Sunday, January 3, 2016

Conclave 2016

Any brief expedition from suburban North Texas to rural Northwest Missouri by land must satisfy an old adage: Getting there (and back) should be half the fun. This trip was no exception. The drive up is always amusing from the presence of friends and, sometimes, family members too.

We departed from First United Methodist Church of Lewisville shortly after 8:00 AM on New Year's day and arrived in Savannah, Missouri nearly 11 hours later, having stopped for gas, meals, and other urgencies. 

We members of the Lone Star Dance District joined the youth and adult members of White Shield for a 'lock-in' featuring regalia work and dance practice along with sundry sweet and salty snacks and refreshments. Our accommodations were in the gym and kitchen of the First Baptist Church of Savannah.
 
As part of the dancing, White Shield displayed their modification of a traditional dance to add to its already-unmistakable drama. This included a tall red flagpole sporting a red leather banner signaling that the tribe was at war. The pole was carefully designed so that its height could be adjusted  appropriately for many different venues where the dance might be performed. 
 
The costume construction and dancing continued short of midnight when we all pulled out our sleeping bags. Soon, the gym took on the appearance of a refugee center, with sleeping forms arrayed around the room. 

We broke our brief fast at 7:00 Saturday morning with biscuits and gravy prepared by adult members of White Shield. Then it was off to Conclave itself. 

Conclave is the winter gathering of the tribe of Mic-O-Say. Not the most ancient of tribal traditions, it is nevertheless a popular one. While most tribal gatherings are held at Camp Geiger (the "Geiger Reservation"  to tribesmen), conclave is held indoors. This is in deference to the colder clime. Though this year's weather was comparatively balmy at around 45 degrees F by midday, we have attended this event when the temperatures fell to single digits and the wind was such as to make being outdoors for an extended period more than unpleasant; rather, it would have been downright risky!
 
For 2016, Conclave was held at Savannah Middle School, Savannah, Missouri, just a few minutes up the road from Camp Geiger itself. Conclave is a time for tribesmen, youth and adult alike, to renew old friendships and make new ones. It is also a time to acquire new skills in the construction of one's outfit. One of the great benefits to even an experience tribesman, is the chance to swap ideas and techniques with others. Virtually everything about making one's costume can be done well in more than one way. On the other hand, some things are so tried and true that it makes little sense to spend one's limited time reinventing a well-worn wheel. Learning and teaching become other occasions for friendship and fellowship and many tribesmen and women took full advantage of the opportunities.

This year saw a few important records set for troop 451. For starters, we had the largest contingent our troop has ever sent to conclave: 29 people; 16 Scots and 13 Scouters, including three of our former Scouts who have recently reached adulthood. 
 
The schedule opened with a general information session before moving on to the various break-out sessions which are the heart of the morning's activity. For example, there were special classes for braves (1st year tribesmen) to go over the very basics of costume construction. Also in the morning, there were several classes one might attend, ranging from beading (loom, lazy stitch, and rosette) to making leather leggings. Another critical activity was the morning's interviews with prospective Camp Geiger Staffers. For many of the young men aspiring to staff their favorite summer camp, these interviews were an ocasion for tension and not some little aprehension as they approached their first-ever job interviews.
 
Additionally, the Inner Circle Trading Company, the tribe's own emporium (typically hosed at the Flaming Crow Trading Post at Camp Geiger)was there with the most complete inventory yet brought to a tribal Conclave. Many tribesmen found this a boon as the scrambled for a forgotten item needed to complete their costumes. Many thanks to the Inner Circle crew for making their wares available when much-needed. 
 
These many activities took us from roughly 9:30 in the morning until about noon. We then dined on box lunches (sandwiches, chips, and potato salad) supplied by Apple Market in the central common and cafeteria area of the middle school. Fittingly, the Savannah MS mascot is a "savage' and beautifully-rendered Native American brave whose visage adorned many of the tables.

One highlight for the boys are the Mic-O-Say Games, which took place after lunch. The Conclave theme this year was "Star Wars" and the various events were titled accordingly. Contests ranged from athletic to trivia. Light sabres were seen in abundance.

