A Great Time at S-F

I feel like the title of this post is a little repetitive.  Yet, it felt worth stating.  I spent last Saturday afternoon/night at S-F Scout Ranch for the Shawnee Lodge’s Fall Reunion.  I am a big fan of the Order of the Arrow and really missed the Fall Reunion these past five years.  I went down with three of my good friends and I don’t think I could have had a better time at camp.

We were able to see many camp staff friends and I reconnected with a number of adults who I know.  I caught up on some of the goings on that I have missed by not being in St. Louis.  We had our chapter meeting during which time elections were held.  I used to be the New Horizons Chapter Chief – and wow our chapter has come a long way!  I knew some of the people running (many of whom won 🙂 ) and met several others.

We got invited to join a troop for dinner – one of the benefits of having been around and getting know great people.  We walked from the end of the camporee field to the Camp Gamble aquatics area (for those who know, as decent distance) to see a cabin that was built by hand over the summer.  I was pretty impressed.

In the evening I attended a Brotherhood ceremony and got to walk through Camp Famous Eagle to a ceremony site on Nims Lake, one of my favorite places for ceremonies.  The ceremonial team did an amazing job!  I’ve seen a number of Brotherhood Ceremonies since I got the Brotherhood Honor, but this was far and away the best!  After the ceremony, we hung out at S-F for a while and then went to Steak-N-Shake in Farmington with a pretty big group of camp staff/OA guys, before heading back to St. Louis.

To pretty much everyone reading this post all of this probably seems like mundane details.  But it makes me smile.  I really do love S-F.  While things there and in St. Louis Scouting have changed a lot over the past few years, it still feels like home.  In fact, I realized that I had the phone number for S-F in my phone as “work,” appropriate while I worked there.  Now I think I will re-label that as home.

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Visiting Camp This Summer

I went down to S-F Scout Ranch this past weekend.  I miss that place.  Tim, one of my friends who I used to work with, and I went down and stood with Paul in his cabin at Family Camp.  As I sat out on the porch each morning, I thought about how quiet, relaxing, and peaceful it can be there.

It was great to be back in camp, visiting with returning staff members, meeting new staff members, and offering assistance.  It was a Dad n Lad weekend.  I enjoy seeing how excited 8, 9, and 10 year olds can be – as well as their dads – to be down at camp, experiencing the outdoors and a lake for the first time.  Scouting has so much to offer.  I hope all of these kids have the opportunity to be a part of it.  I also hope that Scouting stays relevant and remains accessible.  There seems to be a lot that needs to be done.

Some things remain the same – the camp, the basics of the program, camp staff antics, etc.  But some things change.  Change can often be for good, but I still have some concerns for the camp (staff) this summer.  I hope that the staff has as great of a summer as I have had in the past and that the program remains as amazing, if it doesn’t become even better.

On another note, the weather down there always amazes me.  While it rained Saturday afternoon at Family Camp, we had hail and pretty bad storms at the Camp Famous Eagle water front.  It’s just down the lake, but the weather changes pretty dramatically.  Later Saturday night, there was some pretty cool lightning.  As it began to shift into a major storm though, we tried to leave Walmart in Farmington and head back to The Ranch.  A minute later, we could not see the road so we headed back to Walmart to wait out the storm.  It seemed like all of Farmington showed up to do the same thing!

Build-A-Bear at Camp

Some said it could not be done, but earlier this summer I brought a Build-A-Bear (named Feagle Bear, after Camp Famous Eagle) down to camp for the staff to enjoy.  He was to live in the staff lounge.  When I went back down to camp he was still there!  In one piece even!  I was happily surprised.

As in the picture below, Feagle Bear has apparently been joining the staff for meals.

Feagle Bear joining a few camp staff members for an informal breakfast on Sunday morning.

A Bit More On Camp (+ Pictures & Video)

Where has the summer gone?  The last week of campers leaves on Saturday and the staff will be out on Sunday (baring craziness).

We spend all year talking about and getting ready for camp and then it is over just like that.  I did not even work on staff this year and yet this feeling is still real.  So much of the time I spend with my camp friends is spent talking about the upcoming year and reminiscing about the past.  It is amazing how time flies.  I wonder what this next year will bring with so many people discussing not returning to camp…

When I was at camp last weekend, I took a decent amount of pictures. S-F is the home of many memories and friendships.  I’ve got some pretty good pictures of camp, as well as several from Lambert’s.

When I was stepping into a skit during the closing campfire last friday, I asked my friend Ray to take some pictures and he ended up taking a video of part of the Knob Lick Knickerbockers skit, a spoof on the Knob Lick Knockers skit that we do every opening campfire.  S-F Scout Ranch is in Knob Lick, Missouri.  Knob Lick Knockers is a skit about a “model patrol” and how to set up your campsite for a good week of camp.  The Knickerbockers have Jeeves.  Check it out:

There are quite a few things that may be changing for next summer.  I hope they all change for the best.  I look forward to the future.  2010 is the 100th Anniversary of Scouting.  Hopefully it will be here for another 100 years.  I look forward to doing my part to ensure its continuation as boys need to understand the value of citizenship, leadership, service, and the outdoors.

Eating lunch outside of Astronaut's Hall.

Troop 310 Reunion

This past weekend, our core group of Troop 310 got together for a reunion. It was a great time and I really enjoyed seeing everyone and reminiscing about old times and great experiences.  It is strange to think that these are the people with whom I basically grew up.  What a great group!

I didn’t realize until we were all (well, almost all of us) there that we have not been together for a long, long time – especially with parents and Scouts.  Mr. Davis told me that he doesn’t think he has seen me since my Eagle Court of Honor – that was in 2003!

I have great friends and because of my involvement with Troop 310 have met some of my best friends and have had amazing opportunities that have opened doors to experiences I could never have expected.  Our stories and inside jokes made me think of how lucky I am to be part of such a group.  As people get married and move away (How weird!  When did we become old enough for that?) I am happy to reflect on our past and know that we will all continue to be friends.

Chris, Kyle, and I trying to unswamp our rowboat during Rowing Merit Badge at summer camp (Camp Famous Eagle) in 2001 (My earliest digital pictures).

Justin, Chris, Evan, and I at our July 2010 Reunion

Josh and Stuart are Chris and my brothers. They were in our troop as well.

More pictures here.

My Last Visit To Camp This Summer

I spent this past weekend at S-F Scout Ranch again.  Once again, it was an amazing weekend.  Every time I go down there it gets harder and harder to leave.  It makes me sad to think that I will not be back there this year.  What’s more, it is unlikely that I will ever be at S-F again with all of my close friends during the summer/on staff at the same time.  We have had so many good times and I do not want that to end.  Nevertheless, life goes on and I must remember the good times fondly while preparing for the future and maintaining those relationships.

This weekend I went down to camp with Tim Weaver and Ray Kreienkamp again.  The three of us stayed with Paul in his cabin at Family Camp, which has been a good time each weekend we have been at The Ranch.  We helped out with the closing campfire before going to Applebee’s for a bit in Farmington (they had good specials and half price appetizers).

Saturday, I helped as a check-out commissioner and actually “closed” Wenzel campsite for the summer – a.k.a. in addition to making sure the site was clean, ALL equipment had to be off the site, signs down, garbax bag holder removed, etc.  It’s more of a lengthy process but it was a good troop that already had all equipment down when I arrived on the site and they were in a pretty good mood.

After the site was closed, Ed Nahlik (one of the most amusing of my favorite people) came down to drive Famous Eagle’s truck run and asked me to join.  I wasn’t sure, but Ray did and so I figured I may as well.  Ed tapped a tree and backed into the loading dock to make me happy (don’t worry, no damage to the truck).  It’s not a real truck run unless you hit something, like a picnic table.  Let’s just say that Ed did not drive slowly.  It was a lot of fun and when I was standing up in the back of the truck at one point (which of course I should not have been doing), I almost flew over the front of the truck.  Luckily there was no problem.  We did move a good amount of equipment during an extremely hot day and got quite dirty – while listening to music: Ed had his iPod in a milk crate tied with rope to the back of the cab.  Awesome.  I like truck runs.

After lunch, the truck run continued but I went with some other people to Huck’s Cove for the afternoon and then went tubing.  I don’t think that I actually went tubing last year at camp so this was probably my first time in two years.  Both Huck’s Cove and tubing were a lot of fun.  It was really hot and a great day to be on the lake.

Saturday evening, we went to Lambert’s Cafe: Home of Throwed Rolls.  It’s a 1.5-2 hour drive from S-F, but definitely worth it.  Our drive down to Fredericktown and then along Highway 72 to I-55 was certainly an adventure (I was reminded of our English friend Jack Caine getting lost on Highway Z (“Zed”) last year).  There were certainly some sites to see in rural Southern Missouri.  I drove with David and we had some good conversations.  We had a hour and forty five minute wait to eat once we got to Lambert’s, but it is most definitely worth it.  They have amazing food and way too much of it.  I ate maybe 1/3 of my meal.  They are a fantastic place for country/Southern cooking.  I think I have gone to Lambert’s every year I worked on staff, beginning in 2004.

