Entries to Win Afghan

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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Camp Comstock - 1960 - Pioneer-Primitive Unit

  We left off yesterday with me crying all night at my fate of being left behind in the unit for less serious campers. At least that's what they were in my mind. Buccaneers, along with most of the other units, went to the lodge for 3 meals a day served on plates (with a few unit cookouts). They used the camp latrines. They did not sleep on the ground. Their actvities were more mundane, like afternoon crafts.

Monday morning, I was informed that one of the campers assigned to Pioneer-Primitive did not want to live such a rustic life, and wanted to switch to Buccaneer. I would be headed for Pioneer (the name was generally shortened). You probably don't have to guess at my reaction.

Meet the counselors: Bambi (eating pancakes- from a mess kit while sitting on the ground)
camper eating pancakes


And Windy: my favorite that year. She was more serious about campcraft kinds of things.
college girl in pajamas


Yes, I stayed at camp for two sessions- 4 weeks. Yes, we built that unit from nothing except a clearing and small pavilion. We did a ton of stuff. I have pictures of some of it. Practically the first thing (except pitching the tents, which was already done for the session where I was switched, so I missed that activity at that time) was to build a fire ring. That was tricky in this part of New York, because shale is not acceptable for fire-ring rocks. It will explode when it gets hot, so we had to find small glacial erratics in the woods which were usually some rounded metamorphic things. Eventually, we found enough, but maybe not all the first day. You can see them in one of the pictures below.

We also dug our own latrine. At first, it was just a hole with a lashed seat and a small bucket of lime. But eventually, we wove a partial screen of wattles for privacy.

We learned to lash, and to lash well. This is our unit tool rack.
lashed tool rack


We cooked ALL our own meals on an open fire, and rotated through various chores. Each day a team of two girls carried our food supplies from the lodge in Adirondack pack baskets. (I think this was done on the way back from swimming or boating lessons, rather than a separate trip.) It was about three-tenths of a mile from the unit to the lodge, so not extraordinarily far, but farther away than any other unit.

One of the most memorable activities, because it turned out to be one of great hilarity, was to roast whole chickens over the fire. This girl, Nancy, had a natural gift for comedy. As we were fixing the chicken on the spits (no, we did not kill, pluck and draw them, but they must at least have had packaging and the giblets inside to remove). Anyway, Nancy thought they looked like little headless people. She put napkin diapers on them and did improv dialogue with them. This was so far out of my realm of experience (and I think most of us felt the same way) that we were just a puddle of giggling girls. She named the four chickens George, Henry, Irving and Dennis. (You can see one of the pack baskets behind her.)
plucked chicken in a diaper


Despited bestowing them with names, we cooked them anyway. What an experience! This was real campfire cookery, not just mixing cans of soup with some hamburger. We had dug and lined the fire pit, built the spit and supports, fixed the chickens, built the fire and then had to tend it for hours to keep turning those birdies!
chickens roasting on an open fire


Finally, we were old enough to learn canoeing instead of rowboating. This included more than learning the various strokes, but tipping over on purpose. paddling a swamped canoe (they were canvas, so they would float), rescuing someone in the water without tipping, and races. I didn't want to overwhelm you with pictures, but one of the really fun whole-camp events was watching the counselors in a jousting competition. One counselor paddled while another stood on the gunwhales with a paddle, trying to knock a competitor off her canoe. Probably way too dangerous by today's standards, but we allowed more risk in our lives back then.
tipped canoe


One of the best events of each session was the final campfire. All the campers convened in one location for a huge ceremonial fire (think large but controlled- not really a bonfire). There was some sort of program (each unit provided some part) and lots of singing. It usually lasted until after dark and included some kind of lighting ceremony, such as the launching of small boats with a candle or something. They always ended with three songs. The first was either "Linger," "Flicker," "Remember," or "Each Campfire Lights Anew." This was followed by "Anna Botsford Comstock," (you can follow the category link below to read more about her if you want) and the end was "Taps." Remembering these still can make me tear up.
campfire group


If camp had been special to me before, this year it became the one place in the world where I could be myself and not only not be put down, but admired for knowing camp skills and not minding being dirty. I thrived. One of the lines of "Flicker" is "Love is for those who find it, I've found mine right here..." I had finally found where I belonged.

Stay tuned for part 3 of the 1960 camp story.

In other news: I did a little bit on every single one of my current projects today. Yeah, me! This includes reading what I think will be the last book that counts as research toward Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp. It is SO written in teen-speak that it gives me a headache, but it's more pertinent than the last two, so hooray.

See Buccaneer Unit
Camp Comstock

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Camp Comstock - 1960 - Buccaneer Unit

  1960 was an interesting and life-changing year for me at Camp Comstock. It's going to take 3 days to tell the story, and tonight there aren't even good pictures to go with it.

First of all, I want you to know that it cost $40 to go to a 2-week session of camp. That was a lot of money, and I had saved that amount the previous year. I think my mom would have come up with the cash, but I was determined to pay my own way. I had a mechanical dime bank that locked when you put the first dime in and wouldn't open until you had $10. That was perfect. I wasn't tempted to sneak any money out of my camp fund. I'd show you a picture, but the bank was stolen a long time ago by one of our foster kids.

I'd always gone to third session at Comstock. However, I really, really (using junior high vocabulary there) wanted to go to two sessions. There were two ladies at church, unmarried sisters who lived on their family farm. It was a big property with a lovely house and a white board fence that encircled the estate-sized lawn. I just spent an hour looking for a picture of that yard, because I'm sure I have one. But I can't find it either. Anyway, they said they would pay me $40 to scrape and paint that fence. And, just like that, I had the money to go to two sessions. I suppose Mom had to drive me out to their house every day until the job was done. It was 5 or 6 miles away which seemed like a long distance at the time.

