Sunday, January 29, 2017

A very Good Day!

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

The day began cool and early as Members of Troop 451, the Marcus Football Team, and fellow staffers from Camp Geiger showed up at the Universal Academy in Coppell to assist Alex Adams in completing his Eagle Scout project.  While many, many adults also showed up, this was, as befits an Eagle project, an overwhelmingly boy-led and boy-done effort.

Alex’s project was to build five benches in an outdoor area for the Universal Academy in Coppell. To prepare the site, the boys first raked leaves, swept dirt, and generally tidied it up. The benches were constructed from concrete block and treated 8’ 4 x 4s.

As with any construction project, periods of intense activity, such as hauling the materials from the storage room to the site itself, were followed by stretches of comparative calm. One such occurred when the need for additional concrete was identified. During this interlude, the boys diverted themselves with a football in the parking lot of the Academy. Fortunately, no one seemed inclined to suggest they play tackle football!

Another popular way to spend these quieter moments was visiting one another, dining on donuts, and consuming coffee. I believe three separate runs to the donut shop were required to keep this large, enthusiastic crew well-fueled.

Each bench required 14 blocks and 6 4 x 4s to complete. First, the boys leveled the ground where each of the foundation blocks (two on the right side of the bench and two on the left) would sit. These blocks were then filled with concrete to add weight and stability. Two more blocks were set atop each of these foundations, affixed with a liberal doe of “Liquid Nails.” Two more block, similarly affixed, topped these, but these last two were turned sideways so that the 4 x 4s could bass through the spaces in the blocks. Two more blocks, sitting upright, hold the backs of the benches in place. Finally, the seating and back 4 x 4s were secured by screwing pieces of 2 x 4 to them along the inner edge of the concrete blocks. This makes it impossible to remove the 4 x 4s without a fair amount of unscrewing. Not an unbeatable security measure but certainly one that will deter any casual mischief makers. Once the foundation blocks were in place, the boys spread about a ton of crushed gravel to cover the bare earth around the benches.  

Then, we broke to partake of pizza, both cheese and pepperoni. This meal too was provided courtesy of Linda Adams and it was eagerly eaten. To slake our thirsts, there was plentiful bottled water. All-in-all, an excellent way to spend the first part of a January Saturday.
When all was complete, an area of bare, hard-packed dirt and dry leaves had been transformed into an inviting place to sit for a while, perhaps when awaiting a child’s release from school, or to visit with other parents in a spare moment. The finished project looked quite good and the Universal Academy will, doubtless, be pleasantly surprised when school opens Monday morning.

Alex had scheduled his work day to begin at 9:00 AM and wrap up by 1:00 PM. In an unprecedented occurrence, his time schedule was easily met.

Scouts attending, as I recall, were: Alex Adams (of course!), Ben Bryant, Austin Curtis, Ethan Gardsbane, Brant Goodrich, Nick Harris, Josh Hatter, Nick Jansen, Brady Jones, Samir Joshi, James and Kevin Koonce, Chad Kral, Uthej Kunamneni, Stephen Lampe, Randy Lee, Aniket Pal, Pranav Pradeep, Jacob Samson, Thomas Sorensen, Andy Turner, and Alex Tyson. Several members of the Marcus Football Team also pitched in, but I did not get their names. Please let me know who else I should include on this list - one's memory is a fallible thing.

From Missouri, The Camp Geiger staffers who participated were: Harlan Johnson, Max Miller, Ryan Soldanels, and Austin Wilson. They left after school Friday, arriving in Flower Mound in the wee hours of Saturday morning. After a needful run to Whataburger for victuals, the boys returned to the Adams’s house and slept in until about 7:00 AM, when they arose to assist Alex with his project.

Among the adults who showed up (if I have omitted your name, please let me know so that I can correct my oversight) were: Linda Adams, Kevin Bryant, Richard Covington, Michael Curtis, Harshal Dave, Mark DiCiaccio, Audrey Gardsbane, Terry Goodnight, Dennis Goodrich, Jessica Harris, Lynn Hatter, Steve Kral, Mark Lampe, Kevin Lee, Gary Lueking, Chander Pal, Pradeep Parthasarathy, Rob Rawson, Chris Samson, Darryl Sorensen, Michael Tuggle, Michael Weatherford.

Our day was by no means done.

Alex wrapped up his project at 1:00 PM, in time to permit members of the Lone Star Dance Team to fetch costumes and head to Round Grove United Church UCC (United Church of Christ). There, the Dance Team would perform at an Arrow of Light and Bridging ceremony for the Arrows of Pack 729.

This time of year, such ceremonies are the Dance Team’s stock-in-trade but Saturday’s seemingly-ordinary-ceremony made history for the Lone Start Dance Team!  We are familiar with travelling up North to join other dance teams of the tribe for various tribal events, such as the Winter Conclave or Fall Pow wow. Of course, each summer at Camp Geiger, members of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say from Troop 451 join Scouts from many other troops and Dance Districts in the ceremonies that make Camp Geiger a unique Summer camp experience for our boys and for so many other Scouts.
On January 28th, for the first time ever, our team was joined by Mic-O-Say tribesmen from another dance team. Having come all the way from Missouri to pitch in at Alex’s Eagle Scout Workday, Harlan Johnson, Max Miller, Ryan Soldanels, and Austin Wilson, participated in a Lone Star public dance as well! As befits their respective Tribal ranks, these gentlemen joined us around the tom-tom, providing extra gusto to the chanting that accompanies the primal rhythms of the great hide drum, masterfully managed by Alex Adams and Ben Bryant.

