Day 33: Order of the Arrow

Troop 35 at camp, Wednesday 6/30

Tuesday night was cool, almost cold, with the stars shining brightly in the dark blue night sky. Recently, I have begun to notice the sky more since we added Ivy to the family, but the night sky is never this clear in Wheaton, too much light pollution. I was walking back to my tent, after working on Tuesday’s post, looked out over the lake, and saw clear calm water with the moon and stars above. I woke early, showered, and biked to the program center to get coffee and finish the post. The scouts followed and I joined them for flags and breakfast.The scouts are doing well on their achievements and Diane is on top of it. She organized each scouts schedule, registered all of them before camp, and gets daily notices from the counselors on all of our scouts and monitors their progress. On Saturday, when we pack up she will gather all of the first year’s scout books and mark all of their achievements. Last year she had twenty books, this year only six. Her workload is more manageable. William and the second year scouts are doing well and humming along. The first years have figured out the system and are getting to class on time and moving along in their tenderfoot, second class, and first class requirements. I realized that I was slightly behind on my Geezer merit badge achievements. I needed to get serious or I would not earn my rocker – or year to add to my badge. I had drunk at least a gallon of caffeinated beverage and blogging takes the place of the nap so, I am covered there. I needed to do service project or play a game and work off a few other achievements and I will be set. I had seen Troy, a camp counselor at Eagle Quest, and he remembered me as well as all of the scouts we had here last year. I spent a lot of last year’s camp ay Eagle Quest corralling, shepherding, and helping Troy and the other counselors. This is Troy’s third year as a camp counselor and his seventh at Tesomas. Many counselors spend multiple summers working here and it seems like a great job for the right person. One of our scouts, Davis, is a CIT or counselor in training and here all summer.  I volunteered to assist Troy and he invited me up anytime.

I biked up the trail from the program center and arrived as he was shifting to menu planning with the scouts. Troy was working with a class of about a dozen scouts: our troop had four with the balance from two other troops. There were two other leaders helping so we had the class covered and Troy worked well with the scouts. The achievements at tenderfoot, second class, and first class are about developing scouting skills such as camping, cooking, and above all planning. He had the kids fill out a menu plan for a weekend on deserted island and told them to plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He introduced the food pyramid and let the kids work. The meal plan called for bread/grain, meat/dairy/protein, vegetable/fruit, and dessert.  The scouts worked independently, talking and sharing within their troop. I walked around and helped where I could. I saw one scout who had ice cream planned for dessert at breakfast. I chuckled and thought that covered two areas and I asked him if he could keep it cold? He looked at me and replied, ‘Oh. Yeah’ and erased his work and thought again. Another part of the planning was to figure the cost for the meals and Troy and all of us helped the scouts with the approximate costs for the ingredients. Some scouts had extravagant meals including steak and others were simple and wanted to make it easy – hot dogs. The scouts finished and turned their sheets into Troy who checked them off for the requirement. Lunch was coming up and the hiked back to camp. I thanked Troy and followed the back to the main camp.

When I came off the trail was about to pass the horseshoe area and who did I find, but my fellow Cheezy Geezers engaged in a horseshoe competition and in need of another gamer! I happily joined because I knew idle time passes much quicker and it is a check off on the Geezer merit badge. It was a close match with our team of me, Charley, Jonathon prevailing in a close match 12-9 over John, Kevin, and Josh called because of lunch.

The view of the left side of the dining hall.
The view of the right side of the dining hall

Dining at the dining hall takes on another dimension at Tesomas. First the atmosphere – it is not your average bistro or café. There is a certain loudness and panache to it. Last year, I took several pictures but was frustrated by the camera’s inability to capture what they eye could process. This year, I had a different camera with a panoramic feature and I believe it captures the dining hall – though it requires two photos. They are posted in thumbnails to the left. Second, the food is quality and there is plenty of it. Lastly, though I am certain I could come up with more, the scouts, leaders, and counselors make the dining experience complete. We share what we are doing, where we are from, and what makes us tick. There is never a dull conversation at any meal, ever.

