Routines are what make camp so much fun and yesterday’s post started with the flag ceremony; even though I did not explain the evening flag ceremony. Routines are everywhere, such as the dining hall, I was on the phone with Beth telling her about the day and she could hear yelling and shouting in the background and asked what it was and I told her – we were being greeted to come and dine.
After flag ceremony in the morning or evening and at lunch, we line up and wait to be invited to come into the dining hall. The dining hall has an open porch and the Officer of the Day (OD) comes out onto the porch and to greet the scouts. The ODs are one of the most senior members of camp staff and have been waiting for the time when they can greet and welcome scouts into the dining hall.
The greeting is loud, boisterous, and sounds something like: ‘Goooooooooooood mooooooooooornin’ caaaaaammmmmmmp Tesssssssooooooommmmmass!’ It takes a good ten to twelve seconds to get it all out. The scouts reply in an equally boisterous tone, ‘Goooooooooooood mooooooooooornin.’ We are instructed, “Please remove your hats, cross your arms, and enter the dining hall silently,” and we begin to file into the dining hall.
Each of the OD’s has a unique style; no greeting is quite the same. It provides order, a sense of purpose for the day, and it is just plain fun. What boy does not want to yell and be loud? They just need a place to be boys and Tesomas is that place.
In the dining hall, each troop has an assigned place to sit and we find a seat and stand, waiting. At each meal, I try to find a different place to sit or different group to with whom to talk, it helps me get to know the scouts and the other adults in our troop. We are silent as we await all scouts to find a place to sit. Once all scouts have entered, the OD asks waiters (hoppers) to show the number of empty seats at their tables and the camp staff enter and find a place to sit. We say grace; each grace is different, purposeful for each day. On Sunday, we said the Tesomas grace:
Thank you Lord for this special place, Where we can make new friends and old ones embrace, A chance to share a dream, an experience too, Lord, for Tesomas we thank you. Source: Camp Tesomas Website
After grace, the dining hall becomes loud, very loud. The OD calls tables to the serving line, by table number, and we get our food. Though the scouts are eating, it is still loud, boisterous, and noisy. After all tables have gotten their food, there is a pause. Then the call for second helpings goes out – and there is a frenzy to get more food. Remember, scouts will not go hungry at Tesomas. Then there is a last call and the countdown 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- and a buzzer sound; and the line is closed.
Then there are the announcements; each of the program areas make announcements about special hours or opportunities to play in a program area and every morning a staff member shares a thought for the day. Friday’s thought for the day was about our outlook on life – we can look at life half-empty or half full. He explained that we could be bummed that today was the last day and we were leaving Saturday or we could make the most of the day and make it the best day ever. I am not certain how many scouts heard the message, but I did. Today was gonna’ be a great day. And to complete our dining experience we end with a song. By Friday morning, all of us have sung twelve songs and will three more before we leave Saturday. Each song is fun, loud, and very interactive. Once we finish singing the song, we are dismissed and the waiters clean the tables and sweep the floors before leaving.
The dining hall routine provides structure and purpose to camp at Tesomas. Just like all that we do after leaving the dining hall or the routine in our lives beyond camp back at home. The morning goes quickly and I am opening the bank for withdrawals before lunch. The scouts are excited and having a good time. William is wrapping up his morning merit badge classes; with Camping, Personal Fitness, and Wilderness Survival complete or almost complete. He has his Swimming merit badge class after lunch with a mile swim at 3:30. Steven and I will accompany him on his swim and paddle a canoe beside him.
Lunch is good and ends before I know it. The bank re-opens and there are few takers, withdrawing a couple of dollars for odds and ends from the trading post. William is off to the waterfront for his swimming merit badge and I pedal back to camp for swim shorts and a towel. I take my watch off , leaving it in my tent along with my phone; I will have no idea what time it is; though it really will not matter. I pedal back to the waterfront; William sees me, calls to me over to say he is ready, and we wait until 3:30 for open swim time and the mile swim to begin. Steven arrives and William gets the canoe and drags it to the shoreline. We check in with the lifeguard and he gives us our instructions:
Lead him to the red buoy (and he points far across the lake),
then the other red buoy (and he points far across the lake, just a little to the let of the first buoy),
and then back to the waterfront.
If he struggles or can’t make it, he is in the boat.
