I'm an Eagle Scout. Troop 226, Porterdale. Scoutmaster Aubrey Barnes started me off and Jimmy Cason finished me up.
I have done a lot of camping. On my first camping trip, an overnighter on the outskirts of Porterdale, just beyond the hog pens, another kid cut a tree down that landed right on my head. I haven't been the same since. Some people say I was never the same before.
Jerry Aldridge and I hiked all over the Rocky Mountains on a couple of different occasions. On one trip we hiked through the rain for seven straight days and slept under a thin sheet of plastic.
Jerry Aldridge snores, by the way, in case you were wondering. At least he did back in 1968.
I worked at Bert Adams Scout Camp for seven memorable summers and served as Scoutmaster of Troop 82 in Porterdale for a while and I have camped with my family all over these United States.
I have hiked over all types of terrain and slept outside in all sorts of weather. On one ill-fated camping trip to the North Georgia Mountains, my troop and I were trapped in our campsite by a fluke March ice storm. On another, five of us almost died of hypothermia. I have been chased by a grizzly bear and a wild boar hog and almost stepped on a 6-foot-long rattlesnake.
I am the greenest Tenderfoot who ever strapped on a backpack and a Buck knife compared to my lovely wife, Lisa, and her friends.
Let me tell you what they did Friday, in the name of finding a cure for breast cancer.
Lisa and two other Lisas and Patty and Lynne - all members of a team called "Going Bust," walked about 22 miles - in the rain, in the wind, in the cold - along with a few thousand other women - and some men - because they are sick and tired of being pushed around by the specter that is breast cancer and are determined to stand up and fight back.
Y'all remember what the weather was like Friday, I am sure. I am developing terrible short-term memory, but even I can think back that far. I almost froze going up the driveway to pick up the morning paper. It was wet and raw and windy all day long. And yet at 6 o'clock, these women rolled out of bed, dressed as warmly as they could and went out to brave the elements.
It was 46 degrees in Alpharetta, which is where they were, when they started out, with 17 mph wind gusts that dropped the wind-chill factor - that's what it really felt like - down into the 30s. The rain didn't stop all day and the temperature barely rose at all. The wind didn't slow down much either.
But these ladies had each raised upwards of $2,500 in pledges and they had promised to walk, and walk they did. They absolutely had to have been chilled to the bone by the time they got back to base camp Friday afternoon. You know what they did then? They slept on the ground - in tents - Friday night and then they got up Saturday morning and did the same thing all over again and will finish up today - Sunday - at the World Congress Center, the Good Lord willing.
These women are tough. Let me tell you. They are all my heroes.
Why in the world would people do that? Glad you asked.
Some are walking because they have had a close encounter with breast cancer and are thankful that they escaped without actually having been diagnosed. Some are walking because they are survivors of breast cancer and want to show appreciation for the research that saved their lives. Some are walking because a loved one had breast cancer; a loved one that may or may not have survived. And some are walking just because - just because every three minutes another woman is diagnosed. Just because breast cancer is the sixth leading cause of death among women in this country. Just because one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. One in eight. That means that everyone will be affected in some way - a friend or mother or wife or sister or someone we all know will have breast cancer.
They are walking because if walking through the rain and wind and cold and sleeping out on the cold wet ground can call attention to the problem or make someone, anyone, aware that otherwise would not have been aware, then their efforts will not have been for naught. If they can maybe even raise a little more money for research or to take care of people who are already affected - well, maybe it will have been worth their time and effort and discomfort.
I'll say again, these women are heroes to me, and if you know one, tell them thank you or send them a card or write them a check - do something, because what they did Friday, not to mention Saturday and Sunday - or the past six months while they were training for the event and raising funds - well, that was really something.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.