

Chris Cole is Director of Enterprise Communications at Sanitation District No. 1 and a deacon at Plum Creek Christian Church in Butler. He lives in Highland Heights with his wife, Megan. The Man Scout chronicles Cole’s journey to acquiring some of the skills of the head, the heart and the hand he failed to learn as a child of the 1980s growing up in Newport. His field guide: a 1952 Boy Scouts Handbook he found on eBay.

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  1. Chris Cole says:

    Everyone needs a patrol. Tell me about your best friend or your small circle. What lessons have you learned just by being around them?

  2. Jack Gordon says:

    Great lesson!

  3. Casey Apgar says:

    I’ve played music with my patrol over 20 years. We grow and shrink along the way but there’s nothing like jamming with them. It’s unspoken communication you don’t get that without your patrol.

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