William wades into the water and starts to swim, we point the canoe out into Crystal Lake, we are both off. William begins with freestyle but soon switches to breaststroke. We keep an eye on William and watch him as he steadily strokes pulling and kicking himself through the water. It is windy with the wind in our face on the trip across the lake; if the wind holds, he will get it on the way back – just when he needs it. Steven and I shout encouragement to William, he is doing well. While we watch William and we paddle the canoe, Steven and I talk. The week before camp Steven and three other scouts from the troop attended leadership training camp for a week. He explained they learned that in order to achieve anything in life you must first have a vision, then goals to achieve the vision, and a plan to achieve the goals: pretty mature thinking for a fourteen year-old kid. As we glide through the water, he and I reflect on William’s vision and apply it to our own experience. William’s vision was to swim the mile. He practiced and worked hard all week and he is on his way to achieving his vision.
He reached the first buoy and headed toward the next red buoy. He is doing great. He reached the next and final buoy, gave it a healthy slap, ‘thunk,’ he turns, and headed for home – the water front. He is more than halfway finished. Soon, he is in the middle of the lake, then a few hundred yards from shore. A slow and steady pace across the lake lands William at the waterfront, and he is done. He made it and accomplished his goal. He has swum the mile and earned the mile swim patch.
Afterwards, we had some time to visit a program area for fun. We had really wanted to visit Shootin’ Sports, but we never made it. The program areas close at 5:30 and it is almost five. Steven joins us and we are off pedaling to the Shootin’ Sports or the rifle range, which is as far away as you can get in the camp, probably for good reason. William pulls off the trail to show us his shelter for Wilderness Survival. Steven remembers his time the previous year and it was not pleasant. On Steven’s night it was too hot to be in a sleeping bag and too there were to many mosquitoes to sleep outside the sleeping bag – misery. William’s experience was much different – a cold night, too cold for mosquitoes. He proudly proclaims he slept like a baby and knowing William, he probably did.
We arrive in time and get to shoot a .22 rifle. It is junk shoot – so scouts can shoot at any target they choose. I have seen shirts, pants, and cans. William has chosen an orange. I stick with a plain target, and Steve chooses a folder and a pen. We each have three bullets. William’s first shot explodes the orange. My shots hit the target, too. Our three shots go quickly and we retrieve our targets. All of us are happy with our aim. We are excused from the range and then Kevin, the ranger, opens the range for one final round. William and Steven get three more shots and do well. William obliterates the orange and Steven explodes his pen.
The range closes and we are as far from our campsite as you can get and we have dinner in less than an hour. We pedal back to camp. William is exhausted and ready to fall down, but we need to eat. I text Beth – ‘did it’ – to let her know how the swim went and I dress for dinner. I go to get William – he is horizontal laying exhausted on his cot. I decide we are not walking, not biking, but we are riding in the truck to dinner. I tell him we will ride to dinner and back in the truck and he gets moving. Stan and Davis join us and we arrive just in time to enter the dining hall; which is when Beth overhears the noise and asks, “What is that noise.”
And, that gets me back to routines. When camp ends, there is time for closure, reward, and rededication. After dinner, we have a campfire and a celebration. The geezers will get their patches and I will get my rocker. The adult volunteers and scoutmasters will be thanked and receive a gift of appreciation. We will sing a song and say goodbye, but before all of that Steven, Adam, and Dan will lead the camp in a song. They learned the song at leadership training the week before. The song is the “Penguin Song” and it is silly and fun. Just what we need when we think we are half-empty. We are really half-full and thinking of the good times we had – even when it rained and it was cold.
The campfire ends, spilling all of the scouts spill into the main camp area and the bank opens a final time. There are souvenirs to be had, patches to be bought, slushies to drink, and yes, and money to be spent wildly as only a young boy can do. We are all tired and morning will be here soon. We ride back to camp. There is a quick troop meeting to settle our wake up time and camp break down and packup and what all we have planned for tomorrow morning. Steven sends us off to bed with a reminder (I paraphrase) “Hey scouts, during free time all week when you have gotten to visit shootin’ sports, the climbing wall, fish, or do what you want, William has been practicing all week and today he swam the mile.” The scouts clapped and congratulated William on his achievement. It all starts with a vision, then goals, and finally a plan to achieve your goal. Today certainly counted, not just for William; but also for every scout at Tesomas and especially in Troop 35.