Also that year, Comstock decided to start a brand-new unit called Pioneer-Primitive. It was going to be carved out of the forest by campers. There was a clearing and a small pavilion with a concrete floor, but girl power was going to do everything else. I signed up.

However, when I arrived at camp at the beginning of the second session, I learned that I had been assigned to Buccaneer because I was so young (a year younger than other kids in my grade) . That unit had Adirondack shelters- very similar to this one (which is on the North Country Trail). There weren't bunks, just floors. Adirondack shelter

The Buccaneer song was: "B-U-C, B-U-C, B-U-C-C-A-N-E, B-U-C-C-A-N-E-E-R-S spells Buccaneers. Buccaneers, Buccaneers, been in Scouting many years. Sailing o'er the lakes of blue, wait and it will soon be you."

But, I simply could not believe this was happening to me. I'm not saying that I couldn't be manipulative when I wanted to be, but my reaction was absolute heartbreak. Campers arrived on Sunday afternoons, and I think I began to cry pretty soon after we got our unit assignments, and I know I cried all night. I think my mother was called, although that memory might be hazy.

Is there any grief greater than that of a 12-year old whose dreams have just been dashed? For today, I will leave you at the scene with me sobbing in my bedroll.

In other news: I did a little bit on every one of my projects today. I wonder how long I can keep this up. So far, the house hasn't self-destructed back into the appearance of the aftermath of a hurricane. I'm never sure that it won't do that without provocation. Houses seem quite skittish.

See Merrymen Unit

Monday, February 6, 2023

Unusual Apparitions

  What is that strange apparition marching across the front of this desk?
shadow on a desk front


Even stranger, why is only one of these lights apparently on? (No the bulbs aren't burned out.)
glowing light fixture


There was a strange appearance in the sky today which caused a row of my bottles to cast that shadow across the desk.
cobalt blue glass bottles


And the glowing light? That one was a little weird. As the sun began to go down (a little later than this picture), the light coming through a window was only hitting one of the globes of the dining room light, resulting in the appearance that only one of the lights was on. It was NICE to look outside and realize there was sun!
winter sky


In other news: I finally have the house and my mind ordered enough to start working on two huge projects. They are each difficult, but I'm going to try to spend a small amount of time on each one every day.

The first is to deal with all the applications by long distance NCT hikers that have come in while I've been away. People are understandably annoyed, and I need to get cracking on this project. I made a tiny dent today in terms of getting organized to work on it.

The other one is to keep working on cataloging the pictures from the hike. All of the pictures from all my other hikes of the past 32 years are coded, numbered, labeled, etc. To date the hike with the most pictures was the Arrowhead hike in 2009 with over 1000 pictures taken mainly by 3 people. This hike has thousands, plural, of photos with a lot of photographers. I want to include the pictures sent to me by others, because those are just about the only pictures of me, since I don't take many selfies. I made some small forays into that project while I was still on the trail, but only a bare beginning. I have no idea how long this will take (at least months because I can only stand to work on it for so long at a time- tedious), but today I tried to pull together the information I did get recorded while I was hiking into a framework.

See Nothing But Blue Skies

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Chicken Fricasee

  There have been a couple of nudges in the past year that caused me to think about chicken fricasee. Most recently, I've mentioned the reference to it in the Nero Wolfe book, Some Buried Caesar. That's the book where I got the bean recipe. In that book, the Methodist ladies made fricasee that rose to Wolfe perfectionist standards for food.

But it had been on my mind before that. I ordered it in a restaurant once while on the hike. I'd never before seen it offered in a restaurant. It turned out to be not very good. I mean, it was chicken on something- I forget if they served it on biscuits or noodles or what. But my memory of fricasee was chicken so tender it falls off the bone in a sauce with lots of onions. That's what my recipe produced, and that is what I was expecting, so in that sense I was disappointed.

I looked at pictures on the web and learned that my idea of the dish was pretty much like the pictures and not what I'd had at the restaurant.

I rooted around in the kitchen and found the old recipe. Chicken was on sale. There are no fancy ingredients. The only reason I haven't made this in forever (like probably since the 1980s) is that it dirties a lot of dishes.

And how was it? Om and I agree, this is still an amazingly yummy dish. I served mine on rice, but biscuits or dumplings would be even better.
chicken fricasee


If I was going to make that much mess, I was going to make enough to last a few days. Mission accomplished. That's the BIG serving dish.
chicken fricasee


And there was still carrot cake for dessert.

In other news: I did more paperwork and read another book. This one was also not really pertinent to the subject I was looking for, but it was a good mystery.

See Carrot Cake

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Carrot Cake

  I don't believe I've made a carrot cake since I started blogging 14+ years ago. But I was definitely craving one. I put in walnuts, but I forgot raisins. That would have made it even better. Maybe it won't be 14 years before I make one again. Yum, yum.
carrot cake


In other news: I finished reading a book I chose for "research." It turned out to be not quite what I thought it would be, but it was interesting, so I finished it. At least it was unique. It was a humorous mystery set in Laos in 1979 with all the political intrigue you might expect from that place and time. I've certainly never read anything quite like it.

I dropped some things off at Cathy's and went grocery shopping. Took down one more table on which stuff was piled in the living room. There is actually a small bit of floor space there now as opposed to a single aisle.

See One Half Cake, One Whole Birthday
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