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.


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