Every mother’s nightmare…

In the 1970s, when I was Santa Fe bureau chief and state political editor for United Press International, I was fortunate to have been invited to see and write about Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. One of New Mexico’s many jewels, the scout ranch was established in 1938 as a 140,000+ acre rugged mountain wilderness for the Boy Scouts of America to use in building young men and women’s character and providing a spectacular outdoor adventure venue for scouts around the world. (Read more about it at https://www.philmontscoutranch.org/). Sadly, because of the state of New Mexico’s restrictions imposed surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the facility is closed this summer for what I believe is the first time since its establishment.

Anyway, when I was there and discovering many topics to write about, I stumbled upon the “dead letter” bulletin board outside the administration building. On it were posted letters returned because young men had used the wrong address on their letters and post cards. It was hoped the scouts would pick them up before they returned home.

One memorable postcard, with its full message displayed for every passer by to chuckle at, caught my eye and I wrote a story about it. The story was circulated worldwide on the UPI news network.

Although I can’t remember the exact wording on the postcard, I do remember the essence, which went, I recall, something like this:


I’m having a great time at Philmont, but I miss you.

We had our first overnight camping trip yesterday, and it was great. I was sleeping pretty well last night, until I woke up when a bear poked its nose into my tent and started licking my head. It kind of scared me, but he ran away and I’m okay.

See you soon.

Your son,


As someone who appreciates clever wording, I wish I could claim credit for this, but the Albuquerque Journal published my story about the dead letter post card and wrote what I think was the best headline I’ve ever had to introduce one of my stories. It said, simply:

“Better Dead than Read”

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