Biography

So, you really want to know about me. Brace yourself then. Here is the story of a person who is part geek, philosopher, outdoorsman, scout, scholar, and more all rolled into one.

Birth and Early Years

I was born September 17, 1984 in Beech Grove, IN. My parents are Phil Gurganus and Alyson Challis.

When I was young, I can remember going to my grandma’s house nearly daily for grilled cheese sandwiches. She also had a dog named Michael. Several times I remember trying to ride Michael. Another pastime I recall at my grandma’s house is watching movies from the public library. These movies were either Superman movies or Rainbow Brite. In recollection, it was probably a little abnormal for a guy to watch such a show as Rainbow Brite, but I was dazzled by the colors.

The other primary person I remember from my early years is somebody with whom my family would go fishing. Through him, I would learn various billiards games, the art of fishing, a little masonry, and other things. At these early years, I just knew him as the guy who brought donuts and would take me and my sister for ice cream. Later in my life, I would know him as Frank Stonehouse, the grandparent I never had.

Scouting Takes Hold

When I was in second grade, I started my trail to Eagle, the highest rank in scouting. At that time, I was a cub scout in Pack 139. For most of my cub scouting years, I was with a consistent group of about four boys in my den. It seemed as if each boy’s parents took turns being Den Leader for those years.

Toward the end of the cub scout years, I went on my first significant camping trip. Our den went camping over the weekend at Clifty Falls. The first night was fine except for a few raccoons stealing food. The next night I will never forget. We had gone to sleep. Shortly thereafter, we woke up completely soaked. In fact, there were puddles in the tent. To some extent, we tried to sleep through the ordeal; however, the attempt failed. Eventually, we all jumped into the van and slept there. When we awoke, we drove into town and spent quite a while at the laundromat trying to dry things out. Dave Clayton, the den leader, always joked that we should have gotten a laundry badge for the ordeal. When we made it home, we found that the weather had been more severe than we had thought. It turns out that severe straight-line winds had occurred and possibly tornados. In fact, if I recall correctly, a tree had fallen into part of the Den Leader’s house. Luckily, I had not been frightened out of scouting by that experience.

Around the time I started middle school, I was awarded the Arrow of Light, cub scouting’s highest rank and the only one that can be warn into actual scouting. I crossed over into Boy Scout Troop 545. One of the first campouts was Summer Camp at Camp Ransburg, just off of Lake Monroe in Indiana. I remember learning several things about summer camp. One of the things was the hopper system used for meals. At each meal, one scout for each eight person group would go to the dining hall early to set up the food placings and obtain the food. Personally, I never did and never have liked the food made at Ransburg. I also learned about the Firecrafter program and learned several new campfire songs and skits.

Shortly after summer camp, our Scoutmaster and an Assistant Scoutmaster stepped down from their positions to focus on family issues. Steve Memmer, a member of the troop committee, stepped into the position of Scoutmaster and remained in that position for a significant portion of my scouting career. Steve Memmer was an impressive scoutmaster, especially since he had no scout involved in the troop and, to my knowledge, was never a scout himself. Assistant Scoutmasters at the time included Mark Cesnik, Don Vondrak, Dave Clayton, and a few other dads.

Within a few years, the troop was ready for a high adventure trip geared toward my age group. For that trip, we went white water rafting at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. One of our first obstacles was to intentionally run into a boulder in order to avoid a dangerous rapid. Of course, I fell out. Later in the trip, we were doing this thing called surfing, I think, where we row backwards into a rapid. The oncoming water poors down on us, keeping us there. At one of these surfing spots, one of our leaders fell out and hit his head on an underwater rock. We were worried for some time from that. He survived the trip though, and so did we.

The next major trip was to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota.

Off to College

I have attended Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for college.

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