The turn out from members of the team was great but the addition of our four guests only added to the excitement and success of the afternoon. Starting off with the Belt Dance, The Cubs, Webelos, and Arrows (and their friends and relatives in attendance) were treated to several different dances, all based on Native American dances. The audience was treated to the Grass Dance, the Warrior’s Dance, and the Buffalo Dance.

Then, our ‘Chief’ for the Ceremony, Sacred Mask (Neetin Khadka), called Runner Swift Turn (Andy Turner) to identify the candidates for the Arrow of Light Award and bring them forward. This he did, brandishing his tomahawk the while. The Chief explained the significance of the Arrow of Light Award, an award so important that (other than the various Religious Knots) the Arrow of Light Badge is the only Cub Scout badge that may be worn on the Boy Scout Uniform. Each candidate’s name was called in turn, and each came forward to be awarded a stone-tipped, turkey-feathered arrow in honor of his accomplishment.

Next came the Bridging Ceremony, where each arrow ceremoniously crossed the bridge from Cub Scouting into Boy Scouting. Fittingly, each plank of the bridge was inscribed with a Scouting message, including each of the twelve points of the Scout Law. Once across, each boy was welcomed by the Troop he will join and awarded the green epaulets and troop neckerchief of a Boy Scout, replacing the familiar blue epaulets and plaid neckerchief of Webelos and Arrows.

To honor this momentous event in their Scouting careers, our team then performed the Eagle’s Dance. For this, two (or sometimes three) dancers appear, attired in great white eagle costumes, wings, beak, and all. The effect is quite impressive. Perhaps most impressive is the way our dancers adapt to the accommodations available. Typically, the Eagle’s Dance requires more space than the sanctuary of Round Grove Church could provide. In fact, this could be said of all of the dances performed this day. Nevertheless, doubtless, the audience was unaware of the instant adaptations our dancers make to the circumstances in which we perform.

Lastly, to conclude the occasion, all Scouts in attendance were invited to join the Dance Team in a ‘pow wow.’ This is a rather free-form dance, characterized most significantly by a great circling motion as everyone moves around the campfire. Scouts, ranging from Tigers to Arrows joined in the fun to help celebrate their fellows’ achievements.

When at last all was done, the Tribesmen assembled for those who wished to get pictures with the team. This last step is ever popular as people usually wish to have some record for themselves of the amazingly elaborate, colorful, and authentic-looking regalia our dancers wear.  Each dancer, of course, constructs his own costume, a process that requires many hours of painstaking effort. Saturday, January 28th, 2017 was no different and our dancers did not don their civilian attire until every family that wished a photo had the chance to get one with the team.

To cap off a long, demanding, and successful day, many participants joined Alex at Babe’s in Carrollton to dine and swap stories.

Saturday was a very good day and that is all the more welcome when good days are so very appreciated. The good folks at Universal Academy have a treat awaiting them Monday morning.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Saturday - Gone to Texas

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

If Friday is bittersweet at Camp Geiger, Saturday is more so.

Our Scouts deserve recognition and praise for the effective, efficient, and enthusiastic manner in which they struck camp this morning.

Our Scoutmaster, Steve Kral, made the rounds to awaken everyone starting about 5:45 this morning in order that we might have time to get all our gear packed and loaded ahead of the oncoming rain storm. Your correspondent heard no complaints, though many Scouts and Scouters enjoyed but four or five hours sleep owing to the events of the night before. Sleeping bags and pads were rolled up, cots folded, and foot lockers packed in good time, if not, perhaps, with all possible care.

Loading the truck is always a team effort and the need for speed made that fact even more important than it normally is this morning. It seemed that everyone pitched in, from our newest First Years to our longest-serving Scouters. Foot lockers were loaded first, and this is when you see why we specify certain dimensions for these items. They are stacked and stowed quickly and with comparative ease. They are stacked three-high, to help keep the load stable, and on top of these goes the 'soft' stuff: cots, sleeping bags and pads,
folding chairs and suchlike. This continues until everyone's gear is on board. Then comes troop
equipment, such as the poles for the campsite gateway, water coolers, ice chests, lanterns, etcetera.

The truck was loaded in near-record time and properly too. This happened none too soon, by the way. As the last items were stowed, a light drizzle began. Soon, a good steady rain was falling but, with all our gear (except that we carry on the bus with us, such as back packs) safely packed away, the rain was no problem. We gathered under the spacious pavilion to enjoy our breakfast of fresh cinnamon rolls and to wait it out. Cards and conversation passed the time.

A little after 9:00 AM, the rain let up, briefly, and so the Session Three closing ceremonies were to go ahead as scheduled. We gathered in the Handicraft Corral at 9:30 to acknowledge various successes of the week. Each "area' (Handicrafts, Nature, COPE, etcetera) awards recognition to an especially accomplished Scout of the session. For example, Alex Brock was awarded for his outstanding photography.

