Philmont – the National Boy Scout Ranch cherished by millions of Americans – is put in hock to pay BSA debts

By Bruce A. Smith

I was a camper at Philmont Scout Ranch when I was sixteen-years old, and it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my youth. As a kid growing up in suburban New York, I had never traveled to the western United States, and my month-long expedition with a bus-load of scouts from Long Island was profound – I saw big mountains for the first time and prong-horned sheep scampering on the prairies of Wyoming, and met scouts from Los Angeles, a place so exotic in my mind that it seemed like I was meeting guys from Mars.

We spent ten days hiking in the mountains of Philmont, a sprawling wilderness of over 100,000 acres nestled on the eastern slopes of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of New Mexico. I climbed Mount Baldy – at 14,000 feet the highest I had ever been in life, and got lost on the way down when we left the treeless tundra of the summit and couldn’t find where the trail re-entered the forest. Fortunately, my cohorts and I fanned out and searched the woods as the sun fell beneath the western horizon. Within a few moments, our crew leader, Jimmy – a savvy 17-year old – found the trailhead and we scrambled along the path to our campsite at 10,000 feet.

Now, the BSA is in trouble. The Scouts are grappling with how to compensate all the young men who were sexually abused by predatory scoutmasters during its history. That’s decades of abuse, and thousands of affected kids. It’s a lot of money, but well worth it. I understand the BSA’s need to place Philmont as collateral to secure a $400 million compensation loan, but it hurts and scares me. I support the move – after all where else are the Scouts going to find any more money? Already they have scoured the wealthy – my beloved home camp of Wauwepex in Wading River, NY, has been renamed the Schiff Scout Reservation of Nassau County Council – and the BSA has been charging boys thirty bucks to join the Scouts when it was free back in my day. Plus, the BSA wants to raise that annual fee to $60.

My Gawd, what is happening to my Boy Scouts? Everything I’ve cherished all my life seems at risk. I hope we – and the BSA – find a way through all of this mess. If it hadn’t been for the Scouts, my teenage years would have been truly insufferable instead of barely tolerable. I had been blessed with the wise and caring leadership of many adult men, most notably my home troop leader of Mr. John Peters; my first boss, Johnnie Jones, who was the Ranger at Camp Wauwepex and was like a second father to me; and Mr. Robert Henderson, a former high school English teacher who led my Philmont group through rugged terrain and titanic teen clashes. Where would I be now if not for them?

I pray that Philmont and the BSA survive, and that all the boys who enter the Scouts will be safe – from each other, their leaders, and the wonderful challenges that Mother Nature will present as they explore the trails of life.

To read more of my experiences at Philmont, especially at the campsite known as Cimmaroncito, which was destroyed in the forest fire of a couple of years ago as described in the following article, click here:

To read more of my times at Wauwepex, click here:

The following was first published by the Associated Press and is re-printed here under the “Fair Use Doctrine” of sharing copyrighted material for educational and societal purposes.

Boy Scouts mortgage vast Philmont ranch in New Mexico as collateral

Philmont, rainbow, AP,

(Ira Dreyfuss | AP file photo) In this July 2001 file photo, a double rainbow is shown in the early evening in Philmont Scout Ranch, N.M. The vast Philmont Scout Ranch, one of the most spectacular properties owned by the financially struggling Boy Scouts of America, has been mortgaged by the BSA, according to member of Philmont’s oversight committee.

By David Crary | AP National Writer

  • Published: November 22
    Updated: November 22, 2019

The Boy Scouts of America has mortgaged one of the most spectacular properties it owns, the vast Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, to help secure a line of credit as the financially strapped organization faces a growing wave of new sex-abuse lawsuits.

The BSA said Friday that it has no plans to sell the property, and that the land is being used as collateral to help meet financial needs that include rising insurance costs related to sex-abuse litigation.

However, the move dismayed a member of Philmont’s oversight committee, who says it violates agreements made when the land was donated in 1938. The BSA disputed his assertion.

Top BSA officials signed the document in March, but members of the Philmont Ranch Committee only recently learned of the development, according to committee member Mark Stinnett.

In a memo sent to his fellow members, Stinnett — a Colorado-based lawyer — decried the financial maneuver and the lack of consultation with the committee.

“I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am to be the one to break this news to you,” Stinnett wrote. “The first point of the Scout Law is ‘A Scout is trustworthy.’ I am distressed beyond words at learning that our leaders apparently have not been.”

“But I am even more distressed to learn that Waite Phillips’ magnificent gift has now been put at risk,” Stinnett added.

Phillips was a successful oilman who used some of his fortune to develop a huge ranch in northeastern New Mexico. In 1938, and again in 1941, he donated two large tracts of the ranch to the Boy Scouts.

Since the first Boy Scout camp opened there in 1939, more than 1 million Scouts and other adventurers have camped and hiked on the property, which now covers more than 140,000 acres (56,650 hectares). One of its many trails leads to the 12,441-foot (3,793-meter) summit of Baldy Mountain.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the Boy Scouts said programming and operations at Philmont “continue uninterrupted, and we are committed to ensuring that the property will continue to serve and benefit the Scouting community for years to come. “

“In the face of rising insurance costs, it was necessary for the BSA to take some actions earlier this year to address our current financial situation,” the BSA said. “This included identifying certain properties, including Philmont Scout Ranch, that could be used as collateral …. in order to keep in place an existing line of credit for insurance.”

Disclosure of the mortgage comes at a challenging time for the BSA, which for years has been entangled in costly litigation with plaintiffs who said they were abused by scout leaders in their youth. Hundreds of new lawsuits loom after New York, New Jersey, Arizona and California enacted laws making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to seek damages.

