OPINION COLUMNS

Hardships make the best memories

By David Talley | Published Saturday, April 23, 2016
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“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, friendly, brave, clean and reverent.”

I didn’t even have to Google that. It’s been five years since I last donned a Boy Scout uniform, and I still know the Scout law by heart – I said it every Tuesday night for more than six years when I was a member of Troop 121.

David Talley

David Talley

Could I revisit any point in my life, there isn’t one part I’d choose over being a Boy Scout again.

We camped one weekend a month and made two weeklong trips every year – a wealth of experiences and memories.

While there were plenty of perfect trips with perfect weather and short drives, those tend to run together and are easily forgotten. My favorite memories are the ugly trips.

On my second camping trip, I nearly caught hypothermia. We’d spent the night deep in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains in November. When morning came, I crawled out of my sleeping bag to ice on the tent and frost on the ground. I went to breakfast without changing from the clothes I’d slept in, which was a bad idea. The night’s sweat froze, and I turned into a lethargic mass of frozen 12-year-old.

A Scout leader noticed my situation and hustled me to a running car where he turned the heat on full blast. I found a Lunchables cheese and crackers snack pack in the console and made that breakfast. Thanks to general confusion being a symptom of hypothermia, I also tried to eat the plastic spoon included with my meal.

After I recovered, the remainder of the trip went off without a hitch. The day never really warmed up, but a 20-mile hike kept us from thinking about the cold too much. That night, as the temperature dropped near 30 again, dread set in. Just as my hands started to lose coordination from the chill, food saved me again. While Scouts are normally required to prepare their own meals, the leaders stepped in on this occasion, preparing a steaming pot of 12-can soup. I’ve included the recipe here:

1. Open 12 cans of Campbell’s soup. Any combination of varieties is acceptable.

2. Combine in a large pot and stir over heat.

3. Serve warm in a tin cup.

To this day, that was the best meal I’ve ever had. Any attempts to recreate the dish at home have fallen short. There’s something about victory over cold and despair that makes soup taste better.

Years later I earned my Eagle Scout rank, turned 18 and aged out of the troop. I went to college in Lubbock and had the privilege of traveling around the country racing bicycles.

In the last year, I’ve had a lot of high points. I’ve won five bike races and been hired to my first full-time job, but none of these can compare to the emotional high of a mismatched cup of soup on a cold night in the middle of the woods.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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