Other essays on this theme

Essay: "Food"

by Larry M. Puckett
Food and Deodorant: Synonyms

I was in the Boy Scouts for six years. My best friend got me involved in it, and I had some amazing experiences that I would not have had had I not been a part of it. Without a doubt I had some incredibly fun adventures.

Throughout those years I was in many different positions within the troop; everything from librarian to quartermaster. I worked to achieve almost a hundred different merit badges that ranged from camping to riflery, and trade crafts to electronics. I earned a slew of other badges and medals as well. I moved up the ranks all the way to Eagle Scout--the highest rank a scout can attain. I was in every position of leadership from Patrol Leader to Assistant Scoutmaster. I was even a summer camp counselor part of a season.

The camping trips were always great and varied. I went to two Civil War memorials; Shiloh and Vicksburg, the latter several times. I spent two weekends on the U.S.S. Alabama, a moored battleship museum in Mobile. I once spent the night deep in a cave in a Chattanooga, TN mountain, 56 year round.

Summer camp was a week long excursion that I always loved. It was all the better that my brothers got to go with me. C.O.P.E. was one of my favorite courses, one I actually taught. In that, we repelled, zip-lined, and traipsed through the treetops on a cable, with safety rope, of course. It was a course that tested your mettle early in life.

There were several small jamborees every year where we could meet troops from the region and learn and compete with them.

The thrust of this essay surrounds one such jamboree at an Elk's lodge campground. During the day are the games and competitions and at night there are skits performed by some of the troops.

The most common skit was "The Important Papers." A scoutmaster would sit center stage and send his scouts scurrying out in search of the "important papers." Each one would come back with some kind of paper, i.e. magazine, newspaper, pamphlet, etc., and present it to the scoutmaster. "No, no," he'd say. "These are not the important papers." This would be repeated several times. The final scout would arrive and give his to the scoutmaster who would exclaim, "Ah! These are the important papers!" He would then hold aloft a roll of toilet paper.

My scoutmaster and I wanted to do a different skit so I did "The Desert Trek." I collected my props; a backpack, bottle of water, jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of bread. I can remember the experience as if it were only yesterday though it has been 13 years since.

I jumped up onto the lighted stage and looked out at the hundreds of scouts and leaders arrayed in a semicircle. Normally I am intensely shy about performing in front of large crowds. There are three times that are permanently seared into my memory where I had to do just that and I was not at all enthusiastic about it.

The first was my junior high graduation where I gave a speech before some 500 people. I was really nervous and got started only after several moments on the stage. My principal thought that I had stage fright and wouldn't be able to read the speech.

The second was my homecoming football game my senior year. The coach told the team that all seniors had to give a small speech before the assembled school during the pep rally. "What?!" The point was supposed to show senior leadership skills, but I was questioning my coach's own leadership skills.

The third time was at my high school graduation. I had the regional director for the scouts come present me a pin and certificate for being the first Eagle Scout to graduate from my high school.

In none of those instances was I ashamed of my accomplishments. I just had a deep aversion to being in front of so many people.

Before the scouts it was completely different. I was totally comfortable with them, even if I didn't know all of them personally.

On the Elk's Lodge stage I introduced myself, my troop, and where we were from. I then went into my spiel to set up the skit. I had my props in my backpack slung over my shoulders.

I narrated to them that I was lost out in the desert and it was super hot. I walked around to try to illustrate my words. I got progressively hotter and fanned myself. At one point I took off my shirt to relieve the gear. The crowd heckled me and I was pleased because they were paying attention. My pantomimes continue as I travel through the hot burning desert.

I drink all of my water and the desert seems unending. My shirt is wrapped around my head. I'm hungry and eat a slice of bread. The sweat has caused me to smell really bad. It gets so bad that it bothers me. I take out the peanut butter and scoop some out with my hand. I smear it under my arms to cut the reeking smell. My endless journey continues and I get hungry again. I eat a slice of bread and think how some peanut butter would be nice, but I have used it all up as deodorant. I really want some and after a few minutes I wipe a slice of bread under my arms and eat it.

My skit ended with an approving crowd. Being in the scouts was a great time in my life. I can't sufficiently account for how I made the jump from there to death row, but that is how my life has progressed. Reliving those experiences is one of the ways to deal with this situation.

I believe that the scouts helped prepare me to deal with whatever challenges may come my way. Though, certainly not this challenge! But I have made it thus far. I still try to live, "physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight," the last line of the scout oath. Be prepared!