Director’s Notes

July 24, 2010

Camp La JuntaAs another week winds down at CLJ, we are forced to face the harsh reality that the 2010 camp season is coming to a close. Only one week left of main camp.

Nothing marks the beginning of the end better than the term’s Rough Rider Presentation. It’s such a great night. I’ve been here since 1982 and it’s an important piece of tradition that we have a ceremony that remains virtually untouched over all that time. My sense is that it’s been fairly steady since the Rough Rider program began in the early 1950s. The 18 Rough Rider Nominees ride out into the arena in front of the entire camp who is perched high in the bleachers above. A traditional script of Nominee adventures and traditions is read over top of classic cowboy tunes – western swing – from the 1950s. As the anticipation builds, the 8 La Junta Rough Riders are finally announced, their pledge administered and the original Cowboy’s Prayer read to end the evening. After almost 60 such ceremonies, I still get goose bumps as the sun sets over the Rough Rider pledge. Again this summer, the goose bumps came early as I watched from the rail. One of our honorees has two brothers at camp. Out of curiosity, I watched them instead of their brother. As his name was announced, one came out of his seat and the other punched the sky with both hands. After some loud support they looked for each other and a long distance air high five! It’s cool to watch brothers who enjoy each other’s victories as much as their own!

I know I probably say this every year, but after the 8th Rough Rider is announced, there are usually 10 fellows who feel the weight of disappointment. Some for just a flash, and some for longer. Our riding staff always breaks immediately from the role of rough and tumble cowboy and straight into the role of reassuring big brother. There are handshakes and pats on the back, first for those who didn’t make it. The Rough Rider process is one of our most valuable teaching moments: the hunt should be more important than the result. Not everyone’s gonna walk away a winner, but just to have been in the process is a cool honor in itself. Somewhere in the consolation comes the realization that there were only 18 out of 270 boys who were even eligible. Pretty good stats when you slow down and look!

This would normally be a great time to pass along more Dung Beetle details, but I don’t have any. They’re just cool. What I do have is a quick glimpse into daily CLJ life. You’ll wish you were here. Last week, we had a very brief rain shower, that hit at the end of 4th period and the beginning of 5th. We had to go to rainy day for a bit because the lightning detector went off and had just cleared the 5 minute mark. (yes we have such a device – we don’t go out from cover when lightning is within 10 miles). I watched one of our previously homesick wranglers walking from 4th to 5th, all by himself in the drizzle, singing a tune that likely only he recognized and flapping his arms like a giant bird. Life is good. Not a bad way to get to class. About half way there, his arms broke from flapping and went directly into the famous armpit “far*” motion. Rapid. Repetitive. Clearly either part of the song, or just a momentary distraction of personal pleasure. Either way, what a cool way to go through the day. Try that at the office or the mall tomorrow. Certainly people in the real world can have as much fun as we do at camp! Who cares if they don’t understand.

Have a great weekend. We’ve got loads to accomplish and just one week left.

Life is Good. Camp is Better. Especially put to music.


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