The BSA, headquartered in Irving, Texas, says it’s exploring “all available options” to maintain its programs and has not ruled out the possibility of filing for bankruptcy.

Seeking to ease some of the financial pressure, the BSA announced in October that the annual membership fee for its 2.2. million youth members will rise from $33 to $60, while the fee for adult volunteers will rise from $33 to $36. The news dismayed numerous local scout leaders, who had already started registering youths for the coming year.

According to Stinnett, the BSA mortgaged its legal right and title to Philmont Scout Ranch to the J.P. Morgan Chase Bank to secure $446 million of debt incurred over the past decade.

Stinnett wrote that ranch committee member Julie Puckett — a granddaughter of Waite Phillips — had urged BSA officials in recent weeks to recognize Philmont as a restricted asset based on the understandings of all parties when Phillips donated the land.

“BSA management has instead stated its position that Philmont and its endowment are free and clear of restrictions and are thus theirs to take or encumber as they wish,” Stinnett wrote, depicting that stance as a “betrayal” of agreements made with the Phillips family.

The Boy Scouts disputed Stinnett’s assertion, saying nothing in the agreements with the Phillips family prevented the ranch from being used as collateral.

Philmont has been one of scouting’s most popular destinations for decades. At many times of the year, Philmont can’t accommodate all those who want to trek there; it offers an online lottery, held about 18 months in advance, to give everyone an equal shot.

Most activities take place during the summer, but Philmont also has autumn and winter programs. In addition to backpacking treks, it offers horseback riding, burrow packing, gold panning, chuckwagon dinners, rock climbing, mountain biking and sport shooting.

It’s also home to the National Scouting Museum.

Last year, a wildfire ripped through the heart of the ranch. Campsites and several miles of trails were wiped out, leaving behind a scar that will take years and millions of dollars to restore.

More Pictures of Philmont, courtesy of the AP

Philmont, trail to Mt. Baldy, campers

The trail to Mount Baldy.

wauwepex, sign, 2001

This is how my Camp Wauwepex looked back in my day. Now known as the Schiff Scout Reservation. Photo courtesy of Bill Cotter and the Theodore Roosevelt Council of the BSA.

Wauwepex, Deep Pond, white sand, cw-2001

Wauwepex is still pristine, although the sprawl of NYC is not far away. Photo courtesy of Cliff Jones, former Ranger at Camp Wauwepex, BSA.

Zia symbol, red on Yellow

This “Zia” symbol, aka the “sun sign,” is ubiquitous in Philmont and New Mexico. It is the official symbol of the Zia People. Photo courtesy of the Zia People, Zia Pueblo, NM.


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CooperCon 2019 a rousing success

By Bruce A. Smith

Nearly one-hundred DB Cooper enthusiasts gathered Saturday, November 23, to hear from investigatory experts in America’s only unsolved skyjacking – and to share their own theories and offer opinions.

Drawn to the Kiggins Theater in downtown Vancouver, Washington, for formal presentations from authors and researchers, they also re-grouped at local eateries to celebrate their participation in the Cooper community – a place they call the Cooper Vortex – co called because the many mysteries of the hijacking are so fascinating that aficionados are sucked into reading, researching, and discussing DB Cooper as if powerful winds keep them transfixed.

The beautifully restored Art Deco Kiggins Theater in downtown Vancouver is an ideal site to dig further into the DB Cooper mystery. The city sits directly across the Columbia River from Portland’s International Airport (PDX) where the skyjacking took place forty-eight years ago, and is also the nearest urban center to where DB Cooper is thought to have landed after he jumped from his Northwest Orient 727 on the night of November 24, 1971 – the day before Thanksgiving. Nothing from the skyjacking has ever been found – no body nor the briefcase with a homemade bomb inside, and none of the four parachutes Cooper received as part of his ransom deal with the FBI along with 200,000 dollars in twenties. We still don’t know who DB Cooper was or where he came from. Yes, $6,000 or so was discovered in 1980 along the Columbia River, just downstream from the Kiggins, but no one knows how the money arrived at its location, or when.

After welcoming remarks by CooperCon 2019 host and organizer, Eric Ulis, podcast impresario Darren Schaefer delivered a smooth and comprehensive overview of the case. Based upon his one-hour interviews with many of the notables in the Cooper investigation, Schaefer has a keen view of Norjak, as the FBI calls the DB Cooper skyjacking, and he placed everyone on equal footing regarding the fundamentals of the case.

After Schaefer, veteran Cooper investigator Mark Metzler, offered his analysis of the parachutes and the survivability of the jump, saying if Cooper pulled his ripcord while descending the aft stairs of the jetliner, he would have been pulled safely off the stairs and the chutes successfully deployed.

Metzler is also a former criminal attorney and shared his view that the FBI would be unlikely to get a conviction if authorities ever found DB Cooper due to the mishandling of the evidence. The Bureau has lost much of its evidence, most notably the eight cigarette butts recovered from the plane when it landed in Reno for re-fueling sans Cooper, along with money shards found at Tina Bar in 1980. In addition, the fingerprints retrieved from the plane are suspect, along with the three bits of DNA found on the clip-on tie that Cooper apparently left behind on the plane.

“If the FBI ever arrests someone for the skyjacking, I’ll defend them pro bono and I can guarantee that I’ll get them off,” Metzler told the audience.

Next on the program was a re-play of last year’s stellar presentation on the particles found on that tie given by Tom Kaye, the chief of the Citizen Sleuths, a private group of DB Cooper investigators organized by the FBI in 2009. Most notable were shards of high-grade stainless steel, pure titanium, and various rare earth minerals. Also noteworthy is the fact that the funding for this research came from Josh Gates of the Travel Channel’s very popular “Expedition Unknown series.

