Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Day Two at Geiger

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Tuesday came very early for some members of Troop 451. For example, those seeking to earn the BSA Mile Swim badge were at the pool by 6:00 AM for practice. This morning’s breakfast was the traditional Camp Geiger cheesy eggs with hash browns. Afterwards, our boys and adults left well-fueled to enjoy another day of summer camp.
Our first year Scouts have been keeping busy at Camp Geiger’s ‘Trail to First Class’ program. Some of the information is review for our boys, most of whom are well on their way to becoming First Class Scouts, having all earned the rank of Tenderfoot .  As the week progresses, however, more and more of the items will be new to them. TTFC occupies the morning here at camp but the afternoons are available for earning various merit badges, such as swimming and cooking. Other popular topics include leatherworking, pottery, and Chess. There is free time for them too, and heading to the Trading Post for a slushie is a popular choice of what to do with it.

Our older Scouts are taking merit badge classes too. Environmental Science and Sustainability are among the classes on offer, as are first aid, camping, crime prevention, finger printing, rifle shooting, climbing, kayaking, and wilderness survival. That is to say, our Scouts have a broad choice of merit badges they can work on earning. Most will come home having earned three or four new badges. Check out our September Court of Honor if you want to see all that our boys achieve this week.

Our Scouts who are members of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say continue to employ their free time to improve or repair their elaborate costumes. This holds true for our adult tribesmen as well.

This year, we are once again in Sioux Lookout camp site. This is one of the campsites that have a brand-new storm shelter facility, meaning that every campsite will have a shelter capable of holding everyone in camp. five more are scheduled for completion by next camping season.

These tornado-proof refuges are built to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards (with some  help from a FEMA grant) and can shelter everyone in the campsite. They are constructed into the hillside with thick, steel-reinforced concrete walls and heavy steel doors and vents. They are engineered to withstand 250 mph winds or an impact with a 15-pound object traveling at 67-100 mph. That may sound like overkill at first but if one knows what tornadoes can do, it sounds like simple prudence. Believe me, if the need for such a shelter ever arises (this is the Midwestern United States after all, so severe weather is not an unlikely possibility), we will be grateful that they are there.

Because such shelters may be needed for an extended period, the FEMA standards require that they have bathroom facilities. Thus, our campsite has both flush toilets and sinks, and a hot shower. This alone would greatly enhance our camping experience. As a real plus, however, our shelter is topped by a very nice pavilion. With this included, these new shelters enhance the Geiger experience 100%.

The pavilion at Sioux Lookout is about 25 x 40 feet. Because it sits atop the tornado bunker, its floor is concrete. The roof is supported by well-braced, rustic wooden beams that are tied to the shelter by means of metal stirrups cast into the concrete. This provides a large space of welcome shade from the midday sun. Because of its location, it is often favored by a cooling breeze.

In years past, our troop has carried two large, custom-built dining flys to camp to afford some of the functions the pavilion now provides. In fact, setting up those flys was a major activity for the boys that first Sunday of camp. Knowing we were assigned to a campsite whose pavilion was complete, we opted to bring only one fly and, in the end, we decided we did not need even that.

The pavilion easily accommodates six picnic tables and all of our troop tribesmen’s regalia. Since the regalia includes the fancy feather bustles for those tribesmen who dance, these boxes can be quite bulky, The regalia pile is a not inconsiderable mound of luggage. We also bring along supplies and tools for costume making. All of this fits easily under the pavilion and provides ample workspace for all who need it as well as acting as a gathering place for those who merely wish to sit and visit.

Miscellaneous other activities happen in the pavilion too. For example, I am writing this blog there now.

When the shelter project is completed, Camp Geiger will have 14 new shelters and the money for these has already been secured. Unfortunately, FEMA understandably views the pavilions as a luxury and no grant monies can be used to finish these. Only two of the shelters now have pavilions. Thus the camp is working on raising funds to complete these structures. Those who camp here are anxiously hopeful that donors will come forth to help our favorite camp become even better than it is now.