After the games, we had all time to don our costumes, which are inspired by Native American models. Dressing separately, in accordance with standard Boy Scouts of America policies, tribesmen young and old put on their feathered finery. The effect of seeing a couple of hundred individuals thus bedecked is truly rather spectacular. 

For this portion of Conclave, there are several competitions: different sorts of dance contests for those of different tribal ranks, for example.  There are also costume contests for both the traditional and the so-called "fancy" costumes. Your correspondent is partial to the traditional but the fancy costumes are quite spectacular with their intensely-bright colors and shiny ribbons and bangles. Moreover, all the dancing is awesomely energetic. It is exhausting merely to be a spectator!

After Pow Wow, there was time for everyone to doff regalia and resume civilian dress. Then dinner. 

Dinner was also produced by the folks at Apple Market. The Market is noted for their smoked meats and we partook of savory pulled pork, twice-cooked potatoes, and corn, accompanied by iced tea and lemonade. After all had eaten their fill, it was time to return to the gym for awards. 

Three of our young men won ribbons for the dance competitions: Kaleb DiCiaccio, Chad Kral, and Alex Tyson. This is another Troop 451 record, reflecting both the time these young men invested in practice as well as their own abilities. 

Along with the dance and costume awards, this year's recipients of the Patrick L. Newman Mic-O-Say scholarship were introduced. The four recipients had lists of achievements that make one wonder at how little one has to show for one's  much longer existence! Their Scouting and tribal resumes were impressive enough but they also had impressive academic and athletic accomplishments as well as community and religious volunteer involvement. clearly, these awards were judicious use of precious funds. Kudos to the unnamed members of the selection committee for their good work on behalf of the tribe and Scouting and, more, congratulations to the deserving recipients!

Then came the moment everyone eagerly awaited all day: the announcement of the 2016 Camp Geiger staff. Some camps may have difficulty recruiting young men for six weeks of intense labor, especially since the financial inducements are, of necessity, slim. Not so Camp Geiger. 

Staffing there is something to which many campers aspire from their first time at camp. Being selected is a signal honor; successful applicants must embody the Scout Oath and Law. They must be trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. They must be willing to help other people at all times. To staff at Camp Geiger, one must be a Scout. 

In another record-setting outcome for Troop 451, six of our Scouts were selected to serve on  camp staff this summer. Those chosen were Alex Adams, Ellis Covington, Ayrton Harried, Chad Kral, JJ Rawson, and Andy Turner. For Adams, Kral, and Turner, this will be their second summer so serving and the third for Covington. Messers Harried and Rawson will be first-time staffers.

Congratulations are due to these young men but also to our troop. The fact that so many of our Scouts will be serving on staff speaks well to the quality of our program and we could not deliver a first-rate Scouting program without all of our adult members who volunteer their time, treasure, and talents. Thank you all! Your service is sincerely appreciated.

Fittingly, given our large number of 2016 staffers and their success to celebrate, Saturday night, the good folks of Camp Geiger offered us lodging in the Seimans Training Center. While no four-star hostelry, our accommodations were snugly warm and dry and the mattresses soft. We were soon asleep. Well, the adults were, in any event. The boys may have stayed awake just a wee bit longer. Maybe.

We rose at 7:00 Sunday morning. After our gear was properly packed, we took a snowy trek, en masse, to a spot dear to all tribesmen. Along the way, we saw in the glistening snow the tracks of fox, raccoon, bobcat, coyote (or dog, I suppose), and scads of wild turkey. 

We reached that destination and saw, through the leafless winter wood, the rising sun glinting off the wide Missouri, turning it onto a brazen band. Taking a few quiet moments, we reflected, as tribesmen do, before returning to our vehicles for the long drive home and the compulsory lunch break at Pizza Ranch in Emporia, Kansas. Then on to home and a return to FUMC by about 6:30 PM.

In all a very satisfactory adventure. 

Next up, Geiger-wise? Hammerhead Day 2016! — at Camp Geiger. Interested? See Richard Covington.