After the area awards came camp-wide recognition. There are three important awards that, together comprise a kind of Geiger "Triple Crown." They are "Sharpest Unit" for the session, "Cleanest Campsite," and "the Spirit Stick." When the first was announced, we found we had tied with Troop 21 and this was no surprise. Starting at dinner Sunday evening, it was clear that Troop 21 was a very sharp outfit as well. In fact, just as we have something of a tradition of sweeping the 'Big Three' awards, so too does Troop 21. This was the first time we had shared a camping session.

"Cleanest Campsite" was next announced and we were pleased that we had garnered top honors there too. Keeping a clean campsite has positive consequences and recognition is but one of them.

The "Triple Crown"
When the senior Camp Commissioners stepped up to announce the winner of the Spirit competition, the tension, among us, at least, was palpable. The announcement was preceded by a brief encomium to the qualities that made the winning unit stand head and shoulders above the rest of the troops in attendance for the session. We were therefor all the more gratified when "Troop 451" was said aloud.

Once again, the efforts of our Scouts and Scouters earned public acknowledgement in the form of the Geiger Triple Crown. Your correspondent feels honored to be a part of such a fine Scouting unit.

Those ceremonies wrapped up Third Session, 2016.

Then, our bus having arrived, we boarded for the long drive home, made all the less monotonous by a stop at Pizza Ranch in Emporia Kansas for an all-you-can eat buffet lunch.

Now, we are heading down Interstate 35, eagerly awaiting our arrival home.

Thank You!
Your correspondent would like to thank Kevin Lee and Chris Samson for the use of essential equipment, without which, technical difficulties would have made this Blog impossible this week. Jay Turner and Venkat Kodali also offered expert advice during the trouble-shooting phase. Thank you all!

Most of all, thanks go to Steve Kral for his excellent efforts on behalf of our Scouts. A good Scoutmaster, of course, has good Assistant Scoutmasters and so it is with Steve. All of our ASMs also deserve thanks for their hard work in making this summer camp successful. We are fortunate in Troop 451 to have a great crew of leaders delivering the Scouting program to our boys and each of them deserves our gratitude. This correspondent is proud to serve alongside such dedicated, accomplished colleagues in support of their efforts. Rest assured, we will be delighted to welcome you among them.

There is not time or space to thank every 451 Scouter - so many people contribute so much. Yet one person must not be overlooked. Words cannot express our thanks to Julie DiSalvo for eight years and nine camping seasons as our Summer Camp Coordinator. The delights of which you have read this week could not have happened without her dedication. Julie, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. Your service will be missed but it will be missed with the understanding that you have already given more than we should have asked of anyone. Truly, this summer marks the end of an era for Troop 451. Best wishes in all your future endeavors!

While this post is the last for the Troop 451 2016 Geiger season that is actually written during camp, look here for occasional updates and further focus on topics of interest. This writer is pleased you have taken the time to peruse this humble literary effort and hopes you have enjoyed it.

Until next time, best wishes!

Friday - The End Draws Nigh

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Where has the time gone?

Fridays at  Geiger are bittersweet. The prospect of home and one's own bed is sweet, anticipating leaving camp is not. For those who have not yet had the opportunity to spend a week at this exemplary Boy Scout facility, its appeal is hard to explain. Sleeping accommodations are somewhat Spartan, the food, while decent is nevertheless camp food, and going anywhere involves climbing hills, lots of hills. And yet, these very features make Geiger special.

For example, the prospect of a half-mile walk to get to breakfast might not fill everyone with joy but it is  a commonplace of the Geiger experience. To get from our campsite, Sioux Lookout, to the dining hall, one goes via "Silver Eagle Trail." This broad footpath makes truth of those old stories about walking uphill - both ways!

Uphill, BOTH ways!

From Sioux Lookout, one descends to the nearby Flaming Crow trading post. Just beyond that is the Silver Eagle trailhead. A simple gateway marks this spot. From the trailhead, one descends rather rapidly for the first 50-or-so yards to a level stretch shaded by lovely, stately trees.
Even at noon, the glade is cool and, if the air that day is still, muggy. This shady stretch makes up for the steeper, sunnier slopes ahead. For, to proceed onward to the dining hall, one must needs climb another declivity to reach the level of the dining hall.  The climb on the dining hall end of the trail seems to get steeper and steeper as one rises. Thus, one arrives at one's meal with a feeling of having earned it! Truly, this route embodies "uphill both ways!" It is, notwithstanding, decidedly a part of the charm of summer camp.

Friday morning we dined on biscuits and gravy with hash browns, accompanied by orange-yellow liquid (your correspondent can offer no surer description, not having partaken of this or similar offerings).

The candidates for becoming braves in the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, styled "foxmen", are busily engaged in the various challenges set before them and even the adult candidates are kept busily-employed working on a service project for the camp.

Black Powder
Your correspondent, as mentioned previously, spent the morning assisting at the rifle range since an additional certified Range Safety Officer was wanted. Even when cleaning the rifles (the last step in qualifying for the Rifle Shooting Merit Badge) with the bolts removed, full safety precautions are still in force. There was a camp staffer present to do the actual instruction but a Certified RSO was also needed.

