Garden of opportunity

Photographed by Curtis Waidley.

One set of hands rakes fallen cacti and weeds into piles as the sun slowly sinks. Another fills trash bags with debris. They work for about five minutes in perfect tandem‒ as if they’ve known each other for some time.

The hands belong to Margaret and William Pearson, who have been married for 42 years. Moving from their home state of Texas to work at Philmont Scout Ranch marks a new chapter for the Pearsons.

“We sold our house; We have our fifth-wheel trailer, and we just took off,” William Pearson said. “This is the beginning of our journey of wherever we will end up… we have no idea where that will be.”

They’ve spent the first part of their journey settling into their summer roles. First-year Philmont Scout Ranch gardener Margaret Pearson is in charge of beautifying Philmont’s grounds and William Pearson is head of lost and found in the security office.

Although William Pearson isn’t a gardener, he loves helping with Margaret’s work when he can. The couple had a garden together at their home in Texas; a way for them to bring wholesome food into their lives.

“I started looking at our health and the country’s health,” he said. “I said we really need to know what we’re eating. The way to know what we’re eating is to grow it ourselves.”

The Pearsons are now tackling a much larger gardening project: all of base camp. Getting to Philmont to pursue that project hasn’t been easy, however.

William Pearson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016 right before his first year at Philmont. In 2017 he learned that it had spread. After multiple treatments and surgeries, he stayed at home that summer to heal.

He has been cancer free for two years and is finally back at Philmont with his wife for the summer.

To the Pearsons, Philmont is a second chance at life. It’s a chance to change both the lives of others and their own.

“Look at how many people are affected by what [the Phillips] gave,” Margaret Pearson said. “There’s 25,000 kids plus employees that are affected by what they gave every year.”

As the summer winds down they will decide where to go next on their journey. For now, the Pearsons are looking forward to fishing and hiking this summer while enjoying the beauty of Philmont.

Picture of Monica Dunn

Monica Dunn

Monica Dunn is a first-year Philmont staffer out of Savannah, Missouri. She’s studying convergence journalism with an emphasis in emerging media at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Monica loves sharing people’s stories and is excited to share Philmont’s.