Today, Jim Koonce organized many of our adults for this year’s 451 service project for the camp. We are installing benches of the 3-D archery range so that each station has a spot for participants to rest. Gary Lueking prepared the bench seats by routering in our Troop number and staining and sealing the wood. Six stations are getting benches This requires digging 18 30-inch-deep holes and setting 18 posts so that their tops are perfectly level. The seats are then bolted to the posts. Among participants were Kevin Bryant, Eric Bussey, Richard Covington, David Gonzalez, Dennis Goodrich, Jessica Harris, Lynn Hatter, Kevin Hollenshead, Roger Miller, Rusty Miller, Venkata Saripells, Chris Samson, and Paul Williams. If you were there and I missed your name, let me know so I can add you to the list. Marc DiCiaccio ran to get supplies. Thanks to Kevin Bryant for supplying some of this information.
Tonight, we look forward to the Geiger Games, including the newly-introduced "Human Foosball"!

More on that later.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday, Monday

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Our Monday at Camp Geiger began with an early wake up, courtesy of our friend Mr. Sun and his gorgeous rise. At these more northerly latitudes, sunrise comes a bit earlier than it does down Texas way. The difference is not huge but it is noticeable (5:53 this morning here, versus 6:21 AM back home).

After morning ablutions had been performed, we headed to the dining hall for breakfast. Actually, nine of our boys reported early to serve as our table waiters. In the dining hall at Camp Geiger, our meals are served family style. The table waiters’ responsibilities before the meal include making sure cups, plates and flatware are at each place and setting out the serving dishes.

Today, we broke our fast with sausages and French toast. A day at summer camp requires a lot of energy and a hearty breakfast helps ensure that everyone is adequately fueled for their morning activities.

After what feels like 5 minutes of eating, we move on to the “two minute drill”. This effort is to assist the table waiters with clean up. Everyone scrapes plates into one bowl, empties drinks into one of the serving pitchers, and sorts the flatware into one of three glasses drafted for that purpose. Trash goes into yet another serving bowl. After the meal, the table waiters clear the tables, delivering the sorted dishes to the appropriate cleaning stations where the dining hall staff takes over. Then, the table waiters wipe down the tables and benches, sweep the surrounding floor and otherwise leave their tables prepared for the next meal.

Today, lunch was chili cheese dogs and Fritos. A highlight of the lunchtime program is the announcement of the winners of that morning’s camp inspections.  Regular readers of this blog may know that Troop 451 prides itself on “owning” the cleanest campsite recognition, which includes flying our state’s flag on the flag plaza the following day. Last year, for example, we won four of the five times and thereby earned the overall cleanest campsite award.

We work hard to have a campsite that is not only neat and clean but also attractive and functional. For example, we erect a gateway of lashed poles that tells the World that we are Troop 451, We also have signs indicating where the various troop youth leadership are tenting. Many Scouts add a personal touch to their tent areas, putting out picket fences, flamingos, palm trees, lights, etc. I kid you not! If you don’t believe me, check out our SmugMug page (http://troop451.smugmug.com/) or our Facebook page.

Imagine our surprise when Third Place was announced as a two-way tie, at 97 (of a possible 100) points! and Troop 451 was one of those tied for third. Third! Second place required 99 points and, with one hundred points each, SIX troops tied for first.

We were happy to have placed, of course, but this result was certainly surprising to us. One may infer from a six-way tie that today’s inspectors may not have been among the most experienced we have known. In fact, later, our Camp Master, Kevin Lee, went to inquire into reviewing the score sheet so that we could see where we needed to improve our efforts.

Before handing it over for a look, the person handling this paperwork paused and said that there was a math error on the sheet. The judges had added up 100 points to a total of 97!  There had been, in fact, a SEVEN-way tie for ‘first’. The correction was announced at dinner (chicken Alfredo!), just after today’s “Sharpest Unit” was announced. Just as we did yesterday, Troop 451 garnered this prestigious prize. Again, it came down to Scout Socks. But Troop 360 remains serious competition and I, for one, cannot rest assured that we won’t be second-best next time. Whatever happens, it is great to be part of so sharp a unit!

We surely face a challenging field here this session and we will redouble our efforts, striving our best to keep a proud troop tradition alive.

After dinner, many boys attended a non-denominational vespers service or Catholic mass before heading off to more adventure (free rappelling, rifle and shotgun, etc.) Others returned to camp to work on their tribal regalia.

Tribal regalia is a sight to see and watching our Troop 451 members of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say build their own is fascinating. For those new to the experience, many veteran costume builders are always willing to lend a hand.

