Scouting Bolo Tie Carving Tradition Continues – Part 2

Part 2 of a 2-Part Blog Article

Scout 1

Kevin V. Hunt

Scouting Historian, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Scouting Veteran, and Camp Director

In a previous blog, (see talked of my treasured collection of Scout bolo ties and how it was rescued from the Brian Head and Thunder Ridge Fire this past summer.  I introduced Scout bolo tie carver extraordinaire, Bill Burch.  [Much has been written of Bill Burch but here is one article that was published by the Deseret News:  We can all be grateful that before his passing on September 25, 2012, Bill passed on his bolo tie legacy as he trained countless protégés in the art of bolo tie carving.  I have met a few of these guys but who knows how many Bill wanna-bees are out there.  But, I am glad that they are there – and that they continue to carve as Bill did.  I’d like to introduce some of the carvers whom I have known and whose bolos I have in my collection.   And this underscores again, why my bolo tie collection was important to me.

In 2013, I was a part of a group of LDS and Scouting historians who collaborated together to write and create the “Century of Honor” book to commemorate the full-century affiliation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America. As that wonderful project came to a close, Mark Francis, Director of LDS/BSA Relations (and headquartered in Salt Lake City across from the Mormon Temple Square) was (with his wife, Nettie) the lead in the book production.  He invited me to come to Salt Lake City to join him with the other historians with whom I had worked on the project – to celebrate our accomplishment.  This visit coincided with a semi-annual conference which Mark and helpers stage each year to help Scouters from all over the country better understand the LDS/BSA relationship.

At this Salt Lake City gathering, I again met Gary Dollar as he was a service missionary for the event.   I had found one of his bolo ties on-line – and this was an LDS Century of Honor Jamboree Scout (#11,144 – which I found for the bargain price of $25.)  As I had opportunity to visit with Gary, he promised to make and send me a cowboy.  (I have a personal love for anything with the western cowboy theme.)  I wrote him a reminder note on one of my characteristic 3×5” colored cards from my pocket.  He put it into the chest pocket of his suit.  My guess is that the card is still in that pocket.


Gary Dollar bolo tie

I went on-line to see what carved bolo ties might be found there.  I bought three different bolos carved by Guy Nelson.  I have not met him but he carves some good faces.  From Guy, I have his fireman (#4040), a stove pipe man (#4583) and what I call a “country gentleman” (#4757).  (I note that Guy puts his initials but not his name on his bolos – so one has to be a bit more of an investigator to determine who the artist is.)  But, having carved 4,757 bolos, he has surely been around the block just a bit.


Guy Nelson carved bolo ties

In 2014 I attended a National BSA camp school prior to being the camp director at the Jack Nicol Cub Scout Camp in Colorado.  On the course staff was a Fred Jepsen.  I got acquainted with him after I learned that he was a carver.  It was fascinating to talk with him about his bolo tie production process.  First, he showed me his giant home-made vinyl apron – with giant open pockets – into which he carves – while sitting in his living room with his wife – as they watch movies together.  He also showed me how (like Bill) he makes the Aspen rounds and cuts the blocks from the rounds.  Then he soaks the blocks in an alcohol solution to “cure” for a while before carving them.  Fred gave me a cowboy (#9917).  And a really cool thing … he also gave me one for each of my three Scouter sons.  They even had the right hair colors – black for K.C., blondish/yellow for Rusty and Red for Keith (we got the wrong names on Keith and Rusty).  It was fun for me to later present these to my three sons.  Thanks, Fred.


FRED JEPSEN carved bolo tie

A few years ago, I went to our council’s Scout-O-Rama show – held that year in west Phoenix.  At one of the booths I saw a friend, Jason Reed.  I have known Jason for years as we have served together on the district Scout leader training staff.  I checked out the booth where he was working and then saw a rack with bolo ties.  I asked who the carver was.  I was surprised when I learned that it was him.  I didn’t even know that he was a carver – but I guess he was just kind of getting his carving start.