After the science and hard facts, the audience was treated to a “Jeopardy-like” quiz contest conducted by Mr. Ulis and this author, Bruce Smith.

Smith then followed with a presentation of the many conspiracies engulfing the case. No, the skyjacking was not an inside job perpetrated by pilot Bill Rataczak in a Cooper look-alike ruse, nor was DB Cooper the United Airlines pilot Don Burnworth, who claimed that his ex-wife, an alleged Mafia princess, got her daddy to find an exact DB Cooper physical match to her ex-husband to frame him for the skyjacking and thereby regain full custody of their two young daughters. Smith also described the possibilities of the involvement of secret commandos, such as from MAC-V-SOG, conducting a rogue operation, and the shadowy influences of the government’s MKULTRA mind-control programs – a nefarious effort conducted by the CIA and military in the years surrounding the Cooper hijacking.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was hearing from Catherine Scott, the daughter of Captain William Scott, the skipper of DB Cooper’s plane. Catherine was sixteen at the time of the hijacking, and gave the audience a wonderful view of her stoic father. “He was very quiet, but when he spoke everyone listened,” she said. Catherine also described her father as a solid, steady, by-the-book kind of guy, and never a push-over. She also revealed that her father rarely spoke of the incident, neither privately nor publicly, until later in life. Captain Scott was a member of the American flight crews who flew the “Burma Hump” in WW II, flying DC-3 cargo planes from India to allied Chinese forces battling the Imperial Japanese army, and with those colleagues Scott felt most comfortable and began sharing his Norjak stories at veteran reunions.

After Ms. Scott, CooperCon finished with an insightful and comprehensive panel discussion of current research in the case. Vern Jones, owner and founder of Principia Media, gave a synopsis of his recent publishing of the Walter Reca story, as written by Carl Laurin. Jones was followed by Bill Rollins, the author of his newly published, The Elusive DB Cooper – How He Escapes, and shared his perspective on a possible Cooper escape down the Lewis River to Tina Bar.

Eric Ulis also delivered a brief review of his belief that Sheridan Peterson could have been DB Cooper, amplified by Mark Metzler, who has befriended Peterson despite the latter’s often tempestuous nature.

Later at local watering holes, such as the Victor-23 Tavern, Ms. Scott delighted those gathered with tales of her life. Currently, she lives in Annapolis, Maryland and is active with the US Naval Academy. She’s been a swim instructor there for over twenty years, and a coach of their water polo team. In addition, she just bought a two-person rowing scull to have fun and exercise on the nearby Chesapeake Bay. Plus, she’s taking boxing lessons, and is busy with her weekly duties as a “Plebe Mom,” offering new naval cadets a little home cooking during their brief weekly hours of rest and relaxation away from the Academy.

As Ms. Scott flew to CooperCon from Maryland, many at the CooperCon were from out-of-town, such as Arizona, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Michigan and New Hampshire. Thus, the after-hour festivities were well-attended. On the night before the conference, Friday, fourteen members of CooperCon gathered at Von Ebert’s craft brewery in Portland, near PDX. On Saturday, over twenty festavarians hoisted brews at Victor-23, including the DB Cooper Choir, which delivered a boisterous rendition of “Singing the DB Cooper Blues.”

On Sunday, the Road Tour through the FBI’s landing zones was a laid-back excursion through Hockinson, Battleground, and Amboy – all the hot-spots the FBI claimed were likely places DB Cooper landed once he jumped from his Flight 305. In Amboy, we stopped at Nick’s Tavern and were delighted to discover that Nick’s is revitalizing the DB Cooper Daze festivities made famous by the many decades of Cooper revelry at the Ariel Tavern. As it has been for the past forty years, locals and Cooperites will gather – now at Nick’s and not at Dona Elliott’s place – on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year, that’s November 30, and the live music and partying begins at 4 pm.

For those who want more, Kiggins Theater owner, Dan Wyatt, has written a radio-drama based upon the interactions of the skyjacker and flight crew during the hijacking. Titled, “The Flight of DB Cooper,” Wyatt’s piece will be performed at the Kiggins this Wednesday evening, the night before Thanksgiving!

In addition, Rob Bertrand’s “DB Cooper Escape Room” in Vancouver still packs in sizeable crowds on the weekends. Plus, Rob says that he too, is penning a film script on the DB Cooper case.

CooperCon 2019, Eric and Catherine Scott, ,

CooperCon 2019 host, Eric Ulis stands beside Catherine Scott, the daughter of Captain William “Scotty” Scott, the pilot-in-charge of Cooper’s Flight 305. Ms. Scott is holding her father’s Captain’s Hat that he wore the night of the skyjacking. Photo courtesy of Eric Ulis.

CooperCon 2019, panel, EU, best,

The panel of authors and experts at Cooper Con. Left to right: Vern Jones, Bruce A. Smith, Bill Rollins, Mark Metzler, Darren Schaefer, and Eric Ulis. Photo courtesy of Eric Ulis.

CooperCon 2019, V-23 Pub

Good times at the Victor-23 Tavern in Vancouver. Seated in front, in black, is Rob Bertrand of the DB Cooper Escape Room, and next to him, in red, is Dan Wyatt, owner of the Kiggins Theater. Photo courtesy of Eric Ulis.

CooperCon 2019, Nicky and Darren, Ariel Tavern

Darren Schaefer, the founder of The Cooper Vortex podcast, right, stands besides Norjak researcher Nicky Brougham, (ahem, Broughton), underneath the still-extant signage at the Ariel Tavern a few hours before the beginning of CooperCon 2019. Photo courtesy of Darren Schaefer.