The Area director was otherwise engaged with the boys from the 'buckskin games', teaching them how to load, prime, and fire .50 caliber muzzle-loading rifles. This process involves filling a 30-grain brass 'measure' from a brass flask of powder and pouring that down the barrel. Next, one places a .50 caliber lead ball on a cloth patch over the muzzle (it is a muzzle-loader, after all) and pushes it down the barrel with the short ball starter.
Next, one pushes the ball and patch further into the barrel with the long starter. Then, with the ball and patch well into the barrel, comes time to use the ram rod. And ram one does, firmly tapping the ball, patch, and powder in place. The ramrod itself is aluminum while its business end is brass. Why all this brass? It is not just because it is pretty. Brass, like other copper alloys, does not spark when struck. Thus, it offers a safer alternative to iron or steel when handling flammable or explosive materials.

With the charge loaded, the rifle is ready for the primer. These are cap-and-ball rifles so, rather than being a touch of powder on a pan, the primers are small brass caps filled with a small amount of a concussion-sensitive explosive. Traditionally, mercuric fulminate was used. The percussion cap
is gently fitted over the corresponding nipple on the firing mechanism. The hollow nipple directs the small blast to the powder, which it will then ignite. Now, loaded and primed, all that remains is to aim and fire. As always, once the charge is loaded, the muzzle is kept pointed down range, even before the cap is on. This is just elementary gun safety - treat every firearm as a loaded firearm.

Brant Goodrich and Ian Hollenshead were official participants and both loaded and fired the rifle twice. In view of his evident amusement while observing the proceedings, Ryan Turner was also offered a chance to shoot. As with every
shooter on a BSA range, close supervision of all participants is the rule. Lastly Lynn Hatter and your correspondent took their turns. Running through the loading sequence, one can hardly believe that men used to do this while under fire. Yet, we are told that disciplined, well-trained troops could fire three rounds a minute using muzzle-loading muskets!

Every session of shooting necessitates a session of cleaning and this is all the more true since the propellant used in muzzle-loading firearms is much 'dirtier' than that found in modern cartridges. Interestingly, the preferred cleaner is a 1:1 mixture of Murphy's Oil Soap (the number one choice in America for washing elephants, we are also told) and alcohol. Swabbing the barrel is a vigorous physical experience.

Lunch Friday was chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Again, simple, filling fare. A highlight of the mealtime was our First year Scout Akhil Kodali being selected to play "Peanut butter sticker." This silly test of unnecessary skill involves flicking cards at an open-face peanut butter sandwich. He who sticks the most cards wins.

Showing unexpected expertise at flinging playing cards, Akhil won by the margin of a single card, upholding our troop's "honor"!

Activities resumed after noon as our boys wrapped up their week's Merit Badges. In the lulls between activities, many boys returned to Sioux Lookout for a break. Many boys, having completed their costumery, indulged in card games along the lines of Crazy Eights and such. The powerful fans were greatly appreciated in the warm afternoon.

Friday's dinner is always barbecue al fresco n in Scoutcraft Valley, not far from Tapping Valley. We dined on pulled pork sandwiches, along with potato chips, pickles, and a cookie. Next came time for the closing campfire at the Running Horse Council Ring. After this, many of our Scouts returned to our campsite to begin the necessary business of striking camp. Members of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say repaired to wherever it is they go, doing what tribesmen do on a summer's Friday night.

As for Mic-O-Say, this was a great week for Troop 451. Our three candidates, Alex Jansen, Nick Jansen, and Randy Lee were admitted to the Tribe as braves. Eric Bussey and Kevin Lee were inducted as Honorary Warriors.

Brant Goodrich, Ayrton Harried (who is serving on Camp staff), Nick Harris, Thomas Sorensen, and Alex Tyson advanced from Brave to Warrior (the "hard way" as opposed to those of us who are Honorary Warriors).

We also had Warriors advance to Fire Builder: Alex Brock, Austin Curtis, Ian Hollenshead, Jay Jay Rawson (staffer), and Jack Tyson.

Fire Builders who advanced to Tom Tom Beater were Alex Adams (staffer; advanced 1st Session), Cameron Breding, Ben Bryant, Andrew Gonzalez, Josh Hatter, Brady Jones, Neetin Khadka, Chad Kral (staffer), and Andy Turner (staffer),

We had no Tom Tom Beaters eligible to advance to Runner this year but we had two Runners who advanced to Keeper of the Sacred bundle: Ellis Covington (staffer) and James Koonce (former three-year staffer at Camp Geiger). These last two are Assistant Scoutmasters with Troop 451, having previously been Scouts.

Others among our Scouters also received recognition for their service to Scouting and to the Tribe.

David Gonzalez and Rob Rawson were awarded the coveted White Coup of Service while Mark DiCiaccio and Jim Koonce were elevated to Sachem in the tribe and are thus now members of the Tribal Council. In recognition of his long and outstanding dedication to Scouts, Scouting, and Mic-O-Say, and to the dance team, Richard Covington was made Medicine Man Big Iron Wheel. You may recall that this signal honor was awarded to Gary Lueking last year, recognizing his similar service.

It would not have been possible for so many of our Scouters to attend these momentous ceremonies had it not been for the good offices of Chris Samson, Roger Branson, and Venkat Kodali. These gentlemen stayed in camp to provide the required two-deep leadership that ensures the safety and security of our Scouts. Not all of the boys who attend Camp Geiger with Troop 451 are yet tribesmen. Thus, while the tribesmen go off to do what they do, these Scouts need leaders too. Our sincere thanks go to these dedicated Scouters. Special thanks to tribesman Chris Samson, who forewent the ceremonies so that others, including the listed honorees, might attend, confident that our Scouts were properly served. These Scouters helped oversee our younger Scouts as they began the complex process of striking our week's camp. Thank you for your service to our Scouts!

