Notes from the Director

June 23, 2017

Manhugs and Victory

If you’ve ever read the Director’s Notes in the past – and I’m not sure I’d suffer through more than a few – you know that this is my favorite time of the term.  We’re winding down the session and ramping up the excitement.

On Wednesday night, by the glow of the setting sun, we all gathered at the Riding Arena for the 2017 Rough Rider Presentation.  Alums and Veterans both remember that this is the traditional ceremony (same script for my 36 summers) where we introduce the Rough Rider Nominees on Horseback and then announce the First Term Camp La Junta Rough Riders.  There’s no running around.  There’s no keeping score.  There’s no competition taking place.  What there is, is 90 years of tradition wrapped up in 30 minutes of ritual riding.  But the tradition is not my favorite part.

What I love and what I saw again last night, is how much of the La Junta program culminates in that ceremony.  All the boys who are nominated, with a few exception are Hilton campers, are in their final main camp year.  They’ve strived, struggled, dreamed and worked hard to grow more confident and accomplished on a horse (which is not a place that some of us ever grow comfortable).  There’s 18 young heroes who want it bad.  There are 10 that won’t get it.  As the ceremony progresses and the eighth name is called it becomes obvious to the 10 just who they are.  There is of course disappointment, but in a few hours it is replaced with confidence that in defeat there remains the fact that only the truly top 18 riders were recognized.  But that’s not my favorite part of the evening.

The Nominees are always mounted on their steeds under the bleachers and out of sight of the masses.  What always happens next gives me goose bumps and faith in our future leaders.  They are not coached.  They are not assigned the task.  But when the remaining 10 learn who they are, the riding staff begin to make their way through the fog of disappointment.  Whether 24 year old leaders of the program, or 16 year old assistants, all 8 are shaking hands, patting knees and squeezing shoulders.  (Manhugs).  The most classic is when our head instructor, on horseback rides up to a disappointed rider, places his index finger in the middle of their chest, looks them straight in the eye and tells them, “I’m proud of you! Hold your head high!  You’ll always be one of the best!

Disappointment is always going to be a part of life and we want to help teach our boys, through tradition and perseverance, that life goes on.  A near miss is no more than that.  There are billions of lives in other hemisphere’s who will never ride a horse, or paddle a war canoe, or advance in the Black Eagles or make it to Bulldogger.  Their life goes on.  If you aim high, you sometimes miss.  If you never aim high, you always miss.

Life is Good.  Camp is Better.  Never perfect.  Always Better.


Written by Blake Smith

© Camp La Junta | P.O. Box 139 | Hunt, Texas 78024 | 830.238.4621
Site Design by dh and ISDG.