I bought three cases of 12-ounce beer bottles on the way home from school today.

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There are two dozen bottles per case.  And a package of “light ale yeast.”  And a bag of caps.

“Stand back and watch this.”

 Got to wash the bottles first.  That will take a little time.  Then I will follow the written instruction on the packages more closely than I ever followed Miss Stovall’s 10th-grade chemistry lab notes . . . I was never going to drink the stuff we concocted in her lab.  Ever.  But I am looking forward to drinking this.  I have three different root beer flavor extracts. We’ll be able to pick and choose at summer camp.  Five gallons a batch as a rule.  But the old-fashioned one (it’s supposed to be a darker flavor) only makes two and a half.

There’s a family story that my father brewed a batch of (non-root) beer and stashed it under my crib to age when I was a baby.  He didn’t refrigerate it, and the bottles exploded.  I figured Mom probably cleaned up the most of it, while Dad supervised and swore as only a fighter pilot knows how.

I do not intend to have to mop this batch up.  The light ale yeast goes inactive when it is refrigerated, but when the brew warms back up, it reactivates.  Like I said, I’m going to follow these instructions.  (Please don’t rat me out to the Guy Police for that.)

Not tonight.  Too late for that. Tomorrow’s my men’s group night.  Thursday then.

Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty, my friends.

Uncle Pat


What the lands learn the mind cannot forget



Somebody asked me why . . .

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Somebody asked me last week why I wanted to open a summer camp.  I have been thinking about that for several days now.  Today I want to open – and operate – a summer camp because that was the one constant in my life as a kid growing up in Texas in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

School subjects and classmates changed.  I went to summer camp and my camp friends and I found a transition to the next grade.  We moved from one house to another . . . and the same raggedy  weatherproofed canvas wall tents were at summer camp under the post oaks and junipers at the foot of Big Split Mountain.  We bought newer furniture and softer mattresses;  those same rusty Army-surplus cots with the 90-pound canvas-duck concrete-filled mattresses were there to sleep on at summer camp.  My mom got adventurous with new recipes in the kitchen, and the girls I dated (hot stuff in 1959) wanted me to take them to nice restaurants . . . and the same two grandmothers who had been cooking at summer camp since before General Pershing went to France still put pork chops and mashed potatoes and cornbread on the table in small mountains.  And my mother never whipped up a gallon of purple bug juice in her life.  But it was always on the table at summer camp.

I started shaving when I went away to the University of Texas, and Navy ROTC sent me cruising on a destroyer (USS Forrest B. Royal, DD872) to Norway, England, Belgium, and France.  I saw the Atlantic Ocean way up close.  I saw different faces and different girls, and I heard different languages and different musics.  I came back to Texas and took a job as the office manager at summer camp where I had been a camper.  And the air was sweeter.  And the bunk was more comfortable.  And the food was more fulfilling.  And the language sang in my ears.

I went from a summer of loading 55-pound-projectiles into the breech of a naval deck gun that fired over twenty miles to a handful of .22LR bullets in a bolt-action rifle with iron sights on a hundred-yard range.  And the archery butts.  (Lord, how we snickered and elbowed each other at that.)  And the canoe dock on the Brazos.  And the unchanging Texas hills and trees that used to be the bottom of a sixty-five-million-year-old ocean.  And the turkey vultures riding the thermals all the way to the far horizon.

Summer camp taught me how to share the task.  And how to share the credit.  It taught me how to lead by example and to do without being asked.  It taught me how to be a conscious  individual in a group.

I want to open WindWalkerCamp so I can  share that experience.  I started summer camp driving my own kids and their friends all over Texas and from Cape Canaveral to Mount Rushmore.  Like Shakespeare’s witches . . . “in thunder, lightning, and in rain.”  There were lots of clear days, too.  I can’t believe how much I want to share that same experience with their kids . . . and with their friends’ kids.  They’re getting old enough.

I want to show them how to rustle up a skillet of camper stew.  (I remember once asking my mom once why she never cooked that for us at home.  I also remember the expression on her face at my question.  What I don’t really remember is whether she ever actually answered . . .)  I want to show them how to build a campfire and how to shoot a rifle and use a bow and arrows.  And turn a screwdriver and a wrench.  And swing a hammer and an axe.

I want to give them the time and the place to find their own around-the-fire songs and traditions.  And bunkhouse scary stories after lights-out.  And favorite hideouts in the walnut and oak and juniper where they can see the dry waterfall that rolls and tumbles after a two-inch rain.  And smell the sassafras and the sage.

And shared values . . . truth, trustworthiness, friendship, your word, appreciation of the wild world around us. The peace of a clear-to-cloudy sky.  The songs of the stars.

Today that’s why I want to open WindWalkerCamp. I’ll have other reasons tomorrow.  They’ll look a lot like these.

Thanks for reading.  Stay outdoors, my friends.

