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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tuesday - Another Great and Good Day!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Gettin' Up Time

In the cool hour of dawn, it is hard to recall the Amazonian heat and humidity of the day before. The sky begins to lighten shortly after 5:00 AM and the sun is up just before 6:00. The temperature is a welcome respite.

In keeping with the dawn’s early light, the camp stirs early too. Even before it is light enough to see the ground underfoot, folks are up and heading to the storm shelter/wash house in hopes of enjoying a warm shower without a wait. The storm shelters deserve a digression here.

Storm Shelters
Owing to the potential for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, the good folks of the Pony Express Council of the BSA and Camp Geiger determined that each campsite needed a safe, tornado-resistant refuge. Scouting is an outdoor program and being in the outdoors entails, inescapably, some degree of risk. That does not preclude prudent precautions, however, and these shelters are just that. They are an effective means of reducing some of the risks of enjoying the outdoors.

The basic concept is that of a concrete blockhouse, half-buried into the hillside so that the roof of the shelter is level with the ground above and the entrance is level with the ground below. Geiger is well-endowed with such hillsides in or nearby each campsite. The shelter itself is constructed of steel-reinforced concrete several inches thick and the doorways are fitted with heavy steel doors. Even the air vents are covered with heavy steel plates and mesh screening. The sign on the shelter says is can withstand a 250 mph missile impact. I suspect that is an underestimate. These structures look as though they would withstand plunging howitzer fire. The ceiling, for example, is at least a foot thick.

The innermost chamber is a room large enough to accommodate an entire campsites worth of people. While it would not be the most comfortable experience to spend several hours there with 60+ other campers, it would surely beat being out in the storm.

The entrance to the shelter is covered by an overhang and the entry doorways flank this porch, facing each other rather than straight ahead. This too is in deference to the possibility of folks needing access during severe weather; the doors can be opened without letting the wind straight in. Each doorway opens to a hallway. The outer wall abuts the soil while the inner one has doors leading to toilets and showers. In total, there are three of the former and two of the latter. Beyond, at the end of these hallways, are the entrances to the main shelter room. The facilities are Spartan compared to what we know at home but compared to summer camps past, they are luxurious. Our thanks go out to those who donated to make these shelters a reality. Few of us would consider donating a storm shelter to be a glamorous act and the vision of those who donated nonetheless is greatly appreciated. One hopes these shelters never prove needful but, if ever they do, those campers who use shelter in them will be grateful.

Part of the cost of these shelters was covered by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and with FEMA funding comes some strings. Well, for a Geiger camper, these are more like silk ribbons. That is because the FEMA standards for such shelters include running water, and sanitary facilities. This makes sense, if you may house a large crowd for several hours, certain needs will arise and must be accommodated. The “silk ribbon” here is that this means, since every campsite now has a shelter, every campsite now has flush toilettes, hand washing sinks, and (wait for it) HOT SHOWERS!

No longer do those who desire a certain level of personal hygiene need to trek across camp in search of a simple shower. The necessary facilities are now right at hand. You may imagine what a tremendous upgrade this is to the camp experience, at least for the Scouters in attendance. From experience, we know that not every Scout is quite so assiduous in attending to these matters on a daily basis, although many do shower in consequence of using the swimming pool! The showers there were once noted for being hot and plentiful, a detail that matters so much less now that the shelters are here.
Another marvelous feature of these shelters comes from the vision of those who imagined the possibilities. Every shelter is provided with a sturdy pavilion on top. The dimensions of the shelters, about 21 x 36 feet, make for a large, flat, solid surface. Fitted with railings and roves, these make for commodious platforms for campsite activities such as putting finishing touches on dance regalia. This is especially appreciated when comes the rain. While we have had no intense storms since arriving Sunday morning, we have enjoyed a few brief, light showers.

Learning from last year’s experience, when Sioux Lookout was one of the few campsites whose shelter had a pavilion atop it, this year, Messrs. DiCiaccio and Koonce brought enormous industrial fans to provide some air circulation on those windless, muggy afternoons. With this addition, the pavilions are downright comfy. They are a great venue for crafts and conversation.

Following reveille at 7:00 AM, we repaired to the dining hall, by way of the hilly Silver Eagle Trail. There, we had the distinct pleasure of seeing our young men (Nick Harris, Ian Hollenshead, Jeremy Halbach , and Thomas Sorensen) serve as color guard for raising the Texas flag alongside the Stars and Stripes over the Cloud L. Cray Plaza. We were awarded this signal honor by once again garnering “Cleanest Campsite” honors after Monday’s campsite inspection. While we keep a clean campsite because we like it that way, it is nice to have the efforts of our Scouts and Scouters recognized in this way.

Waiting Tables
Let’s take a tour of the typical meal service at Geiger. Seating for meals is at tables that are about four-feet square and that accommodate eight individuals, two-to-a-side, seated on benches. Each table is assigned to a certain troop who appoints a table waiter to tend to the needs of that table. For each meal, Troop 451 needs 8 waiters and those selected for this duty serve for a whole day, three meals. The table waiters lay out the flatware, bring the serving dishes, and make sure napkins and condiments are in order. As one may have surmised, meals are served “family style” from the serving vessels at each table.

Because this assignment requires genuine effort, we rotate it among our Scouts, eight each day, starting with dinner Sunday evening and continuing through lunch on Friday (Friday’s dinner is served al fresco). This means 8 Scouts for six days and as we have just 38 boys with us this summer, some Scouts pull double duty. Among the more onerous aspects of this service is the need for the waiter to keep the water pitcher filled. At summer camp, proper hydration is heavily emphasized. Owing to the good offices of our dutiful waiters, each table is ready when we enter the hall after the flag ceremony.

