Editors Note: This story is told by Jim Hughes but was re-written into the first person.
This is a true story because it happened to me. Picture this. Mid-November 1977, and thirty young kids, 11 years to 14 years out on their first camp out on a cold weekend, 50 miles from Wichita Falls. No parents, small pup tents, maybe an air mattress or two, and thin $20 sleeping bags from the BSA Hub.
Arriving at the camping location Saturday afternoon, it was put up the tents and pack the sleeping gear inside. Play games, work hard, sing and eat burnt hotdogs and marshmallows around the fire till the sun was ready to go down. The temperature during the day was a balmy 62 degrees, and we had no idea what was coming.
The temperature hits 35 degrees, and none of us is thinking about what lays ahead in the morning. We are happy to be in bed, somewhat warm with all our clothes on, and ready for a blissful night’s sleep.
This is the weekend life of Troop 1 of Wichita Falls, Texas, on a typical weekend camp out. But wait a minute, something is wrong. It is still pitch black outside, and somebody is blowing this darn horn! It is 6 am, and boy, is it cold outside.
A shake of the tent, and a call of “Troop, Troop, Troop!” by no other than Mr. Hughes, himself. We quickly, well as fast as a bunch of freezing kids can move, fall out of the tents and into line to wash our faces and mug up.
Wholly cow, it is cold outside! The line of young bodies bent over to try and keep out the cold stretches back 50 feet. Up front, we hear a loud howl, another, and another, spaced apart every few seconds.
Finally, My Turn
Finally, it is my turn for a wake up call! Staring down into the washbasin, I see, staring back at me, creamy colored water with ice cubes floating in it. Ice cubes, who put ice cubes in the water? My goodness, I am supposed to put my face in that?
Not wanting to look like a sissy, and with Hughes looking down at me, I took the plunge into the cold water. A few seconds later I came up for air, gasping and let out my own loud scream.
Looking up at Hughes, I saw a smile crease his face with a twinkle in his eye. He said, “That is what young men are made of, take the plunge and now you are ready for the day and the start of the rest of your life; Be Prepared.”
Looking back, over 38 years since that cold morning, Mr. Hughes was right. I still do the same thing to start each day, with a lesson learned from camping with Troop 1 of Wichita Falls. Take the plunge. I am ready for the day and the start of the rest of my life. I am Prepared.”
The Last Word
I get the last Word. Thanks, Mr. Hughes, for being there for all of us. And thank you to your family for allowing the thousands of boys that have passed through Troop 1 Wichita Falls, to be a part of your life. We are all much better people for it, and we will always Be Prepared.”