Tribesmen returned to Sioux Lookout in the wee hours of Saturday morning, greeted by cheese and pepperoni pizza, procured by Janice Hatter and Angie Kral, with help from Jordy Hatter. We thank them for a nice wrap-up to a busy, long, and demanding day.

In all, it was a great week for Troop 451 and the Tribe of Mic-O-Say. With five of our Troop 451 Scouts and one of our Scouters on staff this summer, it has also been a great summer for Camp Geiger!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Thursday - Tapping Fire!

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Tapping Fire

Today’s blog is a bit delayed. Your correspondent was needed elsewhere this AM as the rifle range was short a Range Safety Officer. Mr. Hatter also served in this capacity once he, Mr. Kral, Mr. Bryant, and Mrs. Harris had helped pull pork for our Friday night al fresco barbecue. In the interests of time, some of the descriptions of ceremonies that follows appeared previously.

Thursday was a fantastic day for the Tribe of Mic-O-Say and for Troop 451.

For many, perhaps all, at Camp Geiger, the high point of the week comes Thursday evening with the Tapping Fire. This ceremony is where candidates for membership in the Tribe are publicly acknowledged. Mic-O-Say is the honor camping society of Camp Geiger. Its origins go back to the 1920s, a time when many honor camping societies stressing Native American themes came into being. Most of these were later subsumed within the Order of the Arrow, to become part of Scouting’s national honor camping society but the tribe continued its independent existence, as did some half-dozen others around the country. All of these have the mission to work within the BSA to improve Scouts and Scouting. 

After 90 years of experience, the Tribe knows how to put on a show.

Thursday can seem to drag by as everyone waits for the ceremony to begin. Our day started with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and apple juice, after which all of our boys headed to their specified locations.

It seemed as though we had barely finished our various morning duties (not true, actually) when it was time to dine once more. Lunch, in a break from tradition, was hamburgers and waffle fries rather than the traditional sliced turkey breast and cheese sandwiches with potato chips and purple bug juice of indeterminate flavor. That menu was reserved for later Thursday. Camp food has a reputation for being somewhat foul but here at Camp Geiger, it is decent, hearty fare, the flavor of which is made all the finer by the substantial appetites worked up in the course of being outdoors all day, moving about this hilly terrain.

After lunch, as typically happens, we had a little while to rest and relax before returning to camp. There, current tribesmen put last-minute touches on their various Mic-O-Say regalia. Some worked on headbands, cuffs, or leggings, while others made essential repairs to back bustles or arm bustles.

Soon, it was time for a dinner of turkey and cheese sandwiches. As before, the salad bar was popular. After dinner, tribesmen headed off to wherever it is that tribesmen go on the night of tapping fire, to do whatever they do. The rest of our troop returned to camp until it was time to gather in the Handicraft Corral to prepare for the long hike to Tapping Valley. Now, the valley is right below the corral but, the night of the Tapping Ceremony, the path to it is roundabout and punctuated by several stops along the way where various details of the history of Camp Geiger and the Tribe of Mic-O-Say are presented to all the Scouts and Scouters attending the session.

In the center of Tapping Valley, tribesmen (your own Troop 451 Scouters, this year) have built an enormous bonfire.  From a distance, it looks much like any other, ordinary, campfire but up close, one can see that it nears 16 feet in height! What one took for good-sized sticks are actually the size of telephone poles and larger. Take a look at the photos of our scouters assembling this burnable behemoth to get an idea of just how large some of the lower logs are. Many families and visitors attend Tapping Fire to cheer-on their sons and spouses; others come just to enjoy the spectacle. As I mentioned, the Tribe knows how to put on a show.

The Scouts and Scouters approach the valley just around 9:00 PM. While they are still in the distance but in sight of the valley, the fire is ignited. This year, the especial honor of lighting the Tapping Fire was bestowed upon a member of Troop 451 who was then a Fire Builder in the Tribe. Josh Hatter climbed the carefully constructed ladder provided by our Scouts and Scouters who built the tapping fire and set it ablaze. This time of year, dusk is falling then and the fireflies come out in great abundance, their surprisingly intense flashes of light making the vegetation look alive in the dimming light. They offer a nice counterpoint to the growing blaze at the center of the valley.

As it grow darker, the valley grows lighter because the fire is growing bigger. The braves and warriors start to dance around the fire, accompanied by chanting and drums. The sight of the dancers, decked out in full dance garb (including the large, fancy feather bustles each boy makes), is dramatic indeed. The dancers circle the growing inferno, silhouetted as they pass in front and illuminated as they pass behind, all accompanied by the thrumming thump of the giant tom-tom and chanting in native tongues.

The campers approach, flanked by two long lines of older members of the tribe bedecked in their Native American-style finery. While the simplest Honorary Warrior’s costume is nevertheless quite elaborate, many costumes are far more impressive. The Sachems are there in their Mandan headdresses and the Medicine Men in their plains war bonnets, as are the chiefs and chieftains. Many sport elaborate beadwork requiring hundreds of hours of painstaking detail and many include optional items to dress up their already-fancy garb. The effect is truly stunning.

