Molding young minds


“It takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
Mark Twain, 1835-1910

My cross-country bicycle trip last fall has got me a gig on the speaking circuit — a talk to a group of neighborhood Cub Scouts at their annual Blue & Gold banquet.
I can’t yet command the fees of a Bill Clinton or a Sarah Palin, but I had the gratification of speaking to a receptive audience of fresh-faced boys eager to hear about an adventure, even from someone as old as their grandfathers.
My pay was a fine sundae of my own creation from the dessert bar staffed by the Cubs’ moms — vanilla ice cream topped by chopped pecans, chocolate and strawberry syrup and maraschino cherries.
As the father of three sons who became Eagle Scouts, I attended several such banquets as part of my parental duties. But this was the first time I had ever been asked to speak to one.
A Blue and Gold banquet, by the way, is a birthday celebration for the Cub Scouting program, held during February, the anniversary month of the Boy Scouts of America, organized on Feb. 8, 1910. The Cub Scout movement was organized 20 years later in 1930.
The invitation to speak to Pack 21 of Longhorn Council was extended by Fort Worth neighbor John Key, the Scout master. His own adventures as a captain and paramedic with the fire department of the Dallas suburb of Irving would probably be more thrilling than a bicycle ride across America.

Advertisement from a 1930s Boy Scout Handbook

I was worried that I could hold the attention of a group of fidgety boys, but some show-and-tell props — my bike loaded with pannniers, my tent, sleeping bag, maps, flashing bike lights and a slide show — seemed to work far better than ponderous speechifying. And they elicited a raft of questions:
What was the most dangerous part of the trip?
Riding into Mobile, Ala., in Tropical Storm Ida on heavily trafficked roads with no shoulders.
Did you ever think about quitting?
Yes, several times.
Their interest seemed to endure right up until John called an end to the meeting because it was a school night.
One boy, with intense dark eyes full of conviction, told me afterward that he is going to do such a trip. I believe him. He was already trying to sell the idea to his parents.
Even if one of the young lads makes cycling a bigger part of his life than watching TV and playing video games, the talk was worthwhile.
I hope the boys enjoyed the evening as much as I did.

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2 Comments

Filed under Americana, Cool stuff, Cycling across America, Journeys, Travels

2 responses to “Molding young minds

  1. John

    What a great opportunity and a wonderful way to take advantage of it. I listened to a ponderous speech today and was looking for the exits. Your approach for these Scouts, with your bike, panniers and flashing lights was perfect. I wish the lawyer at my lunch meeting had done the equivalent. And making those kids think about an adventure instead of a video game, seeing some spark of interest develop in them, is a great thing to do. I recall having feelings like that reading Tom Sawyer as a kid and imagining exploring caves, or rafting. I have done a little of each, and found other activities and trips that were adventurous for me. Someone told me life is an opportunity to collect memories, and I have learned that adventures with new scenery, a reasonable amount of exertion and a little risk give rise to the strongest and best of those memories. I certainly feel that way about our cross-country adventure, and especially about days like the scary ride into Mobile (not sure it is my scariest–since I dislike downhills and crosswinds and especially high humped bridges that combine both conditions–truth is I walked parts of a couple of those bridges).
    Anyhow, well done with the roomful of Scouts!
    Take care–

    • John,
      Many thanks for continuing to read my blog and for your nice words about my evening with the Cub Scouts. I didn’t much like those high humped bridges either. Take care.
      Jim

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