Memories of ‘Roughing It’

Published 7:49 am Saturday, November 19, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

   Reflections at Thanksgiving abound, and participants gaining most from the season are of one accord–filling their hearts with precious memories of loved ones and friends. We cherish warm remembrances, including those that made us laugh then–and make us laugh now.

For many, there are happy thoughts of times in the great outdoors, perhaps now decades old. Some are memories of “roughing it” by folks whose daily lives are far more akin to “smoothing it.”

Such are the memories of Dr. and Mrs. Lanny Hall of Abilene. The couple has made life smoother for the masses–he as a three-term state legislator who later served 27 years as president or chancellor of universities, and she as a wife, mother and community leader. (He served at Wayland, Howard Payne and Hardin-Simmons. He was twice president of HSU, where he now is chancellor.)

We have no better friends–nor ever will. We join countless friends in thanks for the Halls’ unselfish efforts to make life smoother for others.

Conversely, though, their record of “roughing it” during family outings has sometimes failed miserably, “clanging” instead of bell-ringing.

They–okay, more likely “he”–identify with the late longtime front page Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist George Dolan. “My idea of roughing it,” Dolan joked, “is staying at a motel with evaporative cooling.”

Thus the scene is set for a fairly typical Hall family outing. The year was 1990; the place, a Ruidoso, NM, camping site. A small victory upon arrival was finding space for their small tent between half-million dollar motor homes. It was at eveningtide, when coyotes were making a wail.

The Halls, then from Plainview, were ready for a weekend under the stars, sheltered from the elements by an 8×10 foot tent the Good Doctor finally “pitched.” (There was no “Google” back then, and “pitching instructions” were in small type on flimsy paper that might just as well have been in a foreign language. And, it was pitch dark.)

Unnoticed in those 80 square feet at the time of “tent-pitching” were pine cones Dr. Hall figures may have fallen from hybrid pine trees groomed to produce cones with sharpest shards, thus making slumber in sleeping bags next to impossible.

   Before snuffing out the lantern for the first night, Lanny and Carol heightened excitement levels of daughter Lana, then a 7th grader, and son Chad, four years behind her in third.

Chad requested scary stories, and Lanny complied. He told eye-widening stories.

The youngster asked his dad if the stories ever gave him “duck bumps.” “It’s goose bumps, goofy,” Lana corrected. Lanny and Carol smiled.

When sleep came that night–and the next–the pine cones seemed “pointless.”

And, whatever other travails marring their brief time away from the workaday world became trivial. They were overshadowed by memories of an inquisitive youngster unsure which fowl is best known for bumps.

Chad–always wanting to know more and rarely afraid to ask–darted from hither to yon, seeking the wonders of it all.

We all have hill and valley memories, and sometimes are mired in the latter. May we then reclaim the best, often through the comfort of music.

Two song titles come to mind. “Memories Are Made of This” was made famous by the late Dean Martin. It climbed to number one on the Billboard charts in 1956. You know, “Sweet, sweet, the memories you gave to me, can’t beat the memories you gave to me.”

The other is so ecumenical it is included in 57 hymnals. It was written by a Methodist preacher named Charles Albert Tindley, the son of a slave, in 1905. Well-known for both sermons and songs, Tindley–his life spanning from 1851-1933–was pastor of African American churches, one of them 10,000 members strong.

Christians know the hymn–“We’ll Understand It Better By and By.” The clarion call of the refrain reminds: “By and by, when the morning comes, when the saints of God are gathered home. We’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome, for we’ll understand it better by and by.”


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: