Just Camp…and Waikiki Wednesday

After all of the excitement yesterday, it was almost calming to start a “normal” day.  On my way up to the early “meeting fo the minds” I enjoyed the peacefulness of camp that many do not see.  Still quiet, the morning mist rising as the sun warm the land… A wonderful blue sky as the sun burned through the trees.  It was a perfect 65 degrees!  I grabbed a cup of coffee and said my usual “good mornings” to the kitchen crew as I made my way to the cream in the refrigerator.  All was well on the home front…

As you can imagine, summer camp has a lot of moving parts. So most of the time you have a loose plan of what your day will look like. Typically, that plan moves about and sometimes it never looks like what was planned. As camp life would have it, you never know what is coming next. The first of my unscheduled tasks was to help out the women down at the barn.  They called me on the radio to say that a snake was causing a disturbance in the lower barn.  Snakes are fine creatures.  They tend to keep to themselves and they take care of a lot of mice. We tend to enjoy the black snake particularly here at High Rocks because they do a great job and are not poisonous.  We tend to “let them lie” as you might say.  This one had to at least be moved out fo the barn.  I grabbed my snake tools and headed down to the barn.  with some cool “snake tweezers” and a modified golf club, we had the problem resolved and everyone was happy. I was able to make it back to my meeting only five minutes late. 

Breakfast moved into morning assembly, which meant it was time to get things moving.  The first assemblies of the session are always some of the loudest since everyone is here.  The boys have not yet moved on to all the various trips and opportunities.  Today was no exception as the boys sang out some of their favorites from the song book. I can’t think of any better way for a new camper to feel comfortable than to watch all the returners sing out the songs in assembly, from memory…mostly!  But more importantly, proud and excited to sing out to the morning and for everyone to hear.  There are no “cool cards” at camp, particularly at Camp High Rocks.  We all feel comfortable and spirited to be who we want to be, even if we aren’t quite sure what that means yet.

After assembly, I had the opportunity to show a nice family from Savannah around camp.  Camp tours during the summer are the best!  What a great time to see High Rocks in action.  I always make the opportunity to have the families ask the campers about camp as well.  What a perfect moment, you can ask anything you want to some boys who are already going to High Rocks!  As we move through camp, mom and the young Savannah boys had all sorts of questions. We took a few opportunities for some of our July session boys to help out.

During my tour, had a bit of an epiphany as I talked about whitewater canoeing and archery.  I think summer camps are the only programs that still regularly teach these activities anymore.  Most all of our peer camps teach these activities and I think they are some of the best to teach focus, teamwork, and even decision making.

In the late afternoon, I made my way up to MysticHill, where the oldest group of boys were heading out on the first of a series of cabin overnights.  The staging process is a great time for me to have some conversations with the boys, check in with some I have not talked with yet and just enjoy some of the organizational chaos.  There were 10 different cabins heading out to various shelters out on the property.  This whole process begins right in the middle of our 5 p.m. choice period.  I stepped over to a younger group of boys who were using their tiem to play their own game called “Manhunter.”  It appeared to be some sort of tag game with a base, safety zone, and general boundaries.  The object was to get to “base” without getting tagged.  For this current purpose, the base was a disc golf goal.

My second unplanned event took place next.  Two boys from Chalet cabin came running up with a somewhat worried look.  As the began to tell me what was the concern, I immediately finished their sentences with words that included “toilet” and “clogged.” “How did you know?” Then I guessed their next sentence that included “…and you tried to flush it again to fix it.”  They were again amazed at how I knew this information.  After a quarter of a century of High Rocks, you begin to see patterns and expected behaviors.  Unclogging a toilet is a necessary life skill as a camp director.  As any good mentor would do, I made it a learning moment for the guys.  I armed myself with a fresh bottle of bleach cleaner and the boy followed me back to the cabin.  Once we made it back to the bathroom, there were clear signs of a wet bathroom floor with the familiar plunger still sticking out of the toilet. The boys explained how they tried to solve the problem and all the steps they went through.  By this time, several other cabin mates were coming in to find out what was up.  I am sure you can visualize the chaos and excitement that was now filling the cabin. One boy even attempted to walk into the bathroom barefoot.  I quickly quelled that plan as it occurred to him that it probably was not the best decision.

Back in the toilet, I demonstrated some proper plunging technique and life began to get better.  Once the toilet was sorted, I covered the floor with a generous amount of bleach solution and had the guys mop up the wet floor.  It didn’t take long to get the bathroom back to normal. I left the boys to finish up, went next door to wash my hands,  and headed back to the dining hall.  The boys found me later to thank me for all the help. 

You just never know, but a day in camp will give you plenty of opportunities to have an effect on someone’s life.  I clearly expect to talk about this story a few years down the line when these boys come back as counselors.  

It sure was a fantastic day. Oh, and I was impressed to see how many boys automatically came dressed in the Hawaiian shirts for Waikiki Wednesday!   I look forward to more adventure tomorrow.

All the best,

Don Gentle

Today’s Pictures

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