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First Year Camper to Directing Medicine Man

The Mic-O-Say Influence on Lester Ham

Lester Ham, Medicine Man Four Shields

Directing Medicine Man Four Shields

We all sit in Lone Bear Council Ring and participate in the ceremonies.  Most would say they’re quite a spectacle.  And most probably think the person running the ceremonies – the Directing Medicine Man – was always the self-assured leader who guides the Tribe’s activities; someone “destined” from an early age to one of the top responsibilities in the Tribe.

It’s hard to think of Lester Ham, Medicine Man Four Shields, as a homesick first-year camper who was ready to go home before opening night campfire.  But that’s his story.

Lester did not go to camp his first year in Scouting.  “I had little to no interest in going to some camp,” he says.  “The next year I went.  By two in the afternoon of day one I was ready to go home.  It was quite possibly the worst place I had ever been.”

Lester says his Scoutmaster got him to dinner, and then after dinner the two of them were on the way to make the “come and get me” phone call to home.  (Fortunately, there were no cell phones in 1974.  They had to walk some distance to get to a phone).  Lester says his Scoutmaster convinced him to go to the opening night campfire and watch “just for a moment.”

He stayed for the rest of the session.

Lester often reflects on how his life might have been different if his Scoutmaster had not taken the extra effort to help him through those “first terrible hours.”  Indeed, someone else probably would be leading the ceremonies this summer.

Lester’s earliest memories of Mic-O-Say center around Troop 550, which had a strong Mic-O-Say presence.  He remembers some of the adult leadership wearing hardway claws with white paint on them!  There were not a lot of Tribal Council members in the 1970s who had not served on the camp staff, so from an early age Lester benefited from strong Troop leadership.  He credits especially Will Krahenbuhl and Jim Bowes of 550 with having a positive influence.

Lester had his turn at Call Night several years later.  “I was terrified,” Lester recalls, “but there was no place I wanted to stand other than out there.  Pappy Grube (Chieftain Lone Star) was the most ferocious man I had ever seen.”  Lester survived Call Night and went on to wear the medicine pouch and claw of a Brave that summer.

The leadership lessons learned through Mic-O-Say carried over into Lester’s non-Tribal life.  He started a company at a young age.  Lester says his experience as a Brave helped him reach inside himself and find the self-determination to move forward when he “did not know what I did not know.”

Scott Hess, Dan Sisco and Lester Ham attired for duty in 1979

Scott Hess, Dan Sisco and Lester Ham attired for duty in 1979.

Lester also notes that the Tribe is made up of a diverse group of professionals that took the time to help him when he needed it.  He says that membership is a fantastic resource for boys and young men starting their working lives.

Lester and Tammy Ham

Lester and Tammy Ham share a Tribal moment

Lester advanced in his career and his life.  He says, “Mic-O-Say has blessed my family and me.  Life is about relationships.  My wife, Tammy, and I are truly surrounded by close relationships, not surprising is most of them are Tribesmen.  We are all very different, some very structured, some brilliant, some skeptical, some hilarious and some very proper, but we are bound by core beliefs….Mic-O-Say influences my life every day.  I am reminded of this each time I talk with a friend.”

Lester’s perspective of being a Tribesman has changed over the past few years.  He believes Mic-O-Say is the best youth program for growth and leadership.  He says the Mic-O-Say program helps young men year after year shape a way of living that puts others first.

Lester says his current responsibility as Directing Medicine Man is to guide the Tribe and keep it relevant in a quickly changing society. “Our aims and goals are timeless, but, boy, does it feel even more needed today!” Lester says.

“As a young man I never thought about Mic-O-Say leadership.  It was just always there and I looked for my cues from them. As I matured I wondered if the leadership had changed. I was not receiving the warm direction I once had.  It felt different and didn’t provide comfort. I struggled with this for many years. Then it dawned on me. Mic-O-Say is always in need of good leadership. It takes many dedicated people to build this program. It takes a strong team. I have noticed that being a Tribal Council member or a Chieftain doesn’t change leadership ability. Leaders are leaders without the paint or feathers. I encourage all to find the niche in our program and be a leader.” 

So, tribesmen, remember that all of us are leaders, whether Brave or Chieftain. And it’s up to us – especially us – to focus on those young, first-year campers. One of them will be the Directing Medicine Man running the ceremonies in Lone Bear some day.

A "First Chair" Musician in Life and in Mic-O-Say

Professor Tom Wieligman

Professor Tom Wieligman, Indiana University.