When Jason saw my interest, he offered to give me one of his bolos – and he let me pick any one that I wanted.  I was pretty pleased to get his train conductor – and even more pleased when I noted its #10 on the back.  Wow!  Jason lives only two or three blocks from me in Mesa – and as noted, we have been friends.  So, now knowing that he was a carver, Jason has become my first-line go-to guy.  All it takes is an e-mail message and he soon has it made for me.  I love this.  It is like having my own custom carver there for my every beckon call.


Bolo Ties Carved by Jason Reed

At some point when he was feeling generous, Jason presented me with a Santa Claus (Bolo #264).   Ho! Ho! Ho!  I then began to use Jason to create custom bolos for various occasions.  When I was to be the Camp Director of the Colorado Cub Scout camp, I had him carve a pirate (#594) to go along with our Pirate camp theme.  Our family planned to have family photos and the women selected blue and yellow as the theme color.  So, I e-mailed Jason and asked if he had any bolos in blue and yellow.  He did not and together we talked of what I might need in those colors.  I belong to the modern Mormon Battalion commemorative group so I decided to have him make me a Battalion soldier (in blue and yellow) to go with my Battalion soldier uniform.  And a couple of weeks later, I got his return e-mail message saying that it was ready for pick-up (with #623 on the bolo back.)  This bolo looks real sharp with my Battalion uniform!   Another e-mail the next year got me a knight (#652) for yet another Cub Scout camp theme.  (And just $25 each … such a deal!)

I mentioned Mark Francis.   Mark and I had talked of my desire to begin blogging and to publish books.  He suggested Justin Jepsen as a great resource to talk with.  So, I made contact with him.  He had a familiar name so I asked him my standard question: “Who is your dad?”  When he answered, “Fred”, I said, “Oh … Fred the bolo tie carver?”  He said “yes” and then he told me that he also is a bolo carver.  Well, I had to have one of his bolos and he agreed to carve me a custom cowboy – in brown and red.  This came to me as his #1936.


Justin Jepsen carved bolo tie

Knowing of my love for carved bolo ties, my daughter, Jackie, found a wonderful and unique Christmas gift for me – at a garage sale of all places.  This was kind of a different bolo from the rest of the collection – but it fit all of the parameters.  It was a bolo tie.  It was hand carved (out of gnarly mesquite or juniper wood) and it was a face.  It had the face of an old bearded mountain man.  There is no number on the back of this one.  It simply says, “By MAC”.  So, that has me curious.  Who is Mac?


Bolo Tie carved by “MAC”







My most recent bolo has been a fun one.  This spring I had opportunity to attend a giant Mountain Man Rendezvous for the Varsity Scouts of our Mesa, Arizona Scouting district.  I was there on staff – as a part of an elite group of 18 of the best Dutch oven chefs around.  (I think I gained 10 pounds up there as each of these chefs took turns cooking their best stuff for the group.)


Swedish Chef Bolo Carved by Boyd Thacker

Anyway, carver, Boyd Thacker (also from Mesa) was at the Rendezvous following in the footsteps of the legend – Bill Burch.  So, he spent his time carving and giving bolos (often in trade) to Mountain Man Scouts.  But, he ate with our Dutch oven chef group – a smart man!   Our head chef commissioned Boyd to carve a “Swedish Chef” bolo tie for each of the 18 chefs of our group.  I got his bolo #1317.

Swedish Chef bolo tie carved by BOYD THACKER

It has been real fun to wear the Swedish Chef – because this guy has great character recognition.  Many folks know and recognize him from “The Muppets”.  So, most folks when they see this bolo, smile big and then complement me on it.  They’ll say, “I LOVE your Swedish Chef!”  And then I smile too!

Well, there you have it!  The rest of the story … and all the details of my prized bolo tie collection!  You can probably see why the collection could probably not be replaced and why I love it as I do.  Scouting, history and traditions … they all seem to go together.  Keep getting and wearing those bolo ties … and help maintain the tradition!

[Side note:  If you are a carver or an owner of a Scout bolo tie that you are ready to pass on, I would love to take it off your hands!  As often as I wear these bolo ties, any new ones would be most welcome!]

Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …  Kevinthescoutblogger

See this link for an introduction to Kevin the Scouting Trails Blogger.  Blogging articles have excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”,  and others at his Scoutingtrails website.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and the Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!  Find Kevin on Facebook at:  Scouting Trails Books and Blogs.

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