The Banner Ranch

Part of me would love to live in some rural area.  I find an appeal in the middle of nowhere lifestyle that I can’t really describe.  So many times I hear rural/country/”hick” lifestyles demeaned, but as I thought about it this weekend, I do not think I would know how to live in many different situations.

I spent a good part of the weekend at my friend’s ranch/land/farm in the middle of nowhere Missouri.  My friend Justin and his family have some land off of Indian Trail State Forest (there is basically no information on that place online).  There nearest town that we drove through on the way there was Cherryville, which from what we could tell as one main store and three churches.

A picture of the cabin at the Baner Ranch from an earlier high school trip.

Since I first joined Troop 310 in 1999, we would go out there and shoot guns, make fires, play poker, hang out, etc.  When we got older, they got ATVs and we would start riding those.  It got harder to get people together once we all went to college, but we have been back a few times.  It was great going back this weekend.  I really love that land and the openness and freedom it represents.

We watched an amazing heat lightning storm on Friday night from the back of a pickup (with a tractor tire in the bed haha), rode ATVs (on roads, on trails, and in the middle of the forest), shot guns (.22 rifle, .308 rifle, .50 blackpowder pistol – 1700s era), picked blackberries, saw the Banner’s new vineyard, and reminisced about old times.  We had a dutch oven roast and a dutch oven cobbler.  It’s been a while since I have been able to say that.

It was certainly strange though not having our whole old group there.  It was also weird to not to have any parents there.  When we used to go out there, we always had a parent come with us. for extra supervision with the guns and whatnot (we were younger) and so they could enjoy it as well.  Mr. Banner (Justin’s dad) would also help get stuff ready for us and help with clean up – even in later years.  This time though we had to take care of everything ourselves.  Apparently that’s what happens when you grow up.

I hope to go back out there soon.  Spending time with people I have been friends with since 5th grade has definitely been a highlight of this summer.  As we all go different places, I hope we can continue to come back together.

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Visiting Camp

Again, this should have been posted a while ago.  I’m trying to catch up now.  Because of that, this post is shorter and perhaps more of an overarching view as opposed to the details I had originally planned on posting.

I visited camp last weekend, June 11-13, and this past Thursday, June 17, night for the Order of the Arrow Call Out Ceremony.  S-F Scout Ranch is truly an amazing place.  I have had so many memories there with so many amazing people (including many of my best friends) that not spending the summer there is definitely a major life change.

It is strange to be at camp and not be in charge of things.  I have worked for the past four summers as the Business Manager at Camp Famous Eagle and one earlier summer as a Nature/Troop Counselor at Camp Gamble (teaching Soil & Water Conservation Merit Badge, among other things).  As Business Manager, I learned the inner workings of the camp and over the years, amassed more knowledge and more responsibility than typically associated with the position.  As such, I have been having nightly conversations with people at camp to both find out how camp is going and offer thoughts/suggestions.  I have spent a lot of time teaching this year’s Business Manager how to do his job, along with referring him to his supervisors for more detail.

It is strange to return to camp without any obligations or responsibility.  I do like the freedom that comes with it.  I even went to Huck’s Cove, the private Scout “water park” on Nims Lake without my cell phone for the first time in four years.  I did not have to be available for any issues – how strange!  Nevertheless, I felt an obligation to help out and a sort of longing to belong and be a part of it all again.  I have certainly been welcomed and have enjoyed spending time with my friends and getting to know the new staff members.

We (can I still say that?  I think so…) have a great staff and I do like many of the first year staffers.  Hopefully, I can impart some of my knowledge upon them and help them in their experiences.  I have helped/trained the staff with check-in and assisted with behind the scene details for the Order of the Arrow ceremony.  I am glad to be a part of the camp, even in a minor way.  It is definitely an internal struggle though to refer issues/questions to other people who should deal with them – especially when I know the right response and they may not yet know.  It is part of the learning/growing process though.

I’ve enjoyed my visits thus far.  I plan to visit again this weekend and then, hopefully, another two weekends throughout the summer.  It is a great “escape” from the city life for me, a chance to visit friends, an opportunity to return “home”.  I do need to balance spending time with friends and family in St. Louis with my time at camp.  I hope that I do this successfully.  Spending time at camp off and on throughout the summer is definitely something I look forward to.  I am excited to see how the summer at Boy Scout camp progresses – and what my friendships look like at the end of the summer.

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