“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.
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.