This morning, Ray, Tim, and I went back over to staff row to hang out with people before lunch.  After lunch we sang the pony song and helped with a few odd jobs, before relaxing on row again for a bit.  I had to leave earlier this time to get back in time for a Troop 310 reunion this afternoon (more on that in a future post).  I really wanted to stay longer.

Even with the drama of this summer, it is still possible to see the staff come together and have a good time.  I hope that visits in the future will be just as enjoyable.  Perhaps that 1% likelihood of my return to camp will happen.  While it would be different and strange in many regards (and I’m sure I would be disappointed in other ways because of changes), I know I would still love being at S-F and being a part of the staff one last time before meeting the “real” world.

Many conversations occurred this weekend about who would and who would not be returning to staff next year.  People always say things at the end of the summer, but when decision time comes around, the reality is often different.  I am interested to see what next year’s staff will look like.  I’m sure these will be conversations I will be hearing/joining for a while to come.

I did take pictures at camp this weekend.  I’m too tired to post those now, but expect them online soon and I will link to them from the blog.  I have no pictures of the lake though since I was trying not to destroy my camera. 🙂

Another Great Weekend

I had a great weekend at camp.  I really do love that place.  I think I might be interested in working again if I had a job lined up early enough with a set start date that would be after the end of camp.  There are quite a few things I still am interested in doing at camp and several traditions (some would say necessary parts of the staff experience) that I would like to bring back.

There was another Dad ‘N’ Lad this weekend and once again, I helped in the aquatics area.  It was a bit different this time though as Camps Famous Eagle and Gamble combined forces for one Dad ‘N’ Lad.  I have not worked at Camp Gamble since 2004 and I now remember how much that beach needs to be improved.  Nevertheless, it was a good time and  loved watching the faces of Scouts who were so happy to be spending time in the water with their dads.  There was one Scout in particular who would get out of the water, walk around the dock, jump in, splash his dad, and repeat – over and over.  He constantly had a smile on his face and would laugh to me the whole time.  I gave him a few ideas and he kept coming over.  He was on top of the world.

Of course, there are always those who do not figure out the system.  My good friend Eric Gill is someone who is not afraid to share what is on his mind.  Every once in a while, we says something pretty amusing.  When Scouts complained about waiting at the buddy board to check in to the aquatics area, he said “This is not McDonald’s Playplace.  We have rules here!”  It was pretty amusing.

I had a great time reminiscing about old camp experiences, stories, songs, etc. with Tim Weaver, Brian Hackworth, and Ray Kreienkamp who were also down at camp with me.  Tim and Brian and I have worked together, beginning in 2004.  Someone said something this weekend that reminded me of one of my favorite stories from my first year:

We were always warned not to speed in camp.  Pat Martchink, Director of Camping and Ranch Director knows the Farmington Police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers in the area pretty well.  We were told (by older staff members, it was our first year on staff) that Pat had a radar gun (which he got for free from his police friends, of course) and would hide in the bushes and trees at the entrance of S-F to catch speeders.  Clearly this was not true – but we believed it, at least for a while.  We were also told that if you got a ticket while under contract, that you had better call Pat and let him know asap once it happened – or he would find out first.  That one actually happened a few times.  Ah, the good ole days…

I did not want to leave S-F yesterday evening.  Now that I have spent a few weekends down there, I am getting to know the staff and starting to feel a part of it, even if it is in a minor way.  I think a number of them were actually upset that I was leaving.  I do hope to be able to spend one more weekend down there.  It’s never enough, but at least I am starting to value and treasure the small things that I have previously taken for granted.

A Bit of S-F History & The Camp Sakima Song

S-F Scout Ranch has three Boy Scout camps.  Camp Famous Eagle was the first (1966), followed by Camp Sakima (1966), and then a few years later Camp Gamble opened (1970).  I’ve worked at Camp Gamble (2004) and Camp Famous Eagle (2006-2009).  The camps have traditionally been on a rotation (4 years open, 2 years closed) that leaves two camps fully open for summer camp and one camp closed for summer camp to “regrow” and “rejuvenate” that is also used for NYLT.

Last summer, Camp Famous Eagle was supposed to close at the end of the summer and Camp Sakima was supposed to open this summer.  For a variety of reasons, this did not happen and Camp Sakima is closed (as of now) until capital projects have been completed.  As such, the Camp Famous Eagle staff did not move over to Camp Sakima – which would have also affected me if I would have gone back to camp staff.  I would have liked to have worked at all three Boy Scout camps, but oh well.