CooperCon 2019, Friday nite, Von Eberts

Friday night gathering at Von Ebert’s Pub at PDX. Of note, on far right, in blue, is the Cooper Vortex podcast tech wiz, Russell.

CooperCon 2019, look-alikes, Kyle's nephew, 2019

The Vortex knows no age. 10-year old, Noah, the nephew of CooperCon attendee Kyle Pauley, is shown ready to go Trick or Treating this year dressed as DB Cooper. Uncle Kyle said the following of Noah: “He discovered the DB Cooper story over the summer through YouTube videos and became very interested. When his mother told him that his uncle was an enthusiast, he immediately had her call me to discuss theories and landing zones. For Halloween this year, he was adamant that he wanted to be DB, complete with historically accurate money in a briefcase. Each bill is time-period accurate and features Tina Bar serial numbers.” Whew…. Photo courtesy of Kyle Pauley.

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Singing DB Cooper – An author’s lament recorded as Cooper World gets ready for the 48th Anniversary with CooperCon 2019

By Bruce A. Smith

The 48th Anniversary of the DB Cooper’s iconic skyjacking is upon us, and many in Cooper World are preparing to celebrate by attending CooperCon 2019 next week.

Cooperites will be gathering on Saturday, November 23 at the Kiggins Theater in Portland, Oregon to hear a bevy of experts on the Cooper case, along with several individuals who are connected to the skyjacking by being family members of the crew, or were residents of Portland scanning the skies as DB Cooper flew overhead on his getaway flight.

Besides the presentations, festivities will also include an optional – and free – Road Tour of the locales cited by the FBI as likely landing zones. In addition, if weather permits, CooperCon 2019 organizer and host, Eric Ulis, will skipper a pontoon boat float down the Columbia River to Tina Bar to see where some of the ransom money was found in 1980.

Here’s the itinerary for the Road Trip:

Road Tour Itinerary

We will meet at the Shari’s in Orchards, WA at 1 pm. Shari’s is a restaurant in the Fred Meyer shopping mall at the southeast corner of 76th and 117th. The latter thoroughfare is also known and posted as State Route 500/503.

Orchards is where the FBI thought DBC jumped in its 1975 revised analysis, putting the new LZ in the Hockinson area, about 3-5 northeast of Orchards.

Orchards was rural agricultural lands in 1971, but now it is a fully integrated part of the Portland-Vancouver metroplex. But Hockinson is just beyond the reach of those urban encroachments. In fact, Hockinson is now the bedroom/playground community for the very wealthy of SW Washington.

To reach Hockinson, first we’ll leave Shari’s and head north on 500/503 to their junction, then turn east on 500 and continue approximately five miles to 182nd Avenue. There we will turn north and head to Hockinson.


Hockinson Middle School – 182nd Ave and 159th St. Bathrooms at the Hockinson Market.

The countryside of Hockinson is lovely. It will really surprise many Cooperites, I believe, as it did me. It looks today very similarly as it did in 1971. Large dairy farmlands, no major hills, gentle rolling terrain. It looked ideal for an LZ.

From Hockinson we will motor north, and then west back to SR 503 in Battleground, which is the original jump-off spot, and travel northeast along 503 to Amboy, the initial LZ. There we will leave 503 again and explore the forestlands along Cedar Creek Road where the initial ground search began on November 27th and continued until Sunday, November 29.


Nick’s Tavern, Amboy, WA, on SR 503

Next, we’ll travel to a local’s home and antique store on Pup Creek Road – just north of Cedar Creek Road – to hear her account of the intense house-to-house search for DB Cooper in that neighborhood conducted by the FBI in early December, 1971.

Afterwards, folks will have to make a decision – travel 25 miles northeast along SR 503 to Lake Merwin, the Dam, and the Ariel Tavern, or join me and other hungry Cooperites and head along the southern flank of the Lewis River via Cedar Creek Road to Woodland and arrive at La Casa Tapatia for dinner. Note: LCT is on 503, too!

After din-din, the intrepid can travel east on 503 for 12 miles to the Ariel Tavern and the Merwin Dam complex. That’s an easy drive compared to the circuitous route on 503 from Amboy, which will take at least 30-40 minutes of curvy, mountainous driving. The area east of Lake Merwin can be quite rugged.

Map of the Road Tour

LZ, map, Road Tour, 2019.png

As for an author’s lament….

Feeling the Cooper Fever, I decided to sing a song about my experiences as a DB Cooper researcher and author. With profound apologies for its primitive recording value, I offer it at YouTube, nevertheless.


In addition, here are the lyrics:

The Mystery of DB Cooper

It was rainy, it was cold, it was dark, but he was bold.                     C- Am

The night before Thanksgivin’, DB Cooper did a little skyjackin,’    F- G

After getting his cash and parachutes, he got his show on the road.

On a deserted runway down at Sea-Tac, he let his passengers go.


But, DB, DB, DB Cooper where did you go?

DB, DB, DB Cooper, a helluva lot of people sure wanna know.

DB, DB, DB Cooper can you give us a clue?

The FBI’s officially closed the case, so, whaddaya say, Dude?

Bridge 1

Somewhere over Washington he put a chute on his back.           F-C

Then wrapped 200 Big Ones around him, tied in a sack             Em-Am

When DB Cooper jumped, he never looked back.                          F-C

And no one saw him go, – and folks that’s a fact!                           Em-G


DB, DB, DB Cooper where did you go?                                               C-Am

DB, DB, DB Cooper, a helluva lot of people sure wanna know.     F-G

DB, DB, DB Cooper can you give us a clue?

None of the witnesses are talking to me, so now I’m talkin’ to you!