The campers circle the fire, one deep, facing the flames. Among them are the young men who may be

called to be candidates for membership. Once everyone is in place, two lines of torches appear on the precipitous slope of Cardiac Hill. At the head, between the torch bearers, is the Tapper. This prestigious role requires that a young man be able to run down that declivity brandishing a flaming torch, held high in his left hand, and a tomahawk, held high in his right. With a mighty war whoop, he charges down the steep slope and into Tapping Valley to enter the enormous circle of expectant Scouts and Scouters.

A crowd of nearly 500 campers makes a very large circle indeed and the tapper makes a complete circuit, both arms held high, before he begins to tap out candidates on his second pass. When a boy is tapped, the Tapper stops in front of him and taps him once on the left side of his chest. This is a ritual tap and the word tap describes the action accurately. The candidate is then tapped on his right shoulder and sent to stand before the presiding Chief in front of the roaring fire. The Tapper may circle past a candidate several times before he decides to stop and tap him. This only increases the palpable suspense that potential candidates feel as the watch the tapper making his rounds.

The Tapper continues making circuits until every candidate has been tapped. Then the Chief, Chieftains, and Medicine Men give the candidates, now styled “Foxmen” several charges before they are lead off by the runners (senior Scouts in the Tribe) to experience their Mic-O-Say ordeal. The speaking parts demand elocution and a truly stentorian voice; no electronic amplification or lighting is used in the ceremony. All the light is from flames and all the sound is that of the human voice or the giant drum. When the chants are sung, several voices in unison fill the valley but when a lone Chief or Medicine Man addresses the crowd, it is that voice and that voice alone that must be heard. It helps to be in a valley but, more crucially, it helps that the crowd is prepared to be silent and listen while the speakers are passing on their messages.

The braves and warriors then gather around the fire to perform a dance of joy, celebrating the fine new candidates who may become new braves. This year, Troop 451’s own Nick Harris was the first brave or warrior into the dance circle, leading the rest of his dancing peers. The whooping and ululations are thrilling as they dance about, bathed in the orange firelight. The world then looks black and gold. One gets a sense of what it might have been like to belong to a tribe long ago.

A spectacular moment comes when a dense column of sparks soars skyward, burning bright against the darkening sky. The brightly-glowing sparks rise upward until they seem to merge with the stars scattered across the heavens, making it seems as though the Tapping Fire is the source of them all.

Then it is time to call out the candidates for Honorary Warrior. These are Scouters who have served their units and Scouting. They are not ritually tapped (that honor is reserved for Scouts) but instead, the Chief calls them forward by name. They too are given explanations and charges before being led off. This year, Jim Koonce was called upon to speak for the Honorary Warriors of the Tribe.

For the public, that is the end of the ceremony though for the Foxmen, their night is yet young.

Troop 451 had 3 Scouts tapped and two adults as well. Our candidate Scouts are Alex Jansen, Nick Jansen, and Randy Lee; our adults are Eric Bussey and Kevin Lee. Congratulations!

Yes, Thursday was a fantastic day for the Tribe of Mic-O-Say and for Troop 451.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wednesday - is it here ALREADY?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Another day, another early dawn and another lovely sunrise. It is great to be outdoors on a beautiful Missouri morning in June. The day is quiet then, before the boys awaken, and the peaceful moments offer a chance to reflect. It is well to keep in mind that summer camp is all about the boys – we adults are here to ensure that they have a successful, enjoyable experience. The fact that we enjoy it too is pure lagniappe.

The morning was rather cool – enough so that jackets or sweatshirts were comfortable. The breeze that brought the change in temperature was the harbinger of oncoming rain but not before breakfast.

The morning meal was, of course, preceded by the raising of the flags and once again, our Scouts proudly served as color guard to raise the Texas colors once Old Glory had been hoisted by the Camp Staff color guard. Our troop earned the privilege of the recognition by keeping a clean, ship-shape campsite that garnered top marks in Tuesday’s camp inspection. Special recognition goes to this year’s Campmaster, Eric Bussey and his assistants. While Eric will be the first to assure you that a clean campsite is the result of a team effort (and it is), team efforts require leadership and this he has provided. Thank you! We enjoy having his efforts, those of our Scouts, and those of our Scouters, recognized in this very public fashion. We enjoy having a clean camp at least as much! It just makes camping more pleasant.

This morning, Troop 451, along with everyone else in camp, dined on pancakes and bacon. Simple fodder, yet effective.  

Following feeding, our Scouts headed out to Merit Badge classes or Trail to First Class. Then came the rain. We enjoyed a brief, heavy rain. Although it was not quite so intense as a Texas frog-strangler, it was, nevertheless, steady. Under the shelter of the pavilion, we hardly noticed and everyone’s gear stayed safe and dry. The experienced camper, not trusting tents, or even foot lockers, to resist the rain indefinitely, relies on packing clothes in plastic bags. Ziploc technology is a beautiful thing. In any event, we survived the short shower and enjoyed the cool contrast to the recent heat.

After every meal, the Troop 451 “Bank” is in business. While a Scout is thrifty, experience has taught that not every Scout is adept at handling a week’s worth of spending money all on his own. Thus, the Bank. This storied institution is managed by three adult “bankers” who oversee the disbursement of funds. As parents know, before we take the boys to camp, parents have the opportunity to deposit funds in a Scout’s ‘bank account’, which is cash, kept in an envelope with a disbursement log.