A challenge for some of our Scouts is to create a beaded headband. This must be constructed on a beading loom using the aptly-named ‘seed beads.’ Although they are made of glass, these beads are tiny! It can take 120 of them to make a square inch of finished beadwork. Clearly, creating a pattern that is at least 1 x 6 inches, is a detailed, time-consuming task requiring good fine motor skills. Again, our veteran tribesmen are there to offer advice and demonstrate technique.

The end results are impressive and range from the deeply traditional, strictly following authentic styles, to the modern and humorous. Imagine, for example, a beaded headband, sporting the warrior’s two feathers but displaying in its beadwork the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street! This latter creation is the work of Life Scout Ben Bryant, known affectionately to his peers as “Cookie.”

Other Scouts completed rattles to dance with, or the great feathered bustles that make the native-inspired costumes so impressive. Even if a Scout tribesman has already completed his costume, once it arrives at camp, the costume may be found to need repairs of some sort. Thus, our new pavilion is filled with busy boys diligently working of their regalia, even well past sunset.

The new tornado-proof storm shelters and accompanying pavilions that grace camp this year are a story in and of themselves. We will explore these fantastic additions to the Camp Geiger experience in greater detail in a future post.

And so to bed.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Settling in to Summer Camp

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Our first day of Camp Geiger, 2015 draws to a close. The day started with continued bus travel through the vast expanses of eastern Kansas, mostly heading straight towards the rising sun, which popped over the horizon about 5:30. Needless to say, for many, the bright rays ended what sleep they may have been able to grab. With the prospect of soon being at Camp Geiger, however, it seemed a small inconvenience.

We stopped on the outskirts of Saint Joseph for a delicious, and oohh, so nutritious, McDonald’s breakfast. Well, it was a pragmatic choice and, for better or for worse most hunger was duly assuaged. Once the last of us had dined, it was back on the bus for the brief trip to Geiger itself.

The camp has a new director and some things are being done a little differently. One consequence of these changes was that we spent the time between our arrival and noon, or so, waiting. Again, our boys deported themselves commendably. One useful diversion came courtesy of Jace Westfall, who joined us from his new home in California. Jace was working on a requirement for his Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge and directed a ‘troop mobilization.’ In this case, the objective was to locate a supposedly-missing member of Troop 451. Not only did Jace learn useful skills, so did all the rest of our troop. Should such an undesirable eventuality befall us, we will be better prepared.

After enjoying the sack lunches we brought along, it was time for a camp tour. A must for first-timers at Geiger, the tour was interspersed with various tasks needed to get us settled in for a week of summer camp. Our tour guide was well known to our Scouts because he was James Koonce, serving his third summer on the Camp Geiger staff.

The first of these tasks was a visit to the Medical Lodge to check in with our medical forms (yes, there really is a reason we have to fill these out!) This was done in good time but, as ours is a large troop, even efficient paperwork processing can seem interminable. Again, our young men handled the wait well. After a couple of more stops on the tour, the Troop headed to the swimming pool for our swim checks.

The Boy Scouts of America have established strict guidelines for the safe conduct of the many adventurous activities that are at the heart of Scouting. Among these is a requirement that everyone who wishes to get into the water must have their level of swimming proficiency evaluated. “Non-swimmers” are relegated to a clearly-marked shallow area. Beginners are given a bit more challenge but if one wishes to go into water over one’s head, one must demonstrate the ability to jump into water deep enough to be over one’s head, swim 3 lengths of the pool in a strong, forward stroke, and one more doing the back stroke. Then the examinee must float on his back for a few seconds. One of the pool staffers evaluating the would-be swimmers' performances was Troop 451’s own Andy Turner.

Not every Scout in 451 plans to use the pool this week, but all of those who did merited the rank of ‘swimmer’, including every first-year Scout who braved the evaluation.’

After everyone from the troop was done, we repaired to our home for the week, Sioux Lookout. Both our boys and the adults settled into their tents, with many people going the extra mile to truly personalize their space. Check out the Troop 451 Smug Mug posts to see photos of these inspired efforts at personal expression.

At 5:00 PM, many of our adult scouters attended the first leaders meeting, ensuring that we were up-to-date on the latest camp information. Meanwhile, our Scouts were putting on their ‘Class A’, field uniforms for the first troop inspection of the week. This exacting inspection takes place when all of the session’s campers are lined-up, waiting to enter the dining hall for dinner. Before that can happen, though, the colors must be retired for the night. Seeing several hundred Scouts and Scouters saluting as the Stars and Stripes are lowered for the evening is a stirring sight indeed.

