What do you do for your oldest campers the morning after they attempt to pull a prank? You invite them down to your house for lunch. One of the many wonderful traditions that we have in camp is having our oldest campers down to my home for a cookout and an opportunity to have a relaxing moment in the middle of the last week of organized chaos.
Our Okees came down wearing bathing suits and big smiles for a delicious cookout on my deck. We reminisced about some of their favorite moments in camp, intercamp games, special trips, and funny moments that occurred in the bunk. These conversations took place in a way that brought laughter and tears to our eyes as if the events had just occurred.
I gave the boys the opportunity to ask me anything about the camp operation. The boys asked me some incredibly poignant questions. For examples, how can we maintain the integrity of a traditional summer camp by promoting values while we live in a world that seemingly promotes a lack of civility? How do I go about reinvesting in the camp? What was my most challenging day as a camp director? I answered these questions openly and honestly and gave the opportunity for these boys to have an open window to my mind and heart. As each boy left my home, I received a firm handshake, direct eye contact, and a warm sincere thank you for the experience that camp has provided to these young men.
This morning, the entire camp came together at Takajo’s Indian Council Fire Ring for our annual Olympic song competition. Our Green and Grey teams entered the ring from opposite directions and faced off for what was one of the best events of the year. What I love most about the Olympic song competition is that it is an event that includes every camper in camp, no matter one’s age or interest. We come together as a large family for an event that includes campers at every age level. Aside from our boys learning the camp songs and singing them with unabashed feeling, there is a respect and an appreciation that each team has for one another. I could not help but notice how enthralled our staff was for this heartwarming event.
The pace ramped up in the afternoon as our Warriors and Juniors competed in their whacked-up relays. A whacked-up relay race is an activity that includes every camper on both teams. A runner with a baton makes his way around the camp to each activity, where another camper on his team has to accomplish a goal as quickly as possible. Events include building a campfire and burning a rope that hangs five feet above the fire pit, making five free throws on the basketball court, shooting arrows into an archery target, hitting a baseball over the fence, canoeing out to the high-dive with your partner who then has to jump off the diving board and reenter the canoe, swimming the backstroke while reading a newspaper, and the final event always being the coveted pie-eating contest. Two campers with big hearts and even bigger appetites square off for this last event of the whacked-up relay. When the plate is clean and there is no longer a sign of a pie, the winning team is selected. In Warrior Camp, the Green team reigned supreme. In Junior Camp, the Green team also declared a victory. Tomorrow morning, the Senior whacked-up relay will take place to determine our overall Olympic winner.
This evening, the camp convened again at the Indian Council Fire Ring. This time, for our final campfire of the summer. Under a star-lit sky with a roaring fire burning, campers and staff participated in our traditional closing ceremony. Campers from each age group were selected to read from the heritage box. Each age group leaves its mark on camp, and a representative camper from each group orated a specific heritage. The final campfire would not be complete without the traditional squat dance when selected campers and counselors competed in dancing around the fire to the beat of the chief’s drum, stopping and squatting perfectly still each time the drumbeat suddenly ceased.
The brave who was the fastest and most still was selected as the winner and received a resounding cheer from the entire camp. The final campfire would also not be complete without the flaming hoop dance, which is a tradition that dates back to 1947. Prerequisites include great skill, coordination, light-a-foot, and a hold-harmless agreement indemnifying the camp in case of a burn. Needless to say, this event is performed by our senior staff.
When the evening came to a close, the camp stood and sang the camp alma mater, not as two teams, but as one family. We bowed our heads for Tattoo and listened to the sound of the bugle echo through the tall pines and dark sky. With our heads bowed in total silence, we reflected on this special day and acknowledged that all good things must come to an end.