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This scout earns highest rank

Riley Close knows how to tie about a dozen different knots and gained a lot of other skills during his 13 years in scouting.

He earned the Eagle Scout designation this year and held his Court of Honor during July at the UW-River Falls amphitheater.

The Court is held because becoming an Eagle Scout is a big deal. Nationwide there were nearly 3 million Cub and Boy Scouts last year. Statistics say that only about 4% of those might make it to Eagle.

The Court of Honor celebrates Scouts who've traveled through the ranks. It's all about them, too. The honoree arranges it, chooses where it's held, and invites who he wants.

"I invited family, friends and some fellow Scouts," Close said.

Becoming an Eagle Scout means learning to lead. Wannabes must do a big community service project, and 'doing' includes finding it, planning it, making all the arrangements for it and recruiting volunteers to make it happen.

Close combed the community for a project until Greenwood Elementary principal Pat McCardle gave him an idea. Close and his team of about 12 volunteers collectively spent 75 hours one day painting two U.S. maps onto Greenwood's playground.

He said, "I learned leadership because you have to delegate everything. I didn't really do the painting, I planned and ran the project."

Growing boys must progress through the ranks, take tests, fill out paperwork and do it all before age 18. Once they're 18 they're no longer eligible to be an Eagle Scout.

It's a good thing Close joined scouting young. Sometimes it takes years to develop the skills and master the tasks that earn required pins, patches and merit badges.

"I don't really remember back that far, but I think I was five when I joined Cub Scouts," he said.

Cub Scouts includes five ranks. Close received the Arrow of Light - a Cub's highest achievement - then advanced to Boy Scouts.

Boys Scouts have six ranks. Young men must first be a Life Scout before advancing to Eagle.

Scouting promotes a set of values emphasizing character development, service, friendliness, family, personal achievement, citizenship, sportsmanship/fitness, spiritual growth and fun and adventure.

Close fondly recalls his trip to the Sea Base High Adventure Camp in Florida.

"That was my favorite experience with Scouts," he said. We kayaked to an island in the Florida Keys and camped for three days."

The group snorkeled, hiked and went deep-sea fishing. Close nearly caught a shark using another boy's barracuda catch as bait.

Close learned leadership by holding several different leadership positions and by attending training. This will enable him to be an adult leader and/or help with future outings.

He says he also learned a lot of other things through Scouting. He shoots a bow and arrow, knows a little about firearms, has been black-powder shooting, can identify many plants and trees, knows his American flag etiquette and is really good at tying knots.

He's been backpacking, horseback riding, canoeing and camping. Cooking in the wilderness is another skill Close gained. His favorite camping dish is an egg bake.

He said, "You take eggs and bread and whatever else you want like sausage, mushrooms and stuff, then you throw it all in a Dutch oven and cook it over a campfire."

Close was in a River Falls troop throughout his scouting career. He works at the West Wind Supper Club and graduated from River Falls High School.

He plans to attend Dakota County Technical College in Minnesota this fall to learn computer networking.