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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The Call of the Wild

At each opening and closing campfire at summer camp, a staff member of the Ranger Program presents a poem/story of some sort and recruits for the program.  These stories are inspirational, motivational, and meaningful.  They tend to (appropriately) relate to the outdoors.  One of my favorites is “The Call of the Wild”.  This poem by Robert Service is not the same as the story by Jack London, but is nevertheless a challenge for exploration and understanding.  It is definitely worth reading and considering.

The Call of the Wild

by Robert W. Service

Have you gazed on naked grandeur
where there’s nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley
with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence?
Then for God’s sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert’s little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills,
have you galloped o’er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa?
Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild — it’s calling you.

Have you known the Great White Silence,
not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies).
Have you broken trail on snowshoes? mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map’s void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?
And though grim as hell the worst is,
can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild — it’s wanting you.

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,
groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
“Done things” just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You’ll never hear it in the family pew).
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things —
Then listen to the Wild — it’s calling you.

They have cradled you in custom,
they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase; you’re a credit to their teaching —
But can’t you hear the Wild? — it’s calling you.
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There’s a whisper on the night-wind,
there’s a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling. . .let us go.

Robert Service

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.

New Aquatics Structure

Those of us who attended summer camp at the S-F Scout Ranch likely remember the aquatics tower in each camp.  These structures were built to watch for lightning across Nims Lake while providing a storage location for aquatics equipment.  For the camp staff, these structures served as a place to store merit badge cards, change into swim trunks/Scout uniform, and a location for commemorating past aquatics staffs in the form of buddy tags and signing the tower.

As cool as the aquatics towers were, they were falling apart, needing repair, and no longer providing as much space as necessarily.  Several storms have gone through the S-F Scout Ranch in the past year or so and while they created a lot of damage, they did not knock over the aquatics towers – which could easily have been a possibility.  So since insurance wasn’t paying for a change, it had to wait for the capital campaign.  Now, for this summer, new structures have been built.  They include covered pavilions and a lockable storage shed.

Two pictures below are of the just complete structures at Camp Famous Eagle, before summer camp and before the Aquatics Area was fully setup:

New Aquatics Structure at Camp Famous Eagle, S-F Scout Ranch - Credit: Ben Luedloff

New Aquatics Structure at Camp Famous Eagle, S-F Scout Ranch - Credit: Ben Luedloff