 Here, withdrawals are noted and signed for by the recipient Scout and counter-signed by the responsible banker. Parents may specify the amounts for daily withdrawals and our bankers duly comply. In addition to the week’s spending money, each Scout’s envelope includes separate funds for lunch on our return trip (Pizza Ranch! more on this later), along with his locker combination or spare key. Experience tells and we, as good Scouts and Scouters, like to be prepared. Our bankers for this session are Kevin Bryant, Roger Branson, and Gary Lueking.

Today, more than one first year camper seemed sadly surprised to discover all allotted monies had been expended already with the week only half-done. Call it a learning experience. One of the great aspects of Scouting is it gives our boys a chance to make decisions and experience the consequences. 

Young men in or about adolescence do not always make the wise choices we might wish for them to make. Yet Scouting offers them the chance to make decisions and deal with the consequences in a relatively safe, reasonably controlled environment. Thus, while they may make less-than-optimal choices, the impact of these suboptimal selections is limited. For example, a Scout who has spent all his money merely wants for goodies; food, clothing, shelter, and transportation are provided for irrespective. Spending all one’s pocket money may have undesirable consequences but it does not have devastating consequences. The lesson experienced and, perhaps, even leaned, the Scout takes one more step towards responsibility and honorable manhood.

Speaking of spending money, another popular feature of Camp Geiger is the Flaming Crow Trading Post! This center of camp life may be best known as the purveyor of the famous “slushy”, a frozen ice-and-syrup concoction of various colors and flavors, none of which are naturally occurring. However, on a hot, muggy Missouri summer afternoon, those features may not matter. Of supreme importance is the temperature of the thing and they are indeed cold.

The Trading Post's inventory includes T-shirts, knives, patches, and belts. Also sold are various camp necessities such as walking sticks, sleeping bags, Scout socks, water bottles, etcetera. Can you imagine a Scout arriving at camp without his bed roll? (I thought you could!) All of these things see a steady custom. However, next to slushies, the most popular article in the inventory may be the Camp Geiger messenger bags. These are durable and just the thing for slogging essentials from camp to classes. Another feature of the trading post that surely does not escape the boys’ notice is the air-conditioning. This surely must be another point in favor of a brief visit on a hot afternoon.

Alongside the Trading Post is the Inner Circle Trading Company, the store for most things Mic-O-Say and open to tribesmen only. There is also the Jumping Bear museum. This museum focuses of the history of Camp Geiger and the Tribe and is open to all the curious.

The morning is filled, as always, with myriad activities ranging from Trail to First Class to climbing the COPE tower. This latter is a tall structure, exceeding 60 feet in height. The main operations occur some fifty-or-so feet above the ground. The COPE course is as physically-challenging an activity as Camp Geiger offers, the mile swim notwithstanding. One set of tasks is illustrative of the activities on offer. Note that every moment a participant of the COPE course is above the ground, a safety line is firmly affixed to the harness. Thus, a plunging fall is not possible. However, even a short fall can create substantial forces and everyone on the tower grounds is required to wear a certified climbing helmet in deference to this fact. Safety is fundamental to the COPE concept.

This route begins with a climb up a narrow ‘rope’ ladder (actually steel cables and tubing) that is free at its lower end. If you have ever attempted even a short such ladder you know how tough that can be. Short, however, the COPE ladder is not. Via this pendulous ascent, the Scout reaches the upper level. Once there, he is first offered the opportunity to cross from one high platform to another via a pair of cables, one suspended about 4 feet above the other. The lower one serves as barely a bridge for the crossing, while the upper offers some measure of stability to the
non-Wallendas among us. The traverse is some 20 or 30 feet in length and looks sufficiently long from the perspective of terra firma. For the adventurous Scout, it may seem considerably longer. The next route is similar, although a pair of parallel upper lines serves as a railing of sorts, allowing the intrepid traveler to grasp a cable in each hand to help steady himself as he crosses back. Then comes the slat bridge.

Have you ever seen a movie, something about Indiana Jones, perhaps, where the protagonist must cross a rotting vine bridge above some impossibly-deep ravine? This is like that. The crossing is like an old, gap-toothed, unmaintained bridge where the bridge deck (such as it is) lies across two lines (cables in this case). The rub is that the slats are 18-24 inches apart! It takes some careful footwork to cross this obstacle without a resort to the safety line. But for those who make the trip, the destination is worth it. Remember, all of this is happening more than four stories above the ground.

The ‘reward’ for successfully surviving to that point is the zip line. The zipline is a cable suspended from the COPE tower on one end and a tall pole on the other, forming a catenary curve between. The route runs over open grass and along a broad cut through the trees, making for a scenic, if scary, journey. Down the cable’s arc, our climber slides at speeds thrilling to behold as he heads across the valley that lies between COPE and the rest of Camp Geiger. You may wonder how one completes such a descent, given the considerable velocities achieved along the way. Well, the momentum developed on the descent cannot (owing to those pesky laws of thermodynamics) carry something to a higher point than that at which it started. The simple solution to a gentle ‘landing’ is to let the momentum carry one partway up the ascending half of the catenary curve, until one begins to slide back down it. When the process is complete, the intrepid zip-liner comes gently to rest at the lowest point in the arc. There, a small platform supports a ladder that is raised to enable a safe descent from the line. Once the adventurer is back on Earth, the ladder is lowered so as not to present a hazard to the next adventurer.

