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Walking sticks add historic touch to volunteer awards

What better for trail folks then a customized walking stick from their favorite trail?

By Terry Whaley, American Trails Board Member

Ozark Greenways recently needed to come up with a token of appreciation for retiring board members, which were going to be acknowledged at our annual members meeting. Certificates of appreciation, coffee mugs, plaques, and wall hangings, were becoming too routine for an organization on the cutting edge of social change.

photo: presenting the new walking stick awards to retiring Ozark Greenways board members
Presenting the new walking stick awards to retiring Ozark Greenways board members

Thus the challenge╔what would be the ideal recognition award for these four board members, who have contributed a combined total of 30-years worth of service to Ozark Greenways? It only took a relaxing walk on our "creative thinking trail" to come up with the perfect symbol of our appreciation. What better for trail folks then a customized walking stick from their favorite trail?

Whether you work to build trails, fund trails, design trails, dream about trails, or are one of the lucky ones that enjoy the leisurely ramble down your favorite wooded trail we have all had the need to grab a walking stick from time to time. Not Carausius morosus the two eyed, six legged, insect type, but the spare tree part type you use for balance or stability while walking a trail or crossing a stream.

Because this was our annual meeting just handing out a walking stick was not going to cut it. The presentation would need to be backed with solid research, and would require a degree of entertainment and education to satisfy an Ozark Greenways member. Research on the topic of walking sticks turned up some great information, which we found intriguing and entertaining for the meeting.

It would appear that great leaders throughout history have been attracted to walking sticks. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks represented their Gods and rulers as carrying staffs, which they used to symbolized authority and leadership. Hey, authority and leadership, this was just the message we were looking for. Travel agents would get a kick out of this one, it was believed that walking sticks placed next to a mummy would help the deceased on their travels after death and in resurrection. Archeological digs have reveled that King Tut was buried with some 132 sticks; this was a guy that had travel plans! I would guess if he were here today he would be a member of American Trails, or possibly Egyptian Trails. King Henry the 7th, Louis the 14th of France, and General Washington all had walking sticks. Washington's was made from crab tree wood and was a gift from Benjamin Franklin. This because in America after the American Revolution the custom of presenting sticks was a sign of individual esteem and admiration.

Again just the message we wished to illustrate to our board members. Lord Baden Powell and P.T. Barnum both were into the walking stick craze. One of P.T. Barnum's recently sold for $250,00. We have high regards for our board members however, the walking sticks we presented were a bit less expensive then that. Our sticks were harvested for trailside trees. Think about it, if you have to prune trees anyway, why not recycle some of the parts. Each board member received a stick from their favorite trail or a trail they were involved in the development of. No two sticks were alike in size, shape, or finished appearance. In this case they were all from cedar trees, which are a strong, a sturdy wood and in our area cedar trees grow like weeds.

Ozark Greenways had fun with this and they have started a new tradition for retiring board members that complete their full terms. The presentation of a locally grown walking stick is our symbol for leadership, commitment, and contribution of time and talent toward the development of trails in our community. The sticks were a great touch for our meeting and greatly appreciated by the receiving board members. The closing comment to our board members was "we not suggesting you take a hike, but hope you stick around to for many years to come both supporting and enjoying your trails."

Ozark Greenways in a non-profit citizens group promoting, funding and working to develop trails in Springfield, Missouri.

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