My muse taps me on the shoulder around ten or eleven at night to write this blog.  So here I sit in front of Mr. Dell’s little machine, the wife drowsing in one ear, the cockatiel seed-cracking in the other.  My knit buffalo hat keeping my ears warm.  Thinking about summer camp.

Do other Camp People think about summer camp in the middle of the night?  I don’t really know.  Maybe.  I know I do is all.  I really could be finishing the remodel on the shower or sweeping the shop since the last herd of PineWoodDerbyWorkshop kids came through.  I do my lesson-planning before I leave school . . .

Songs and haiku at summer camp.  Now there’s a topic.  What makes a summer camp song?  There’s a loaded question if ever there was one.  I still remember YMCA day camp songs from the ‘50s in Amarillo.  Uh, they aren’t socially acceptable any more.  I’m not sure they’re really wrong, but even I don’t think like that any more.  And the great stirring, patriotic songs from Scout camp in the ‘60s are just sort of “meh.”

I’m thinking “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” is good.  And “Greenback Dollar” is good.  And “I wear my pink pajamas” is a keeper.  I’m even leaning toward “I Want to Teach the World to Sing.”  You remember, before Coke bought it and commercialized the lyrics?  There are others.  “The Wind Blew Through His Whiskers Just the Same” is a good one.  And then for round songs there are “Zulu Warrior” and “One Bottle of Pop” and . . . I’ve gone blank, but it’ll come back.

And then there is haiku.  Oh, holy syllables, Batman.  What can you really say in seventeen syllables? I’ve learned that kids can pack C-47s into seventeen syllables when they work at it.  They’ll make you laugh, make you cry, make you wander what you were thinking about, make you proud of what they’ve learned . . .

When I taught English (before standardized testing got out of control) Thursday’s were Haiku Days, and my students tore it loose.  All they got for their labor was a daily grade and a medium to express themselves in.  Ten years later I still get haiku by mail from past students.  I picked up my laundry once a couple of years ago and the clerk (one of my former students) handed me my shirts and two haiku.  When I went to the funeral of one of my former students, I handed his mom a pair of haiku I wrote while I cried for all our loss.

At WindWalkerCamp haiku is one of our foci (like that?).  Focuses? (Nah, foci.)  Throughout the day on the archery range or the gun range or in the woodshop or on the flying field, or the campfire,  wherever we are, the guys’ll be turning their phrases behind their eyeballs because at dinner everybody recites at the Haiku Slam.  Every haiku will be recorded on paper.  And they have to follow the rules (www.englishisnotforsissies.org — check the “haiku” link).  No artistic license.  Seventeen is seventeen.  If a gardener can strive with a warrior through poetry, that’s power.  Any way, at dinner a panel of judges for sure, and maybe a call of the hall will determine that evening’s Poet Laureate.  And he will be awarded the fourragere to wear with his dinner dress shirt.  For the rest of the week.  He keeps that lanyard on his shirt.

“Dinner dress shirt.”  Let’s talk about that..  Summer camp is how a society passes its tacit values to succeeding generations.  Even more than through formal education.  Maybe more than through church.  There are gigaboodles of church summer camps, friends.   And every tribe, every segment of our society has a uniform, tacit or explicit.  Bankers don’t wear t-shirts to work, and bakers don’t wear suits.  (Just like “real men don’t wear plaid” and golfers will wear anything!)  Well, the summer camp uniform is shorts and a t-shirt and sneaks or sandals.  But dinner and campfire .  . . well, those are different in my book.  When the community breaks bread, that is important.  It certifies the bonds forged during the day.  When everybody wears “the shirt” the group identity is reaffirmed, the ‘fellowship of the ring,” the knights of the Round Table,” the “band of brothers.”  It’ll just be the shirt.  We don’ need no stinkin’ neckties . . .  But the shirt will be the palette where everyone’s achievements will be painted and celebrated.  It’s important.

Go to the website www.windwalkercamp.com for the stuff that is more or less cast in stone . . . or at least scratched in the sand.

Thanks for reading.

Uncle Pat

What the hands learn the mind can’t forget.

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