By T. Scott Boatright
The Boy Scout Law says a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Thanks to Lincoln Parish’s Bruce Cowan, the Boy Scouts should probably add patient, persistent and persevering to that list.
On Thursday evening, Cowan, 80, finally realized a near-lifelong dream as after a 68-year wait, he was finally bestowed with the rank of Eagle Scout at The Gospel between Ruston and Choudrant.
Usually, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) regulations say a scout must complete the requirements to obtain the rank of Eagle by the age of 18.
But Cowan’s quest to become an Eagle Scout was anything but usual.
Cowan loved scouting as a youth growing up in Ruston and was well on his path to become an Eagle by the time he was 16 years old. There was only one thing standing in his way — being able to do a pull-up.
When Cowan was a scout in the 1950s, earning the Physical Fitness merit badge was a requirement to become an Eagle Scout. And being able to do pull-ups was one of the requirements to earn that merit badge.
“I couldn’t even do one,” Cowan said. “I had badly hurt my elbow as a boy. I had a compound fracture. My elbow never worked the same again. It still doesn’t. The person who tested and signed for that merit badge back then was a former Tech coach — a great man, but a tough man. And a very much ‘by the book’ kind of man. He was apologetic about it, but even though I could meet all the other requirements, I couldn’t even do one pull-up and he wouldn’t give me that merit badge that would have completed my requirements for Eagle Scout.”
While frustration led to Cowan dropping out of scouting at the age of 16, he never gave up on his desire to become an Eagle Scout. Even as an adult he would tell others that not becoming an Eagle was his life’s lone regret.
And although he gave up on his dream while he was in high school, he never gave up on his love of scouting, later being involved as a scoutmaster in St. Francisville.
Two years ago a friend of Cowan’s who knew about his longtime disappointment of not becoming an Eagle, Jessica Hayes, began working behind the scenes trying to convince BSA to look at the case and grant Cowan the rank of Eagle.
“She and my wife Tyrette were talking and Tyrette told her the whole story,” Cowan said. “Tyrette said Jessica told her, ‘That’s not right’ and went about making all of this happen. I didn’t know any of it was going on. They kept it secret from me. They wanted to surprise me.
Then my birthday came around in March of last year and Tyrette asked me, ‘What was the biggest disappointment in your life?’ I didn’t hesitate in saying not able to be an Eagle Scout. And she then told me, ‘You might get it.'”
So despite his age, Cowan returned to the world of scouting.
“I had to fill out all kinds of paperwork to prove I had filled all the other requirements,” Cowan said. “And I had to write a long essay describing why I wanted to become an Eagle Scout and why I deserved it. It was a long process made even longer because of the COVID pandemic.”
In February, Cowan passed his Eagle Review Board conducted in conjunction with Ruston Troop 45.
And it all culminated with his Eagle Court of Honor held Thursday night.
“This would not have happened if it weren’t for Jessica,” Cowan said. “She got the ball rolling. So many people helped. It’s a big honor for me because I made a goal in 1952 saying that you want to be an Eagle Scout, and it took 68 years to come. I had really given up. I’m so thankful for all of this. It’s a special night in my life.”