Uncle Pat


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

To pour or not to pour a foundation, that . . .

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Thanksgiving Break is officially over . . . well, it will be when I crater into the sack tonight.  I’ve been back from WindWalkerCamp two days now, and I’m missing it even more.

This week I am ordering the first batch of bottles to test my root beer brewing skills with . . . a single batch makes fifty-three twelve-ounce bottles.  I’m going to have to find a testing audience . . . I feel like the Little Red Hen.

Tomorrow on the way home I’ll be stopping by the auto parts house to pick up some plastic auto-body-filler and the teacher supply store for some modeling clay.  I have a couple of spoons and forks I want to be able to cast, and I have lots of pewter ingots and “dead” lead soldiers.  (Lead soldiers are pewter.)  While I have, indeed, cast a couple of thousand knights and soldiers, I have never cast a spoon or a fork.  Something new to try.  And share.

I have been researching what kind of “alternative” insulation to use in the walls as I build out the covered deck to make it a lodge.  My intent is to make the entire camp as authentic an experience as humanly possible.  I’ve explored raw wool – straight from the sheep, shredded recycled blue jeans, straw, cellulose (shredded newspaper).  I don’t want to use fiberglass.  The windows need to be large enough to take in all the beauty of the hills . . . so I’m looking for recycled storefront glass or recycled patio doors . . . that sort of thing.

The power co-op will run a power line a given distance into the place if we have a foundation.  Hmmm.  That will give us electric power from the grid to run the tools to build the solar collectors and the wind turbine towers.  I’m going to have to look at that.  Again, the design objective is to have a summer camp (actually year-round camp) completely off the grid.  One of the questions is: how do we get there from here?

Lots to do.  Lots to think about.  Right now I’m mid-process in building a pinewood derby car based on a 1912 Mercer Raceabout.  I’ve spent four hours in the woodshop, and my glasses were so covered in sawdust from exotic woods that I couldn’t really see.  So I cleaned my glasses and washed my clothes.  Now I feel more human.  It would be more fun out in the Missouri Ozark foothills.  With solar/wind-generated power for the shop tools.

Come summer camping with us, and give us your input.  And pour your own root beer and your own fork and spoon.  And eat like a prince off the grill.  And sleep like a chief in a tipi.  And track the deer through the forest like a Choctaw.  That’s what we’ve been doing.

Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty for root beer, my friends.

Uncle Pat

This week I’ll also update some of the stuff at www.windwalkercamp.com.

What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.


I’m back home in town tonight.

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It’s 51 degrees outside tonight.  I’m sitting inside, out of the wind, with the thermostat at 68 or 70.  I can’t see the stars because the blinds are drawn.  I can’t hear the wind through the trees because of the traffic through the intersection.  I very much miss being on the deck at WindWalkerCamp under a thermal blanket and four of Kathryn’s quilts.

My heart is walking under the trees, under the half-moon over WindWalkerCamp in Missouri’s Ozark foothills.  There is freedom under the vastness of the night sky.  There is wonder in the hunting call of the barred owl.  Mystery rides the wind through the oak and blackjack and hickory silver-dusted by the waxing crescent moon.  Gawd! but it’s beautiful out there.

The first tipi deck is in place.  Kathryn and I sat on that fresh new deck with our backs to the moon just so we could even see the stars.  And the moon was a day or so shy of half full; all but the brightest stars were simply washed away.  We watched the clouds change from a range of buffalo-humped hills on the northern horizon to an avalanche across half the night . . . to an Empire star destroyer in pursuit of Princess Leia.  After a while I got tired of being buffeted by the cold ion exhausts of its passage and walked back uphill to our covered sleeping deck to get ready to crater.

Ten minutes later the rain pittered; then it pattered.  Then it came down like a cow on a flat rock.  I took a blue tarp and tucked in under the mattress, over the thermal blankes and the four quilts.  We laughed and giggled as the wind yanked it out of hands like a Labrador puppy.  Finally it became too much hassle to try to sleep and keep a grip on the tarp.  We weren’t getting rained on anyway, so I folded it up, tucked it under the bed, and we went back to sleep.  Only our noses peeked out for fresh air.

Friday morning dawned blue-eyed and fresh-washed and hung out to dry on the line in Grandmother’s back yard.   “. . . like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay.”

By 9:30 we had made a $42.78 trip to the city dump with the several-year accumulation of trash we had loaded last night.  Back to camp, we finished sweeping out and packing the truck, dropped the futon and tipi cover in the warehouse in town, and headed back for the house.  The house in town.  Our spirit-house remains on a hillside in Missouri under a changing moon, sung over by the winds of the Osage, the Quapaw, the Choctaw.

I can see on the shining screen on the back side of my skull the tipis at the north end of the flying field, the woodshop tucked into the trees to their left.  And as you ford Gerald Creek (that’s the total reason I named the creek that), you come about fifty yards up the hill and take a right in front of the sawmill, come on up the hill, and pass the sentinel Blackjack tree into the opening of the field.  And there are the activity buildings and the Lodge and the flagpole . . .

It’s not all there yet, not in wood and shingle and tin and stone, but I can see it.  Sometimes I feel like Lamar Cranston . . . “Nobody can see it; but I see it.”  It’s way cooler than the Hotel Monolith.

Come to summer camp; see it happen.  Come to summer camp; make it happen.

Thank you for reading.  Let your spirit walk through the trees, under the moon, my friends.

Uncle Pat


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

Third Fall Break Workday at WindWalkerCamp

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The lumber for the first tipi deck got here!  The truck left at 3:45.  It was too dark to see to work at 4:46. In that hour,  I got the Pressure-Treated Southern Yellow Pine (PTSYP) 20-foot 2x8s in place sitting on the footers, and I got a pair 2x6s set on them just to check for square.  Nothing is nailed down yet; it’s just sitting.  Do you have any clue how heavy one of those puppies is?  I carried the first two . . . I dragged the other six.  My poor, tired rear-end had to chase us down the road to the gate to catch the pickup after we left to go to dinner.

But it is looking so good already.  I wasn’t able to rent a nail gun, so tomorrow I’ll be genuflecting over the nails and the deck in Thanksgiving.  And, really, I will be grateful to have this next step done.  Grateful all the way back to those Norse  Heordwicks stacking stones and logs and peat to build shelters for the stock and their families.  I was down on my knees in the cool damp dirt shoving big pieces of building stone around.  Very fulfilling.

 Then, Friends, when you are in Neosho for lunch after dropping your kids at WindWalkerCamp, stop at Pad Thai on Neosho Boulevard.  “Oh, heavens; they’re tasty.”  I had the Three Flavor Spicy Fried Catfish.  It rained down fire from Heaven upon my lips.  The lips are still smoldering an hour and a half later, “but it’s a good kind of hurt.”

We do have photos, but they are winzipped, and I can’t get ‘em out.  I’ll post them next week, when we’re back. 

 That’s about it for today. 

 Thanks for reading.  Stay pressure-treated, my Friends.

 Uncle Pat

 Rates and dates and other stuff at www.windwalkercamp.com.

 What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.





Second Fall Workday at WindWalkerCamp

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I have laid out the footings for the tipi platform . . . 20 blocks perimeter . . . Maybe I should have had the dozer man grad this level instead of just roughing it in.  Next come sixteen blocks in the middle.  I’ve pulled strings to mark intersections.  Now that it’s the next morning I can set blocks under the intersections. 

 The truck with the 2x6s and 2x8s is coming this afternoon.  I’ll be ready.  I’ve got a couple of boxes of nails and a hammer and a set of kneepads.  But I’m wondering if I can rent a nail gun (non-electric) to set this deck down.  That would sure move things along.  Well, whatever . . . the deck is going in today.

 The object is to complete the deck so we can put up the tipi and take a picture of what it looks like.  Then, of course, we strike the tipi, stash it back in the warehouse and haul freight back to Texas to be open PineWoodDerbyWorkshop Saturday noon.   Maybe, if there’s time, we’ll put up the second tipi and take its picture as well.  Now that would be something.  And I still have to build the second tipi deck.  I guess that’s why God made hammers and nails and strings.

The stars again last night were incredible, but the weren’t as bright as Monday night.  Maybe God turned down the volume . . . I do know that it was 26 degrees at 4AM when I got up the first time.  Uh, I went back to bed.  And in anticipation of the lower temps, in addition to the Christmas, Batik, and Valentine quilts, we piled on a new set of flannel sheets and “Morgan’s Green Quilt” that is still in construction.  Lots and lots of safety pins strewn across that one still. (And a needle, actually.)

The barred owls sang their unbelievable duets twice last night that I heard; once early in the evening and again just before dawn.  I found this recording on YouTube, and it sounds pretty close.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgOrZ3jSrB8&feature=fvsr).  The first time you hear this song, even really knowing what it is, really sends the chills ricocheting up and down your backbone. After a couple of times, you come to cherish and enjoy it.

Then the coyotes joined the sonata.  Everybody was following a different conductor, but it was glorious nonetheless.  Even if none of the performers cared at all about Beethoven.

 We’ve been sitting in the Neosho/Newton County Public Library since breakfast catching up on the electronic world, waiting for news of the lumber’s arrival.  It’s time to call again and to head back down to the place.

 Friends, it is peaceful down in the woods . . . much like the sense evoked by Frost’s poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.”  Still and peaceful.

