Camp Geiger, Monday, June 29

Marvin Atkins has been at Camp Geiger for more than 35 years. To put that in perspective, he started here when Richard Nixon was President. And some of us were taking our first steps. Put another way, when you look at his necklace, he got one set of those beads for each year of service here.

Talk to him for even a few minutes and it's easy to understand why Marvin is a favorite with both the kids and the parents. He oversees the shooting and archery sections of camp and runs the "Buckskin Games" area at the base of the hill where our campsite sits. He'll tell you it's the most popular spot in the whole camp. He's probably right. Then again, what's not to like?

A former soldier and policeman, Marvin is like everyone's favorite grandfather - patient, sarcastic and eager to teach. All with a healthy dose of curmudgeon thrown in to command respect from the kids who need to understand both the fun and safety requirements of throwing tomahakws and knives and cracking bullwhips.

After a quick history of "hawk throwing" and some suggestions to improve their throwing techniques, Marvin perches under the "Marvin's Hawks" sign at the top of the entryway to the throwing corral and watches. He's quick to encourage each group of four throwing at the stumptop targets six paces away. "Come on, I want to see four hawks stick," he calls out. On the first throw, all four boys stick their throws and he shouts his approval, but on the next, three bounce the tomahawks off the target. "You guys keep throwing like that, I'll never learn to count to four!" he says with a big smile.

Each boy, whether from our troop or another, approaches Marvin wide-eyed. This morning, one boy from a troop in Kansas came up and said, "Marvin, I washed out of my life-saving merit badge and I don't have anything for second period. Can I come and stay here with you for two periods?" He didn't blink. He didn't check a class report. He just put his arm around the boy's shoulders, looked him in the eye and said, "Of course you can stay here with me. Come on, let's throw some hawks!"

Like I said, Marvin is everyone's favorite.


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