I have posted the Camp Gamble and Camp Famous Eagle songs and they are receiving a fair number of hits.  I figured that I may as well post the third camp song as well.

This song has a name, beyond Camp Sakima Song.  Here is “The Spirit of Sakima”:

From a bridge upon the water
You can see the moon on high
As it travels slowly westward
‘Cross the wide Missouri sky
As the oak and hick’ry campfire
Casts its scent upon the air
You will dream of Camp Sakima
And you’ll wish that you were there

When you see a crimson sunset
Crystal waters, skies of blue
When the wind blows through the forest
Camp Sakima’s calling you

Makes no difference where you travel
Where on earth you choose to roam
You will sometimes feel a presence
When you know that you’re alone
You may search in vain to find it
Though you’ll never see it once
But sometimes between the setting
And the rising of the sun
You will hear a ghostly echo
Of a voice so clear and true
It’s the spirit of Sakima
And it’s calling me and you

At Camp Last Weekend

I meant to post a real, long, detailed post about my visit to camp last weekend, but of course, ran out of time.  Now, I’ve decided not to focus on all of the details and tell a story:

As I had posted previously, I was at camp this past weekend to help with Dad ‘N’ Lad, a program that the Greater St. Louis Area Council (GSLAC)  holds to get Cub Scouts – specifically 7 and 8 year olds – to come to camp and get excited about the outdoors program.  I helped run the aquatics area on Saturday afternoon with several other friends who were down visiting camp with me and a few younger staff members.  I administered swim tests so that dads and lads could swim and take out canoes.

For many lads, this was their first experience swimming in a lake.  Some were very excited.  Some were a bit timid.  Some were extremely scared.  I remember one lad who must have been about 7 years old.  His dad was having a hard time convincing him to get in the water.  He thought he would drown.  After talking to him for a few minutes, I thought that he might actually be able to pass the test, at least the beginner test, if not the swimmer test (swim in the second deepest water versus the deep water and take out a canoe).  I was able to convince him that he could swim to take the test if a lifeguard swam with him.  I asked another staff member to swim with him and he ended up passing.

Another similar story:  there was a lad who looked like he was ready to get in the water, but when he saw the lake, he did not think he wanted to any longer.  His dad tried to convince him to jump in and swim but he did not want to and started crying.  I bent over and got him to smile while convincing him to give the swim test a try.  He passed the beginner test and gave me a high five with a smile sneaking through his remaining sniffles.  About twenty minutes later, I looked over to the beginner area and he had a huge smile on his face as he was swimming with his dad! 🙂

It is experiences like these that make camp worthwhile.  I love the opportunity to touch the life of these Scouts in such a good way.  I always enjoyed making that connection on camp staff and I’m glad that I still have the ability to help others enjoy themselves at camp.  Pat Martchink, Director of Camping for GSLAC, used to say during camp staff training that you will have a positive influence on the Scouts – that after camp at any time during the year, a Scout will come up to you at Wal-Mart (or wherever) and say “Hey!  You taught me ______ merit badge!”  I’ve had that experience.  It truly is amazing.  I do not think that Pat shares that story anymore, but I wish he did.  The staff could certainly take something away from it.

I love going to camp to visit my friends, be in the outdoors, and experience a place I love so much.  Last weekend, I was able to encourage Scouts to both enjoy camp and return for another summer, as well as enjoy camaraderie.  I’m looking forward to the next time.

Troop 307

My Boy Scout Troop, Troop 310, spent several summers at Camp Famous Eagle sharing a campsite with Troop 307, a troop from the Grand Towers District that comprises the city of St. Louis.  While I never camped with them, I often visited since they camped at the camp I was working at.  As I got older, I (unfortunately) became more disconnected with my troop, but always enjoyed how the Scouts from both troops got along and interacted.

Jim Powers, a leader from the New Horizons District, volunteered to be the Scoutmaster for Troop 307 each summer at camp.  He also played American and camp songs on Thursday evenings outside of the trading post.  He is the example of the ideal Scouter.  I also had the privilege of working with his son, Sean, at camp in 2004.  Mr. Powers is a great example for the new staff members who could probably stand to learn about giving of one’s self and helping others even when you may not see personal gain – and he could teach a lot more.

I recently came across this video online of Troop 307 at camp in 2008.  You can also see several members of Troop 310 in the video, including Mike McCarty, our Scoutmaster.