And then on to a filling dinner of Salisbury steak, mashed taters, and corn. When the time came to explain the drill for obtaining seconds, the staffer demonstrating the sector system was Chad Kral. As dinner came to an end, the evenings “Sharpest Troop” was announced.

In years past, we have often been assured of this award each day since we are the only full-uniform troop in attendance. This year, however, we face stiff competition in the form of Troop 360 out of Kearny, MO. Thus, we truly were anxiously awaiting this announcement. When the Emcee said that it was the closest such contest in recent memory, we all tensed. Then he told us it had come down to a matter of Scout socks. Many of us feared we had lost, as one of our members was not sporting official BSA socks. But no! When the winner was revealed, it was Troop 451!

We were delighted of course, from first year Scout to decade+ veterans. Yet we are on notice, if we wish to claim our crown as the sharpest unit of the week, we cannot slacken our attention to our uniforms.

After dinner, we enjoyed  the first camp fire of the session. Essentially, this is an opportunity to introduce the 2015 Camp Geiger staff to the incoming campers. When each of the FIVE staffers from Troop 451 were introduced (in addition to those mentioned above, Alex Adams and Ellis Covington are also staffing handicrafts and pool, respectively), we sent up a ringing cheer. The other troops present figured out that there was a connection. As with any respectable camp fire, it included silly skits and singing, followed by a moving closing song.

It has been a long, if delightful, day.

And so to bed.

A Stop in the Night

Sunday, June 28th, circa 2:20 AM

A highlight of any Troop 451 trip to Geiger is stopping at a Love’s Truck Stop to load up on junk food and belly wash after tending to more pressing concerns. In truth, the break in the nearly-unvarying experience of a night time bus ride up I-35, is a welcome diversion. Despite a hefty advertising effort on behalf of the various establishments that line the interstate from the Red River to Oklahoma City, it hardly seems to be an “Adventure Road.’ It seems to be rather the opposite, in fact, though the large casino complex with its cheesy imitations of well-known international landmarks is striking, in its kitschy way.

By the time we pulled in to Love’s, almost everyone was asleep (thank Goodness!) but there is something about the change in speed and the sharper curves of an off-ramp that wakens many a sleeping soul. The transformation from semi-inert sleepyheads to the active boys we all know and love was nearly instantaneous.

Our boys were off the bus in good order and waited patiently to make their purchases, many of which would, doubtless, meet with a mother’s approval. Those of us who, for various reasons both silly and sound, did not bring a lunch for Sunday were relieved to find the 24-hour Subway sandwich shop open for business. Given that more than fifty people needed to get off and back on the bus, making purchases in between, this was a fairly rapid stop. Everyone was back on the bus in good time and were resumed our pilgrimage to the Geiger Reservation.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

We’re on the way, Hey! Hey!

Saturday night, June 27th

Following in the footsteps of last year’s unprecedented punctuality, almost everyone arrived at First United Methodist Church, Lewisville prior to 9:30 PM. Like last year too, the weather was fairly mild, making standing around outside quite tolerable. There were many final goodbyes said amidst the large crowd of well-wishers as parents prepared to send their sons and spouses off for a week of Scout Camp. For several of our Scouts, this is their first experience of this kind. For many others, of course, the drill is old hat and their veteran status shows.

Loading proceeded smoothly, with the boys loading their lunches into the coolers as they got on board the bus by rank, Eagle Scouts first. Many parents took advantage of the opportunity to get photos of the well-filled transport, replete with Troop 451 red.

Although we expected a fully-packed bus, various unforeseen exigencies meant that a few riders will be going up to Missouri separately. Thus, we have a bit of extra room for the water cooler, for example. That is a ‘silver lining’ of sorts, We wish those who could not be on the bus good health and safe travels and await their arrival at Camp Geiger.

By contrast with last year, we passed through Denton without delays. The time passed more quickly for the availability of homemade cookies courtesy of Mrs. Kral and Mrs. Samson. Yum!

Now, we are wending our way northward through the dark summer night, mile by mile, eagerly anticipating our arrival at Geiger in the morning!