Bridge 2

Nothing was found, nothing is known                                                 F-C

‘cept three bundles of money, found in Columbia River sand.      Em-Am

(But) no one knows how it got there, and no one knows when      F-C

Lotsa mysteries baffling’ us curious men and women.                    Em-G


DB, DB, DB Cooper, where did you go?

DB, DB, DB Cooper, a lot of people sure wanna know.


DB, DB, DB Cooper, can you tell us your name?

C’mon buddy boy, you’re already in the skyjackers’ Hall of Fame.

Down in Portland you told Northwest that your name was “Dan”

The “DB” came from a mix-up between a TV reporter and a G-man.


So – DB, DB, DB Cooper, where did you go?

DB, DB, DB Cooper, a lot of people sure wanna know –

Bridge 3:

Besides those three bundolas, nothing’s been found                  F-C

No body, no briefcase – no chutes or the bomb.                           Em-Am

The FBI has lost a ton of its evidence (so please tell us)              F-C

Is this part of a cover-up, or just governmental negligence?      Em-G


Ah, DB, DB, DB Cooper where did you go?                               C-Am

DB, DB, DB Cooper, a lot of people sure wanna know           F-G

DB, DB, DB Cooper, look here Mr. Cooper –                            C-Am

I wrote a book about ya, so I’d SURE like to know.                 F-G-C



Bruce A. Smith

Conference, 2018, Eric, r, Mark, c, BAS, l at V-23

CooperCon 2018: Author on left, Eric Ulis on right, and parachute expert Mark Metzler in the middle. This photo was taken at the Victor-23 pub in Vancouver, where Cooper aficionados will be gathering yet again on Friday, November 22. They will also be treated to a LIVE performance of “Singing DB Cooper.”


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Life in a Boy Scout Camp – More tales from Camp Wauwepex

By Clifton Lamar Jones

Special to the Mountain News-WA

The following was written after reading Bruce Smith’s accounting of his scouting history.  After reading his article I was so taken back with his heartfelt words of Camp Wauwepex and my Dad, I thought I should write what it was like to actually live in that place where he felt so comfortable as a child and young man.  Yes, Bruce, I can relate to many of your stories. While we had different experiences, I think we both left a piece of our heart and soul on that piece of land called Wauwepex.

“Life in a Boy Scout Camp” is an accounting of the life of Clifton Lamar Jones, in my own words as I remember it.  There may be some variations in accuracy due to age but as I have always said, “it is what it is.”

Born in Rockville Center the son of Ruth Arey Wyckoff Jones and Johnnie Lamar Jones, my parents.  I was told of first living in Freeport, Long Island, then moving to 2407 Atlantic Blvd. in Wantagh, which I remember.  And a final childhood move to Wading River, Long Island to live at Camp Wauwepex, owned by Nassau County Council BSA, where Dad took the position as camp ranger on December 15, 1960, in a blizzard.  The remainder of my childhood would be spent on this 640-acre parcel of land with an 83-acre freshwater lake called Deep Pond.

When I was 13 years-old, Dad left his job at the Joseph H. Gray Pontiac-Cadillac dealership in Freeport to move us to Camp Wauwepex.  As I was told later in life, he wanted something more for his boys; so, he moved his family to the camp.  At first, I just remained at the house and played in the woods surrounding the ranger’s home.

The first winter at Wauwepex was awesome, there were snowstorm after snowstorm, the snow was piled up on the sides of the roads so high you could touch the telephone cables.  My aunt had bought my brother and I new Flexible Flyer sleds for Christmas that year and we went sleigh riding every opportunity we could.  Walking to the top of Indian Hill and sledding down.  We could actually sled from what was known at the time as Times Square, all the way down through the parade grounds and down between the seats of the Buckskin Amphitheater and out on to the lake.  When the lake was frozen enough to skate on, we went ice skating until the sun went down.  As I got older, Dad would send me down to the lake to measure the ice by drilling a hole with a brace and bit and then measuring the thickness in several places.

There was the transition to a new school, which I didn’t enjoy much as I always had visual difficulties and was laughed at due to my slow reading ability. I struggled with dyslexia and other problems, so schoolwork was a major chore.  But somehow, I survived.  It would be more than 40 years later that I would actually obtain my college degree from DePaul University in Chicago.

As time went on, I was allowed to go into camp with my Dad and help him with the many duties he had taken on.  There was much to do to maintain the 640-acre property.  There were the early spring chores: repairing roads after the spring thaw, turning on campsite water and repairing broken water lines, getting the three dining halls ready for summer camp and so on.  It was all a learning experience for me.

As I got older, I was able to work with some of the older scouters who brought their talents and professions to the camp on work weekends.  There was a scouter Mr. Al Roth, who worked for Breyer’s Ice Cream as a refrigeration technician, who taught me how to maintain the walk-in refrigeration.  There was Mr. Richard Franz, Mr. Stanly Dubreski and Mr. Dick Horn who taught me how to maintain the three-digit dial telephone system at the camp, a skill I used years later when I managed the telecommunication systems in seven buildings for the Port Jefferson School District my long term employer.  I have one share of Wauwepex Telephone Company Stock.  There was Mr. Gus Katz who taught me plumbing skills, there was a gentleman who worked at Grumman Aviation who’s name escapes me, who did gold leaf on the jet planes, who taught me how to gold leaf as he lettered the camp trucks. Mr. Sal Leman, an electrical inspector for New York City, taught me electrical skills and so many more that I can’t remember.  Yes, I learned many trades that helped me later in life, as my background was well-rounded before entering the adult workforce.

