The Boy Scout motto is "Be Prepared," and 11-year-old Michael Winterholler and his fellow scouts have a real-life example of how critically important those two words can be.
Michael's father, Payson dentist Dr. Chris Winterholler, was awarded a certificate of special recognition signed by Arizona Governor Jane Hull Wednesday for saving a drowning man. Payson Mayor Ray Schum made the presentation before Michael's Boy Scout troop at the Mormon Church.
The incident happened when the Winterhollers were vacationing with friends at Lake Powell last month.
"We had invited our neighbors and good friends Bob and Wilma Dalby to go with us," Winterholler said. "We were at a favorite place up there called Gunsight where there's a beautiful beach. We've been there 100 times, but Bob and Wilma had never been there.
"Michael and I jumped out of the boat to cool off and swam over to this rock about 50 feet away. We were on our way back when Bob decided to swim over there himself. What he didn't realize is that the rock is so smooth you can't hang onto it. You just have to swim over and back."
Winterholler had climbed back into the boat when he suddenly had "a weird feeling like something was wrong." He turned around to check on Dalby, only to discover he had gone under.
"He didn't have a life jacket on, so I grabbed one and swam over to him," Winterholler said. "By that time his face had turned blue."
Dalby was unable to put on the life jacket, so Winterholler had to carry him all the way back to the beach. "He was like dead weight," Winterholler explained. "He pulled me down a couple of times, but I was able to kind of dog paddle back."
Within a few minutes Dalby had recovered, but he didn't forget that Winterholler had saved his life.
"The next thing I knew, he had the governor in the middle of it," Winterholler said somewhat sheepishly. "I was just in the right place at the right time and had this premonition."
But Michael and his fellow scouts learned a lesson that could one day save more lives.
"The reason he got the award at the Court of Honor," Michael said, "is that we have to earn merit badges for swimming and lifesaving. You have to go 12 feet down into the water and bring up a 20-pound brick."
Unless, of course, that brick is wearing a life jacket.