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That time I rappelled off the football stadium

July 19, 2023 - 00:00
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Friends, what I am about to tell you is a true story and the names have not been changed to protect the innocent. My great friend, Pat Boardman, unknowingly set in motion the series of events that led up to this story. I’m ready to jump into this as much as you are, but first, a bit of background. The time was circa 1985 and the setting was at my high school in Ruston, Louisiana. Pat and I were cadets enrolled in the Junior R.O.T.C. program on campus and this was about the time when “Rambo” and “Uncommon Valor” came out. Those movies were so influential that if we could have left school and gone straight into the Green Berets we would have. Seriously.

So here it begins. Pat was our military subject matter expert because he had been to U.S. Army boot camp during that summer and we cadets leaned on him and his leadership capabilities. Also, he was somehow able to get the Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the entire Junior R.O.T.C program to release some funds to help start an orienteering team. This kind of request was not unheard of and there had been some orienteering meets that we as cadets had participated in over the past school year. The thing is that we had no intention of using that money for its intended purpose. We bought at least 100 feet of rappelling rope, harnesses, gloves, and all sorts of Vietnam era surplus field gear and instantly started making plans on how to best use this treasure trove of equipment. To make this look good on paper we named our team the S.O.S. Team for Special Operations Squadron.

This was just a cover for basically a black ops group of wannabe super soldiers. There was one catch, though, you had to earn your spot on the team. You had to survive “Hell Week.” This highly unsupervised endeavor consisted of intense intimidation sessions, a water crawl through a sewer pipe, hand-to-hand combat training and a written test. The last hurdle to cross before a cadet could be awarded their maroon beret was the rappelling course.

It was on a Saturday morning when Pat and I with a few other cadets gathered at the base of the high school football stadium in full camo gear. The idea was to successfully rappel down from the top of the stadium without injury. Modern rope usage requires the use of an auto- block device connected to a leg loop and another safety tool called a belay. We had none of that. The only thing stopping you from falling to your certain death was a firm gloved grip on the bottom of the rope. Mix in a touch of teenage angst coupled with a smattering of poor judgement and a heaping lot of complete fearlessness and you have the recipe for a very dangerous activity. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing – we thought.

Things rocked along pretty well, and we were all taking turns having a jolly good time rappelling and cheating death – that is until the police showed up. I thought we were all about to go to jail, but Pat stepped in and used his gift of gab to save us. He convinced the police officer that this was a sanctioned event and that we had full permission to be there and added in the fact that the officer was impeding a military operation just for good measure. None of that was true, by the way.

It’s friends like these that make the memories and if you ever have the opportunity to have a friend as great as Pat Boardman you’ll be glad you did.

The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Alan Shoalmire. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.

Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant Hotdogs and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.