Time never stops, and as I grew older, I learned to respect those who taught me so much.  At the age of 15 I joined the camp staff at Wauwepex, in 1962.  It was the year that they closed the Pioneer Dining Hall for the 4th period due to declining enrollment.  Well, that gave me mixed feelings on life as they laid off some of the camp staff.  What was difficult was that they had hired me and the camp director’s son for the second half of summer camp but when the layoff came, they kept both of us on.  I went to my Dad and said “this isn’t right,” we should go first, but he said that there was a reason that he couldn’t tell me, and he never did.  So, I finished out the summer and joined the camp staff the following year, and worked under my Dad in the maintenance department, and remained in that department for several years after that, until I graduated high school and needed to get a permanent job.

Oh, then there was the time the summer pre-camp staff said they were going to teach me how to drive the stick shift pickup.  I had mastered the Ford tractor several years before plowing snow to keep the camp roads open in case of fire.  I had just gotten my junior license in the spring, and Dad had said he would teach me how to drive.  Well, I told the staff that Dad said he would teach me how to drive and I was going to wait.  But they persisted and I began to drive the pickup, learning how to use the clutch.  Well, when Dad finally got around to teach me, I was too smooth with that clutch, and he said, “who taught you how to drive the truck?”  Not to tell a lie, I told him that the pre-camp staff did, but, “please Dad don’t reprimand them, I am just as guilty, as I wanted to learn.”

Time marched on and as I grew, I was able to help Dad more and more each year.  Since my major in high school was vocational carpentry, I was able to work on many of the building projects as they came up.  I recall when my Dad proposed the program shelter near the Frontier Dining Hall (Hickox Hall) it was to be dedicated to the previous ranger and past scoutmaster of Troop 95 of Wantagh, Mr. Robert T. Geary.  When the project started, Dad had to pour the concrete slab in preparation for building the structure.  He then let me build as much of it as I could, as Bob Geary and my Dad were very close friends, it was like I was building a memorial for my Uncle Bob.

There were many projects like that, the new Kniffen Cabin which replaced the one that burned down several years’ prior.  There were several shower houses and several more program shelters that I had a hand in constructing.

Oh yeah, there was the drain that had to be installed in front of the dishwasher in Hayden Hall.  I spent my winter recess, yes, February, chopping concrete and digging a trench in preparation for the local plumber to put in the new drains.  Boy was it cold!!

There was plenty of time to roam the woods, smell the pine trees and enjoy the great outdoors.  There was plenty of trees to take a leak should the need arise.  We called it soil and water conservation, LOL.  There were many swims in the lake, even a couple of soap dips.  There were nights of sleeping under the stars on the beach at Frontier Waterfront and so on.

Dad let my brother and I build a go-cart; well, Wally and I drove that thing up and down the camp roads every time we got the chance.

It wasn’t all fun though; we did have to play by the rules when camp was in session from 3 pm on Friday evening to 3 pm on Sunday or til the last troop left, and the gate was locked.  Of course, there were the nine weeks of summer camp that the rules applied to us as well.  But the rest of the time, Katie bar the door, we were free to do whatever we wanted. There were even trips to the rifle range for target practice.

One thing you learn as an adult is that time never stops.  In my early twenties I met a girl who planned to go to nursing school upstate and we dated that summer and when she left for school our relationship became a long distance one. We finally got serious and engaged.  At that point I learned, like Bruce, what a virgin was.  The summer was warm, the sky was clear, and love is a beautiful thing.  There were many places to learn what to do, oop’s don’t know if I should say that, oh well it is true.  Linda came to love Wauwepex almost as much as me, so when I proposed the idea of getting married in the Protestant Chapel in the camp, she loved the idea and readily agreed. As we proceeded with wedding plans, I had to ask Dad if he thought the council would allow it and he had to go to the office and ask his boss.  It would have to be approved by the camping committee and council scout executive before it could happen.  While it sounded like it would be approved there was one little detail that might be a problem.  There is no alcohol allowed in camp. Hmm, how is that going to work? A dry wedding, I don’t think so.  So, off Dad went to the camping committee meeting to get permission.  The plan was to get married on Mother’s Day weekend.  The Director of Camping brought the proposal to the table, and it was unanimously approved.  Now for the funny part – the discussion of having alcohol on property.  Dad had said that we wanted all the scouters that I grew up with to attend, so they pondered the idea and one of them said “a dry wedding, we won’t be able to have a drink”, hence the alcohol was approved.  At that point, the camping committee decided to close camp for that weekend.

The wedding was held in the Protestant Chapel and our reception was held in Hayden Hall, the Indian Division dining hall.  My brother and a good friend Mr. Don Akerman catered the wedding, and a good time was had by all.

That summer my wife became the camp nurse, and we lived in the health lodge, now the Grace building, which was the original ranger’s home for Burt Grace, the ranger and his family.  She was to be camp nurse again, a few years later.  While we didn’t plan to have children right away, our son Clifton Jr. was born in February of our first year of marriage.  That spring our son was christened in the Protestant Chapel with water taken from the lake Deep Pond.

I continued to support my Dad until his retirement, and later my brother Wally who took over after Dad retired.  Unfortunately, situations did not let me spend as much time with my brother as I would have liked, life just got in the way.

So, I had a childhood that would be a dream for any child.  There is so many more stories that I could tell, and maybe there will be a series of accounting of my childhood at Camp Wauwepex.

I must close with the following: to all those scouters who shared their valuable skills with me, thank you.  To my Dad, thank you for moving us to camp, you knew what you were doing.  If I only acquire an eighth of your understanding, wisdom, and love for the camp I would be satisfied.  It was a wonderful life. I only wish I realized it much sooner in life than I did.

Yes, I left my heart and soul on those 640 acres many years ago.  A life I will never forget, and I am totally indebted to my Mom and Dad, and the Nassau County BSA for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.  Thank you.