After lunch, the scouts hiked or pedaled off to their activities and I finished yesterday’s post. I had a ‘date’ with William for Shootin’ Sports. I met William at the waterfront. William is taking the swimming merit badge and his class meets from 2:00 to 3:30. Ironically, between my sixth and seventh grade years I was at summer camp, Camp Karankawa in Sweeny, Texas just south of Houston along the Brazos River. I do not remember much about camp except for a few details. Warren, my brother, and I attended together: David was too young. It rained every day – a lot, I took and earned my Rifle Shooting and Swimming merit badges, and I earned the Mile Swim badge. It was the only summer camp I attended and would be out of scouting in the coming year. It was fun and years later, too many to tell, I regret not going further in scouting. William is your typical second year scout. He sees the world through optimistic eyes where anything is possible and when he makes a goal, he works hard to see it through. This summer his goal is to swim the mile. There is one problem, he really is not a strong swimmer and to make up for that every day he has stayed after swimming class and worked on his swimming starting with eight laps and increasing the distance to today’s distance 27 laps – a half a mile. So, instead of riding to Shootin’ Sports I watched and dreamed with him. The swim is Friday, he has Thursday off, and he informed me that I would be paddling the boat with a spotter. It starts at Friday at 3:30 after class.

When he pulled himself out of the water, dried off, and dressed we did not have much time left before our troop picture at five. We decided that Shootin’ Sports was too far and pedaled quickly to the climbing tower. He wanted to zip line with me. When we arrived at the climbing tower, we rushed over and got in line. He got his gear on – a harness and a helmet, and he went back for my gear. I was going to zip line with him. I glanced at my watch and realized we would not be able to zip line, get back to camp, change, and get to the flagpole in time for troop pictures at five. I reasoned with William and three other scouts from our troop we did not have time to zip line and we would have to come back another day.We got back to camp, which is near the climbing tower, changed, and were at the flagpole for troop pictures. It turned out well. Dinner was at six and the Order of the Arrow ceremony was at eight with forming up beginning at 7:30. Wednesday, is halfway through the week and it is visitor’s day with parents coming to visit. Parents from area troops were here for the evening, but driving six to seven hours from Wheaton is not reasonable and only a couple of parents who are staying through Saturday joined us. They had already pitched their tents and were getting the lay of the camp from their scouts when dinner was called. The evening’s meal was served cafeteria style with seating picnic style around the main camp area. Our scouts sat together on the lawn or at tables outside the dining hall.

The campfire ring awaits the Order of the Arrow ceremony
The braves await the leader’s instructions to find new members

After dinner, we lined to get in to the Order of the Arrow ceremony at the campfire ring. The ceremony is very special and scouts and visitors are reminded to remain silent for the ceremony. The Order of the Arrow is a service organization scouts can join only after they meet the requirements and are elected by their peers in the troop. Membership is an honor and the night’s ceremony is special. Those chosen for membership are unaware they have been elected. They are ‘tapped out’ by members of the Order dressed in ceremonial Native American costumes. A large campfire was prepared and sand paintings adorned the ring. We were led into the campfire are, sat down, and waited silently. The Order of the Arrow leaders entered and the ceremony began. It is difficult to put words to the ceremony. The leader addresses the spirits of the north, east, south, and west. A Native American drum beats a slow cadence as Order members dance three dances: the Shield Dance, The Feather Dance, and the Grass Dance. The

Troop 35 scouts await the braves next selection, Mark will be selected

ceremonial leader asks four Order members to search far and wide for new members. This is when new members are selected or ‘tapped out’ from the assembled scouts, brought before the leader, and led off to await the end of the ceremony.  The ceremony is an hour long and is suspenseful because only a few leaders in our troop are aware who has been selected for membership. Troop 35 has several active members and tonight a new member was added. The selection process marks the beginning of a lifetime of commitment to the Order. New members will need to complete the process of joining, called an Ordeal, and be prepared to provide service to the troop and the community in order to remain active. Mark was the only scout from our troop to be tapped out. He sat and waited silently with his new brothers. The leaders retreated, the drum beat five times, the ceremony ended, and the audience filed out of the campfire ring back to the dining hall for fellowship.

The sun sets on Crystal Lake, a new day awaits.

The sun set while we ate chips and talked in the dining hall. It was too dark for us to ride our bikes back to camp and we walked our bikes back to camp. The scouts pushed their bikes down the moonlit road and talked about their dreams and of maybe, someday, being tapped out and asked to join the Order of the Arrow. It was a special day. It had been a long, busy day and the scouts were tired. They washed up and readied for lights out. Soon they were fast asleep and awaiting a new day at camp. Two more full days at camp await and each day is better than the next.

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