Tribal Members have many talents that take them down many paths far from the hills of Osceola.  One who has become an accomplished musician – a “first chair,” so to speak – is Tom Wieligman, now on the faculty of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington.  We could say he once played “first chair” for the Tribe as a Mic-O-Say Advisor at Bartle.

Known in the Tribe as Sagamore Slippery Creek, Tom’s earliest memories of the Tribe were as a camper looking up to “any staff man who had claws around their neck,” but especially Camp Wigwam Program Directors Mike Sulgrove and Alan McDermott. Tom says they were “special people in all ways” to him.

Tom’s Scouting career started out with Troop 267 in Independence, MO.  He went to camp the first time in the summer of 1971, 3rd session in Campsite Kickapoo.  He remembers that first, special evening of exposure to the Tribe.  “My first Call Night,” he says, “did what I felt it should do for every young Scout:  a mixture of awe, of shock, a little bit of fear, and a huge desire to get to the point in Scouting where I might be called to be a member.”

Tom and his blood brother Bob Lewis (Warrior Little Burning Red Flame) came into the Tribe in 1974.  He remembers well THAT Call Night!  “Will Krahenbuhl (Medicine Man Big Lasting Eagle) was there, he made SURE the runner was tough on me!  Since my dad had gone to East High School and had Pappy Grube as a teacher, I also received a little special attention from Chieftain Lone Star!”

That wasn’t the last time Tom wound up on the wrong side of Chieftain Lone Star.  Tom and Troopmate Jimmie Jones went on staff at Bartle in 1976.  Tom says, “We reported on June 8, my birthday.  Pappy pulled me away from my table in the dining hall and gave me my official birthday spanking in front of the whole staff!”

Tom has fond memories of his paint responsibilities at Camp.  He remembers building the Call Night fire as a Firebuilder; running on Call Nights, especially when he had the “privilege” of “escorting” his own Troop members; and serving at every paint station at Camp.  Tom especially remembers serving as Head Runner.

Tom Wieligman at Lakefront in the early 1980s.

But Tom says the highlight of his paint service to this day was giving the Great Migration speech at Brave Ceremony while serving as Mic-O-Say Advisor for Camp Sawmill. Tom recalls, “I don’t remember how many years I did this—to this day, I miss being a part of this ceremony. I could probably come close to giving the whole speech today!" Tom remembers how inspired he was giving that speech — and how much of it he remembers.

We should all strive to follow Sagamore Slippery Creek’s lead in keeping the spirit of Friendship and Warmth alive for those who look up to us and follow us.  They, too, will eventually sit in the “first chair” of life!

“I couldn’t be more fortunate,” Tom says.  “I have also been able to work with Scouts here in Indiana at the volunteer level, and have coached football and basketball at various levels while my children were growing up.  (The principles) of Mic-O-Say have always guided me, and continue to be a vital part of who I am.  I am hugely thankful for what the Heart of America Council provided for me as I matured; I only hope I can be effective in passing these values on to our students here and to my own children.”

Tom’s international position eventually led to a faculty appointment at Indiana University with the Jacobs School of Music, where he has been for 20 years.  Tom says he works with about 1,600 students each year.  He notes that his work with younger people continues each day, helping him fulfill the principles of Mic-O-Say.

“(I went from camp) to take the position of Principal Bass Trombonist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Italy, which is based in Turin, Italy,” Tom says.  “Without the discipline and the training I received in Scouting and in Mic-O-Say, who knows if I would have persevered in music enough to land such a prestigious position at that point in my life.  I was very fortunate—because Scouting and Mic-O-Say trained me to ‘prepare’.”

All young Tribesmen eventually walk the path away from Osceola, and Tom was no exception.  He remembers having a wonderful opportunity to enter the world of musical performance. 

We should note that, like many of us, Tom’s younger brothers both followed him and his father into the Tribe.

“I have to give all the credit to my father,” Tom says.  “He is the one who made sure I applied, he took me to my interview with Jack Ghio (Camp Director of Wigwam in 1976).  He did everything to encourage me that a father should.  I’ll always be indebted to him.  I also remember how special it was to me when our troop came to camp while I was on staff.  Nothing was more fun than going down to the campsite and seeing your friends, your leaders, the younger Scouts of your own troop!”

Tom notes he might not have signed up for staff – and all-things-Mic-O-Say that it led to – without the encouragement of his family.