Breakfast, served at 7:30, was the traditional Tuesday fare of Cheesy eggs and ‘hash browns.” Filling and fueling, the meal was consumed with a gusto that comes from spending one’s days out-of-doors. In addition to a troop’s Scouts, each table is usually host to a Camp Geiger Staffer. The staffers sit at the same table each day but our Scouts are free to rotate around as they wish. Of course, people being people, we tend to return to “our” seats each meal.

Every breakfast features a presentation of the “Knot of the Day” by Camp staffers. For Tuesday, this was the bowline. We learned about rabbits, trees, and rabbit holes, and how which runs around what and into where.

Morning Activities
Following the meal, our Scouts enjoyed a brief break before Merit Badge classes commence at 9:00 AM. Our First Year Scouts, of course, attend Trail to First Class in the mornings.
While your correspondent repaired indoors to sort out some technical issues with photos and blogs, Chris Samson took over photographer duties for the day,
following our boys from Scoutcraft to the Nature Lodge, to the pool with our First Year Scouts,
wherever else our Scouts were learning new skills this fine, cooler, day. Though the day did grow quite warm as the afternoon came, we were grateful that it was not the more uncomfortable conditions of the previous days.

Midday Mealtime
Lunchtime saw us gather again for “riblets”. These patties are made of flesh, flaked and formed, perhaps from a pig but bovine is barely possible as well. In any event, drenched in barbeque sauce and served on a bun, they, along with plentiful French fries, assuaged midday hunger. As always, the salad bar adds a lighter, fresh touch to each lunch and dinner. Of course, it is a delight to see our troop flag on the dais, in recognition of our "Sharpest Unit" honors.
We were in suspense as today’s “Cleanest Campsite” results were read off. Today’s inspectors had noted a scrap of paper in our campsite and a branch touching a tent that we had not trimmed. Nonetheless, we again merited top marks in this friendly competition. It is GREAT to be a member of a sharp, neat, and tidy unit!

Today’s paraprandial entertainment consisted of two lads attempting to unwind toilet paper from the roll and around both arms in record time. One participant was so skillful at this arcane task that one might be tempted to assume he had done it before. Alas, none of our Scouts got a shot at this particular glory today.

Afternoon Activities
This afternoon, our Scots who are braves and warriors in the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, along with those from every troop here this session, again rehearsed the dance they will perform publicly at Thursday night’s Tapping Ceremony (more on this later). Others went to the archery range, the rifle range, or the shotgun range to hone their skills and earn the corresponding Merit Badge. Others went to the lake to reinforce canoeing of kayaking skills. Some of our Scots and Scouters took advantage of the COPE tower to exercise their rappeling. Project COPE is a kind of "ropes" course where Scouts can improve both their climing skills and their self-confidence. Again, Mr. Samson was good enough to capture some of these experiences to share on SmugMug.

Building a Bonfire

While our Scouts were busily honing their various skills, many of our adults were busily building the enormous arrangement of logs that will be this Thursday’s Tapping Fire. Among those contributing were Roger Branson, Eric Bussey, Richard Covington, Kaleb DiCiaccio, Mark DiCiaccio, David Gonzalez, Dennis Goodrich, Jessica Harris, Lynn Hatter, Jim Koonce, Kevin Lee, Gary Lueking, and Wes Williams. This is a true construction project, requiring chain saws and gasoline-powered drills. The huge lower logs, some 18-inches in diameter, are notched to accept the next layer. This stabilizes the structure and keep the logs in place as the tower grows. Each tier is finished with a layer of slightly smaller logs inside the larger ones and the tiers rise at right angles to one another. Once the smaller logs are in use (“smaller” being the diameter of telephone poles!), the logs are held in place by boring holes through one and pounding a piece of rebar into the one below it. The result is a tower of timber that will exceed a dozen feet in height.
So dedicated were our Troop 451 Scouters that they opted to forgo lunch rather than delay their progress. Steve Kral, Dennis Goodrich, David Gonzalez, and your correspondent assembled box lunches for or busy colleagues. Today’s efforts complete the ‘log cabin’ phase of construction. Tomorrow will see the project completed.
Eventide Commestibles
Dinner arrived almost before we knew it. Owing to the “Geiger Cup” competition immediately after dinner, tonight’s attire was our “activity uniforms”. These erstwhile “class B” togs consist of a Troop T-shirt, scout socks, shorts, and belt. This contrasts to the “field uniform” (aka “class A”) attire, which includes the above plus a Scout shirt and neckerchief. Even so, the “Sharpest Unit” competition was on and, disappointingly, we were outclass B’ed by Troop 21, who seemed as delighted with their achievement as we are when we earn that recognition.

Dinner arrived, courtesy of our table waiters. Tonight we dined on “burritos” with Spanish rice and chili sauce. This meal is legendary for its post-consumption consequences. The wag who provided a whoopee cushion may have hit the nail on the head with that one.

A feature introduced to mealtimes last year was "radio station" KAMP, 193.5 on your dial. At each meal, they provide a musical accompaniment for our dining pleasure and tonight's theme was Taylor Swift. When her song "Love Story" came on, a spontaneous dance demonstration ensued.

The Geiger Cup
The Geiger Cup is awarded to the champion team at the uniquely-Geiger game of “Human Foosball”. This is played in a specially constructed arena in which the participants are arrayed on rope “rods”, in mimicry of the smaller, indoor sport. We fielded two teams from Troop 451, one of which advanced as far as the semi-finals before being eliminated from cup competition.

Once back in camp, the pavilion was again the site of costuming and card games. At length, the need for rest overcame the desire to experience every possible second of camp and our boys trickled to bed. As usual, the last lamp was extinguished by your correspondent.
And so to cot.