 When I was setting the cast concrete footers for the tipi platform frame, I was down on my hands and knees in the tufted soggy grass, shoving around fifty-pound masses of artificial stone, heaving it around true to the line, and I started channeling that guy how many thousand years ago who was lining up boulders to span with tree trunks to build his house or his storehouse or his temple.  This place isn’t Stonehenge by any stretch of the imagination, but I have some idea how those builders felt.  When I pulled the tape measure from corner to corner to check for the square of the hypotenuse . . . well, I wish my high school math teacher had had us out on the football field laying out squares of stone and timber.  “Will this be on the test?”

“Is your building square?” 



 Thank you for reading.  Stay square, my friends.

 Uncle Pat

 Rates and dates and other stuff are at www.windwalkercamp.com.

 What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.




The Stars at Night . . .

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OK, now.  Everybody sing:

The Stars at Night are Big and Bright

Clap Clap Clap Clap

Right on the Edge of Missouri . . .

Yeah, that’s not the way I learned it either, and I’m from Texas.  Oh, well, we’re next-stepping for Summer Camp at WindWalkerCamp.  One little step at a time.

I tried – I really tried – to set up a summer camp site within three hours of Dallas.  So it would be so very easy for Dallas-type people to get to.  I tried even to buy a place with a little farmhouse on it so there would be a kitchen already in place and ready to start feeding.  I even found a sweet little place outside of Hugo, Oklahoma, but that deal “went right straight south.”  So I figured, OK; I’ll keep developing the 45 acres I’ve already got.  Even if it is a full day’s drive north.

Then this amazing 1895-farmhouse right up the road, on the other side of the Buffalo Hills  Natural Area from us, came on the market.  Well, by the time I could put a down payment on it, it already had a contract on it, and it sold.  So.  I get the Message, Lord; I get the message.

WindWalkerCamp is unique in my vision of it.  STEM camp (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in the forests of the Missouri Ozark foothills.  Gad!  What a concept.

So we herded the trusty little white Ford Ranger from down in Dallas up to Neosho all day Monday.  That poor beast . . .  we worked her like a rented mule.  I had over 700 pounds of donated concrete-block footers stacked in the box plus an 18-foot aluminum Grumman canoe strapped to the headache rack.  Mercy!  Weight and drag both.  For sure that puppy would never fly.  Fuel consumption calculated out to a little less than 18 mpg (I usually get over 20).  To paraphrase Sir Issac, whatever she was doing, she wanted to keep doing.  You would be amazed how long it takes to brake a (overloaded) pickup truck.  Sorta like stopping the southbound Santa Fe.  When I offloaded the canoe and then the concrete footers, the truck just sort of tippy-toed back to town after that.  Picture Walt Disney’s Fantasia hippopotami in ballet slippers . . .  in white.

Last night was thin overcast with not so much as a breath of wind stirring.  Absolutely still.  We were snug abed under the covers asleep by 10PM.  The main deck is built out here and roofed over so it’s out of the rain and the dew, but it’s open to the breezes.  Several years ago I built a queen-size bed frame out of 4×4 and 1×4 Southern Yellow Pine, and I just leave it set up on the deck.  We store a futon in town to keep it from getting eaten by the critters out here.  So we pulled the futon out of the warehouse and set up with three of Kathryn’s homemade quilts on it.  The thermal blanket went first over the top sheet, then the Christmas quilt, then the Batik quilt, then the Valentine quilt. What with the time shift, all this evolved in the true dark.  No streetlights out here, nor any of Mr. Coleman’s lanterns   Right now all our electricity comes from batteries.  When electricity does get to WindWalkerCamp it will be solar- and wind-generated.  (Look up the “chispa” wind turbine.)

The waxing crescent moon glazed the whole panorama with a dusting of silver.  We hardly needed our headlamps. The hills across Gerald Creek were like a chocolate bundt cake sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

Friends, it was cinnamon-toasty under those covers.  I did get up in the middle of the night, and the stars overhead had exploded.  The were not pinpoints of light . . . they were LEDs.  The thermometer showed 38 degrees, still no wind.  The Dipper was just ablaze; there’s really not another word.  Orion was glorious; Cassiopeia was unmistakably regal, and the Pleiades danced quietly, brightly.  I need to pay more attention to learning the names of the rest of the constellations.  (Did you know “Subaru” is Japanese for the constellation we call “Pleiades”?)  This morning I just lay abed with the covers up to my chin while the sun rolled up behind the hills . . . and blew steam at the roof.  The puffs just floated away on the baby-whisper breeze.

If you’re not out here this week, you are flat-smooth missing it.  And that, city boy, city girl, is just a shame.  Take a mental health break, and mark this on your calendar for Thanksgiving  for next year.

Tomorrow we’re off to the lumber yard — there are still lumber yards out here — for decking and framing for the tipi deck.  Banzai!

Thanks for reading.  Stay toasty, my friends.

Uncle Pat

Rates and dates on the website at http://www.windwalkercamp.com

What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

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