Pictures of Camp Wauwepex

Wauwepex, archery, early 1960s, postcard

Editor’s Note: The above photo and those that follow are provided by Bill Cotter, unless otherwise noted.

Wauwepex, sign old, maybe 1960

Wauwepex, Deep Pond, white sand, cw-2001wauwepex, topo map, circa 1960s

Wauwepex Society patch,, Phil 2019.jpg

Editor’s Note: Camp Wauwepex is such a special place in so many hearts that a group has been formed to hold those memories dear: The Wauwepex Society. Picture provided by Philip Calabria.

Wauwepex, summer camp patch, 1970

Editor’s Note: Every summer, Wauwepex would issue a new “patch,'” commemorating that year. Camp Wauwepex closed to regular summer camping in 1975 due to declining enrollment in Boy Scouts in Nassau County, New York. The camp had been in active use since 1922 and the land needed “a rest,” as one Scout official told the Mountain News in 2018. In addition, the Nassau County Council has purchased a new camp in the Catskills Mountains – Onteora Scout Reservation – which is now its main camping facility. However, Wauwepex is still used on weekends during the fall, winter, and spring for local troops.

Wauwepex, Lake, close up, Cliff, 2018.JPG

Editor’s Note: This picture of Deep Pond is taken from the southern shore, aka, Indian Waterfront. Looking north to Frontier Waterfront. Pioneer Waterfront was off to the left, and was active through the mid-1960s, closing as Cliff has described due to declining enrollment. Picture provided by Cliff Jones.

Wauwepex, Lake, from Frontier, Cliff, 2018.JPG

Editor’s Note: This picture is of Deep Pond from the northern, Frontier Waterfront perspective. Picture provided by Cliff Jones.



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Fatherhood in a New Age – a tale of alien abduction coming to RISK!

By Bruce A. Smith

I do not know if this story is true, at least in the usual sense of that word. What I do believe is that this story has a truth, a compelling truth that lies behind the so-called facts of the case. Perhaps it is a metaphysical truth, a truth that is so deep that it speaks to the part of us that does not need facts or evidence, or even logic, yet yearns for an unfathomable truth. A truth that is quantum and holistic, one that is a truth of another world that has no words in this one. Regardless, there is definitely some kind of truth to this story. It is not fiction.

I saw the UFO first. I was lying on my left side in bed in my friend Jeff’s house in McKenna, Washington, where I had been staying while I attended a retreat at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment in Yelm. I had been asleep but I awoke with a calm lucidity. I saw the UFO behind me. Somehow, I could see it through the walls of Jeff’s house. Continue reading

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DB Cooper Conference is gearing up to celebrate the 48th Anniversary – and to continue the investigation of America’s only unsolved skyjacking

By Bruce A. Smith

Noted DB Cooper investigator and impresario, Eric Ulis, has announced that CooperCon 2019 will be held in Vancouver, Washington on November 22-24, at the Kiggins Theater. This year’s event extravaganza will be an expansion of the last year’s DB Cooper Symposium in Portland, Oregon, with more social events, a broader array of speakers, and tours of hot spots in the investigation, such Tina Bar, where the $6,000 of Cooper’s ransom money was found in 1980.

Special additions will include commentaries from folks who lived in Vancouver and Portland during the skyjacking and can offer personal insights to the events of that day. In addition, more focus will be placed on the “Cooper Phenomenon,” with a presentation from Darren Schaefer, who has spent the past two years interviewing and podcasting many of the luminaries of Cooper World – that blend of citizen researchers, chat room commentators, and Cooper authors who occupy the cyber world known as the Cooper Vortex.

Along those lines, this writer will give a presentation on the many conspiracies that inhabit the Cooper Vortex, including the notion that DB Cooper was a rogue operative from the CIA doing a private crime for money, or participating in some kind of sanctioned covert op designed to improve airline safety. To that end we will explore how safety improved in the aviation industry following Cooper and what legislation made that happen.

We will also examine the ever-persistent rumors of an “inside job,” and dispel all notions that flight attendant Tina Mucklow was a key operative, or that lanky First Officer Bill Rataczak somehow impersonated DB Cooper and walked off the plane with the money.

Lastly, we will examine the notorious mind-control program known as MKULTRA that was in action during the years before and after the Cooper skyjacking, and discern if any of the tantalizing clues that some investigators have uncovered, such as by FBI agent Russ Calame, might indicated any “Manchurian Candidate” influences exist in Norjak, as the DB Cooper case is known officially at the FBI.

Some of the Speakers at CooperCon 2019 are well-known, such as parachute expert Mark Metzler, or publisher Vern Jones, but there will also be new voices. Besides the aforementioned Darren Schaefer, first-timer Marty Andrade will be discussing his findings on the survivability of Cooper’s jump and offering supportive documentation from his research on the success rates of WW II bomber crews in Europe who had to leave stricken aircraft.

In addition, there will be an in-depth discussion of the so-called “western flight path,” which is the “Most Controversial Topic for 2019” in the Cooper Vortex. Newly-surfaced information from multiple sources, including interviews with air traffic controllers who worked the radar screen on the night of Cooper’s getaway flight, seem to indicate that Cooper’s Flight 305 was about ten miles west of where the FBI initially thought Cooper jumped. Hence, law enforcement and everyone else has been looking in the wrong place for the past four decades. Eric Ulis will lead this discussion, and will certainly expand upon his findings during his boat tour to Tina Bar.

For the intrepid, the DB Cooper Escape Room will be available on Sunday in Vancouver, WA. This site is a commercial venue featuring a DB Cooper-themed escape room experience, and operated by DB Cooper aficionado Rob Bertram.

