All of us, from time to time, are called upon to face certain challenges — some important, some trivial. I remember as a kid growing up that you just could not ignore a “double-dog dare,” right, guys? Whether a dare or a bet, you had to be prepared to “toe the mark,” as the saying goes.
I remember several trivial challenges that I encountered on various backpacking trips that had nothing to do with overcoming the physical tests of backpacking itself.
Would you believe coffee played a role in one encounter? On a Grand Canyon trip I had just purchased a brand-new coffee thermos from Sears, and it cost about $30. I drank from it all day, and even when we pulled into our first camping spot, Palo Duro Canyon, some 350 miles away and seven or eight hours on the road, the coffee was still beyond just warm.
I mentioned how good my thermos was to Herb the next morning as we were both filling up our containers before we set off for our second stop, Shiprock, New Mexico, outside of Farmington, New Mexico. Shiprock is a 1500 feet high volcanic neck or plug about 500 miles from Palo Duro.
Herb said, “Well, I bet you a Kincaid hamburger when we get back to Ft. Worth that my 20-year-old J.C. Penney’s special keeps my coffee hotter than your new one.”
Good grief! He had just insulted my Sears thermos, so I had to defend it, right?
“You’re on,” I replied, “and throw in an order of fries and a drink — I like a complete meal,” I retorted.
So the bet was on.
After we filled up our thermoses, we agreed that as soon as we pulled up to Shiprock, we would bring them out and taste them to see which was the hottest.
Sure enough, when we arrived at Shiprock, I proudly piled out of the van I was driving, thermos in hand, confident that my new purchase was going to totally embarrass Herb’s ratty old thing that he was so proud of.
First Herb tasted my coffee and then his, and he remarked, “Mine’s hotter!”
“Not a chance,” I commented and tasted both for myself. Oops! Would you believe Herb’s was hotter? Man, was I crushed! Still, I manfully paid up when we got back to Fort Worth.
However, the story does not end there. Several years later Herb confessed to me that for about thirty minutes before we hit Shiprock on that trip, he had this student who rode with him hold a cigarette lighter to the bottom of his thermos. That sneaky dog!
Was I going to let him get by with that? Not on your life! On our next trip I saw the opportunity to repay Herb with some skullduggery of my own. On every trip Herb would challenge everybody to a tobacco-spitting contest. Now he dipped Skoal, and from time to time I would chew some leaf tobacco. (Sorry, Sis — did Mom ever know?)
Well, Herb could spit his stream of juice out there about 25 to 30 feet while I could only manage about 20 feet on a good day. As some of the male students on the trip were lining up to challenge Herb, I got a brilliant idea — I put two pieces of Double Bubble chewing gum in my mouth and mixed them up with my chewing tobacco. All right! This was going to work!
Herb went first and spat his customary 30 feet out there; then I stepped up and expectorated a wad about 5 feet past his. Yes! Victory was finally mine!
However, Herb said, “Wait a minute! That looked funny!”
Darn — he walked out there and spotted my chewing gum mixed with the tobacco juice. Oh, well — nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Of course, the hit of the evening was the girls’ spitting contest. Few of them had ever even tried before, and usually all that they accomplished was splattering tobacco juice all down the front of their T-shirts. It was entertaining, though.
One last challenge occurred in Havasu Canyon, a tributary of the Grand Canyon, noted for its blue-green Havasu Creek and beautiful waterfalls. I had seen some Boy Scouts catching minnows in a plastic jar by putting some trail mix and a rock inside and sinking it.
Then they waited for the minnows to swim in. I thought I would try that, and Herb came over to see what I was doing. There were also five of our students sitting nearby at a picnic table. I was successful in catching four or five on my first attempt and poured them out in my hand just to look at them.
One of the students said, “Weldon, I bet you a dollar you won’t swallow one!”
I replied, ”No, not for a dollar — but if all five of you put a dollar out there, you have a bet!”
Quicker that you could blink, there were five dollar bills on the table, and I held up one minnow by its tail.
Herb said, “Pard — you’re not really going to swallow that thing, are you?”
I said, “Herb, five dollars is five dollars,” and down it went.
You can’t pass up a dare, right, guys?
Weldon Reed is a Cleburne
resident who recently
returned to his hometown.
He can be reached at