Outdoors: Walking the Walk

By Kevin Tate/NEMS Daily Journal

Almost any path to success is bound to have a few rocks along the way. Mikey Armour’s final path to Eagle Scout already had lots of them. So he added a few tons more.
As a member of the Tupelo High School Cross Country team and an outdoorsman since birth, the Scouting life was a natural for Armour. Among other things, it was a great in-depth introduction to the outdoors and a vehicle for making friends with others of similar interests.
“Just the general knowledge and common sense outdoors information alone makes it worthwhile,” Armour said, “but along the way you learn a great deal more. You learn about yourself. You learn to challenge yourself. You come to respect yourself.”
Becoming an Eagle Scout, the discipline’s ultimate rank, involves a great deal of sweat and toil, but it also requires the planning and completion of a public service project. A candidate for Eagle Scout must come up with a thoroughly detailed idea to serve his community, present the idea and have it approved by his local governing board, then successfully execute the project, which is where the THS Cross Country team comes in.
“I’ve really enjoyed running cross country, not just because of the natural element, but because it has a great social aspect,” Armour said. “The team is a good crowd, and running cross country teaches you personal respect and mental toughness, very much like Scouting.”
One of the trails the team routinely uses for training is part of the Natchez Trace Parkway property. Paralleling the highway from the visitors’ center to the Chickasaw Village in the northwestern part of town, the trail covers some ground that is often wet and frequently uneven. Such pathways along the Trace are maintained with a paving method similar to those implemented by Rome centuries ago, but the labor required to put the methods to use comes dear in a time of ever-tightening budgets. Armour’s Eagle Scout service project involved the paving of critical parts of this cross country and hiking trail some several miles in length. Per Scouting requirements, the service project involved roughly 80 hours of work, but all 80 hours don’t have to come from the candidate himself. Friends in scouting routinely help one another out on their Eagle projects so that, for example, 10 Scouts working for 8 hours could complete the 80 hours for one Scout’s project. Like enlisting your friends to help you move, it’s a debt repaid in kind.
In the Roman method, then, the Scouts leveled the path as best they could, then spread medium-sized slag evenly along its length and width. Then they came back with small, pea-gravel and laid that down evenly over the slag. The resulting mixture of small gravel for even footing with medium slag holding it in place makes for a surprisingly smooth, water-permeable surface that will be kind to cross country runners for years to come.
Common sense, some might say.