At this date, many details are still to be confirmed, such as the presence of Tom Colbert, the highly controversial investigators who champions the recently deceased Cooper suspect, Robert Rackstraw. Also in flux, is a road tour of the “Getaway Highway,” State Route 503, which follows the Victor-23 airway, the oft-cited “official” flight path for Cooper, which will begin in Orchards, WA where the FBI announced in 1975 that it then considered Cooper to have jumped there, and culminate along the roads of Amboy, WA where the initial ground search was conducted in 1971 and 1972.

For more information:

The following flyer on CooperCon 2019 has been provided by Eric Ulis.


CooperCon 2019

Please join us at CooperCon 2019 and hear experts discuss all aspects of America’s only unsolved skyjacking. There will also be ample opportunity for audience questions and discussion. Moreover, a special emphasis is being placed upon creating social events this year for people to get-together and have fun over food and drinks.

See a real Cooper $20 bill from the ransom money found, a parachute just like the one Cooper used, a tie clip just like the one Cooper left behind on the jet, and much more.

Authors will be on-hand to autograph copies of their books.





Marty Andrade is a Minnesota-based writer who has written four books, including “DB Cooper: Chasing the Last Lead in America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking.” A Cooper investigator for over five years, he believes applying sound science and using an interdisciplinary approach will eventually solve the case. Formerly a radio talk show host and podcaster, Marty’s current day job is estimating materials for large building projects. An avid lover of mysteries, he will soon be opening investigations in other disappearances and unsolved crimes from his home state.
Vern is a multi-business entrepreneur with a passion for storytelling and bringing truth to light. A student of the sciences, he has since become an author, publisher, and speaker, not to mention golfer, hiker, scuba diver, water skier, and proud owner of the Portuguese Water Dog named DB Cooper. Vern lives with his wife Irene in Michigan.
TOM KAYE (Video Presentation from CooperCon 2018)
Tom is the Principal Investigator for the Cooper Research Team which was granted unprecedented access to the FBI’s NORJAK files for investigative purposes. His main scientific interest is spectroscopy which branches out into the fields of paleontology and astrophysics. In paleontology, he leads yearly expeditions for the Burke Museum to recover dinosaur bones. He is directly involved in the controversy over the detection of preserved blood cells and blood vessels in T. rex bones where his work points to a bacterial source. In astrophysics he leads a team of astronomers that are trying to discover an extrasolar planet using spectroscopy to detect the stars wobble. Recently he has been working on analysis of grave goods from the 8,000-year-old Gobero site in Africa as well as the Chinese Feathered Dinosaurs. Tom resides in Sierra Vista, Arizona.
Mark Metzler is an active skydiver with over 50 years of parachuting experience. He holds a USPA class D (Expert) parachutist license which required both night and water jumps. Mark also has extensive experience jumping military surplus parachute gear similar to the type DB Cooper used. In 2006 Mark jumped from the rear airstair door of a DC 9 passenger jet flying unpressurized at 14,500 feet. Mark’s diverse career path includes skippering commercial fishing vessels and practicing as a criminal defense attorney. He earned a BSEE degree from UC Berkeley and has designed patented electronic circuits for implantable medical devices. Mark is an aviation history buff who finds air mysteries such as Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and DB Cooper’s case absolutely fascinating.
Bio coming soon!
Bruce A. Smith is an investigative journalist and the author of DB Cooper and the FBI – A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking. He writes extensively about Norjak at his online news magazine, The Mountain News-WA, and has consulted or appeared on numerous podcasts and documentaries on DB Cooper, most notably the History Channel’s “Case Closed?” in 2016, and the Travel Channel’s “Expedition Unknown” episode in 2017 on the money find at Tina Bar.
Eric is the author of GHOST: Unraveling The Enigma of DB Cooper. In 2019 his research enabled him to re-identify the 1980 money find spot on Tena Bar. Eric was a commentator and producer on the TV show High Stakes Hold’em which aired nationally on Comcast SportsNet. In addition to the Cooper mystery, Eric is a fan of politics, sports, a good drink and a good cigar. After putting college on hold for “far too long,” Eric matriculated at the Extension School at Harvard University. Eric resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
NOTE: THOMAS COLBERT has also stated he has the date marked on his calendar to attend, however, cannot fully commit to attending at this time.











11:25 PM -12:25 PM :: LUNCH BREAK

12:30 AM – 1:10 PM :: TIE & TIE PARTICLES (2018 REPLAY) | TOM KAYE



2:30 PM – 3:00 PM :: BREAK



5:15 PM – 5:30 PM :: GIVE-AWAYS & CLOSING









LOCATION : CooperCon 2019

Kiggins Theatre

1011 Main Street
Vancouver, WA 98660

Saturday, November 23, 2019

10 AM – 5 PM


2 Final DB Cooper and the FBI cover


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“Giving” – A sprawling display of Nancy Hillman’s theatrical legacy – playing at the Triad Theater

By Bruce A. Smith

“Giving,” Nancy Tribush Hillman’s first and only effort at writing a complete musical production, is in production this month at the Triad Theater in Yelm. It is a fitting tribute to Ms. Hillman, who has taught and directed three generations of Yelm residents to the highest levels of stage craft, with several of her students now in professional acting careers.

Nancy co-authored the script with Lucy Turchin, who ably composed the music and lyrics.

“Giving” is an epic attempt to portray how children grow into caring adults. First, as kids they need to find a safe and nurturing place in their town of “Proctor,” and do so in the forest that they name “The Academy of Imagination.” In the branches of the Giving Tree, an apple arbor lovingly played by Ms. Turchin, they find acceptance and shelter, especially from the pressures of pesky parents who want them to become “a perfect daughter” and “get into Yale.” Continue reading

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