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.


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