Although the journey is brief, those who have taken it assure me that it is worth the effort to get there. Riding the zip-line is that intense an experience. Your correspondent, alas, must take their word for it.

Lunchtime saw us gather at the Flag Plaza (“where the flags are! The place of the flags, where the flags hang out”, according to a chant that seems popular with the camp staff). Once we were assembled, we were invited inside the dining hall with the traditional formula, “Now, with our hats off, let’s quietly enter the dining hall.” Yes, it may be summer camp but certain civilities are strictly observed and dining sans chapeaux is one of them. Today, we dined on breaded chicken fillet sandwiches. The salad bar, of course, saw a brisk business. The salad bar is simple but on par with many comparable commercial offerings.

Classes and activities resumed after lunch.

Camp Geiger has an outstanding shooting complex that offers traditional archery, 3-D archery, rifle shooting, and a shotgun range. Several of our Scouts took the opportunity to earn the corresponding Merit Badges. For example, Ryan Turner and Aiden Zentner were at the archery range Wednesday afternoon, poking arrows into bull’s eyes from the regulation distance. Meanwhile Jack Tyson was signed-up for shotgun shooting. A long trek is required to get to the ranges and a long, steep hill is involved. As a bonus, the shotgun course is in a beautiful, shady vale with a creek running through it and this setting is notably cooler than the sun bathed expanses further uphill.

In addition to its impressive facilities, Camp Geiger is located on a beautiful piece of real estate that is just right for being out-of-doors. The vale cuts deeply through ancient layers of limestone that sometimes give the steep hillsides the appearance of man-made masonry. The effect is eerily beautiful when a small spring plunges from one limestone course to the next. Often, the softer substances between the layers of limestone have eroded well-underneath the upper layer the creek is running along so that the small waterfall has something of a cave behind it. Several such geological features are in evidence as one strolls along toward the shotgun facilities, enjoying the break from the warming afternoon.

 While the Scouts were thus busily engaged, many of our Scouters were putting the finishing touches on Thursday night's "Tapping Fire" (more on this later).

Dinnertime seemed to arrive early and Wednesday night of each camp session is “Family Night.” This is a chance for Scout’s families to get a chance to see what their sons are raving about. Traditionally, the troops from nearer-by dine with their families in their campsites but since Texas is an awfully long ways away, many members of Troop 451 enjoy the dining hall’s offerings. That said, once again, an impressive number of Troop 451 families made the long haul to Missouri to visit their Scouts and Scouters and bring them a welcome meal of food from outside. For the rest, there was pizza, ice cream, and, of course, the salad bar.

The highlight of Family Night is the campfire at the Running Horse Council Ring. This traditional camp extravaganza features songs, and skits, like any campfire. It begins when each troop processes in, carring their American and Troop flags. These are left respectively to the left and right of the stage (from the audience’s perspective) as the troops silently file into their seating places.

 After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, we were treated to a repeat-after-me song, led by a camp staffer.  Then came the skits presented by various troops. Our Scouts presented “Listening to the Rolling Stones”, featuring Aiden Zentner, Julian Razavi, Nipun Grandhi, and Ryan Bussey, and “The Grumpy Monk” Featuring Ben Bryant and Neetin Khadka; our adults presented “Director’s Cut.” This Hollywood-style blockbuster featured spicy meatballs, an ambulance, and a saucy 9-1-1 operator, as well as the eponymous director. The cast members were Kevin Bryant, Eric Bussey, Mark DiCiaccio, Jessica Harris, Jim Koonce, Steve Kral, and Kevin Lee. Contact their agents for booking information.

After the skits, the braves and warriors of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say treated the awaiting crowd to a display of their feathered finery and their dancing skills. The sheer numbers of dancers in their carefully crafted costumes is awesome. To see them dance “The Warrior’s Dance” by the fire’s light is a sight indeed. Not quite the equal to Thursday night’s impressive spectacle, it is moving nonetheless. Among the dancers were Troop 451’s Alex Brock, Austin Curtis, Brant Goodrich, Nick Harris, Ian Hollenshead, Thomas Sorensen, Alex Tyson, Jack Tyson (no relation), and Jace Westfall. Congratulations to our Scouts on creating their marvelous regalia and for their excellent dancing. They did our Troop proud.

It seemed unlikely that the dance performance cold be ‘topped’ but Wednesday’s campfire closing did the trick. We listened to a recording of the late comedian Red Skelton doing a serious interpretive reading of the Pledge of Allegiance as the camp staff unfolded an enormous American flag, sufficient in extent to completely cover the Council Ring floor. That is large indeed. Members of our armed forces, both active duty and veterans were invited to join the staff in holding this great Stars and Stripes as the audience looked on in respectful silence. It was a most moving finale to a great campfire.

We then repaired to camp, some to sleep, and others to complete the day’s unfinished labors. While most of the costumes had been completed in time for the campfire, some details always remain. Moreover, the vigorous dancing results in repairs being sometimes required of even the most well-built regalia. Then too, tribesmen of more-advanced rank need additional costume components such as leather leggings and various other items. Thus, there is always something to be done.  A Mic-O-Say costume is not a destination; it is a journey!

The hour draws late, or, rather, early, and so to cot.