The Journal News
Mar. 9, 2002
YORKTOWN - Bird songs are virtually the only commotion on serene Hickory Street, but a new sound has arrived with the clamor of an orchestra warn-up, without the horns or strings.
There are high-pitched ringings and rapid-thud drummings, and a bellowing of vibrations that goes on for an hour every Tuesday afternoon from Dale Saltzman's yard.
The Boy Scouts are up to something big this time. Beneath a tent of bamboo supports, PVC pipe and string light, what the boys from Troop 174 are doing with handmade mallets and chisels is not unlike concert practice.
They are chipping out totem poles from two 18-foot red oak trees. The totem poles will be installed at the entrance of the Clear lake Reservation in. Putnam Valley to honor the lives lost in the Twin Towers.
“It is something for them to leave as a legacy,” said Scoutmaster Christopher Long. “Nobody asked us to do this. The boys are very much into paying back the system.”
The poles, cleaned of bark and laid like benches on old tree stumps, are already engraved with distinguishable claws, eyes, feathers, beaks, and teeth of what will ultimately be woodland creatures, including a hawk and a raven – the names of the two patrols in Troop174.
Woodchips cover grass under the tent, as a half-dozen Scouts, ages 11 to 14, work in goggles with their noses inches from the wood, tapping rapidly and stopping, then tapping again.
The scoutmaster's son, Christopher Long, and fellow Scout ,Michael Murphy, both 13, are leaders in this young troop. They have been chiseling in this outdoor workshop through the winter to finish the poles by May, when the Westchester-Putnam Council of the Boy Scouts of America will dedicate 12 new cabins built on the Clear Lake grounds.
The trees were cut at Clear Lake before the Sept.11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“Our first intentions were for these to be part of our dedication to Clear Lake,” Murphy said. "We had already started carving them.”
"But then Dale counted the rings to see how old they were,” Jason Long said, “And he’s like, “Oh! 110 years old – 110 stores. This is for Tower 1.”
Dale Saltzman is the white-bearded landowner and popular longtime wise man of Troop 174 who has forbidden the Scouts to use power tools on this project
Scout parents tease him about it often. The red oak is rock-hard.
“What I said was, we’re going to try it without power, but if we have to we will,” said Saltzman, whose grown son has been out of Scouts for two decades. “It’s about being one with the Earth. It’s really the essence of Boy Scouts.”
Saltzman counted 88 rings on the other tree.
As the unofficial foreman of the totem project and a veteran of other pole carvings, Saltzman has a lot to say with the Scouts, who Plan to engrave “Tower 1" and “Tower 2' on the poles.
But Saltzman’s influence on these industrious youths reaches further.
His 1-acre property is a Scout training ground, with a raised-bed garden for environmental, education, a wood-stove-heated clubhouse for meetings, a fire pit for camp outs and a forest in the back for hiking.
“He teaches you basically everything you are going to need to know for when you are a Boy Scout the rest of your life.” Jason Long said.
When complete, the twin totem poles will also stand for the mark Saltzman
made on growing young men who carved a name for themselves on Hickory Street.
Roy Murphy, 11, a Recruit Scout with Boy Scout Troop 174, works on carving a totem pole in Yorktown.
Michael Murphey, 13 of Boy Scout Troop 174 talks this week to members of Cub Scout Pack 134 about carving a totem pole from a tree.