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!

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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.

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.

The Camp Gamble Song

I went down to visit S-F again this weekend.  I was there for Dad ‘N’ Lad, a program the Greater St. Louis Area Council runs for Cub Scouts to experience the outdoors and camping (research shows that this increases retention and rank progression).  I wanted to spend time with friends at camp, visit The Ranch, and help out.  I enjoy  being there and contributing.

I plan on posting a few more thoughts and reflections about the weekend later in the week.  While I was at camp and on the way home, I spent quite some time reflecting on past camp staff experiences.  I started working at S-F Scout Ranch in 2004 as a Nature/Troop Counselor at Camp Gamble (full name – Camp Theodore R. Gamble), did not work in 2005 ( I went with my youth group to Poland and Israel), and moved over to Camp Famous Eagle from 2006-2009 as Business Manager.

I think I will always have an affinity for Camp Gamble as my first “home” at The Ranch.  As such, here is the Camp Gamble song:

Gamble’s the place you want to be
Gamble’s the place you want to be
Gamble will never die and here’s the reasons why
Gamble’s the place you want to be

Swimming and boating at the lake
Swimming and boating at the lake
Gamble will never die and here’s the reasons why
Gamble’s the place you want to be

Hiking and camping are such fun
Hiking and camping are such fun
Gamble will never die and here’s the reasons why
Gamble’s the place you want to be

Scouting is here and over there
Scouting is here and over there
Scouting is everywhere
Gamble will never die and here’s the reasons why
Gamble’s the place you want to be