Posts by Andy Bachmann

Tales from Tower Three

July 29, 2014

  1. Anyone who has been to camp knows of our famous towers. Our lake neighbors love to come down and gawk as the boys perform feats of courage and craziness as they leap into the air, 18 feet above the water.
    From down on the dock, the towers are really not that daunting. But once you climb them, and stand on that third platform in particular, it can seem like you’re 500 feet off the surface. And it can be intimidating. I still get nervous when I stand up there.
    So the other day when I saw a camper from way down in Cabin 25 take his first step off Tower Three I knew I got to witness one of the greatest moments of the summer.
    There are lots of “firsts” at Camp. First time you paddle a kayak, first time you get up on water skis – heck! – first time you are away from your parents home for more that a night! And we love to celebrate those “firsts.” We celebrate them because we know how special they are. We know how important they are in helping to shape these young men lives into our Worthwhile Man line that says, “Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.”

    Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.

    “Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.” The little guy who *jumped* pictured above.

    That little guy from Cabin 25 stood on Tower Three for 45 minutes. Then the bugle blew, calling the waiters to come get supper ready. But the lifeguards didn’t budge. And neither did his cousins (all 4 of them). Everybody stood by, eyes to the sky, waiting.
    He’d walk to the edge, then skitter back. He’d try to take a running start, only to stop short. He stood there for an eternity. Finally his cousins climbed up, and jumped off, to show him how easy it can be. One of our lifeguards went up and jumped off, showing him how he could do it. But still, he waited…
    Finally, first call blew, calling all of us to supper. And suddenly he did it – he took off of that tower and even before he hit the water the roar of the crowd erupted. It was awesome. He emerged from the water triumphant – beaming with pride and accomplishment.
    All of our sons are experiencing plenty of soul-stretching, discomforting moments of first-ness all the time. And when they do something new the smiles that shine forth from their faces are those of young men who know that they are living into a new reality; a world where they are beginning to get the sense that if they set their mind to something, then chances are good that they can accomplish it. Whether it’s jumping off Tower Three for the first time, or simply being away from mom and dad for four weeks. It is a special thing to witness those breakthrough moments. And it is a moment that I don’t think any of us will soon forget.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.
    Andy B.

  2. Around the Fire

    Last night I could hear the Cubbies finishing up their game of Mafia after a lively and adventurous Division Day. Division Day is when the divisions spend their afternoon together, playing games, tubing, hangin’ out, etc. They always end their day with hotdogs and marshmallows around the fire. Now, I’m not sure exactly HOW to play Mafia, but I know it involves one guy being the “mafia,” one guy being a doctor and one guy being a police officer. They all put their heads down, then the mafia guys lift their heads and designate someone to “off” and then the doctor lifts his head and designates someone to save, then the police officer gets to accuse someone – or something like that. I say this because I’ve never actually SEEN it played, but last night I HEARD it loud and clear.
    One of the great things about being in the north woods is that there is almost NO noise pollution. Which means, on a beautiful clear night like last night, with no wind and a gorgeous sunset, I could hear everything those Cubbies said, even all the way over on the Point across the lake; which is where they were. And they were having a blast.
    Funny thing about a campfire; it can make something as seemingly simple as lifting your head and trying not to giggle and pointing at your cabin mate seem like the greatest thing in the world. Whether it’s watching a marshmallow burn to a crisp, or gazing deeply into the embers of a dying fire, there is something magical about that time.
    My son just returned from his three day hiking trip in the Porcupine Mountains. At this point in the summer, many of your guys have been out on their trips and have returned. His report post-trip was bubbling with excitement and pride; though most of the stories were of the zany misadventures and goofy things that happened. They always remember the goofy things – like when Jackson’s shoe got stuck in the mud, and he then accidentally sank his socked foot deep into the same mud; or when they all woke up in the morning piled in a heap in one small corner of the tent, with Eugenio’s feet in his face and Caleb’s head on his chest – and plenty of space in the other half of the tent.
    One of the insights that my son relayed to me was a really cool realization he had one night, as they were all gathered around the fire. He looked around him and exclaimed, “There are FIVE different languages sitting around this fire!” And he was right. Two boys were from Mexico. One counselor has been preparing for his year abroad in China, and he speaks mandarin. One boy lives in France. And one boy speaks sign language. And yet here they were, this motley crew, gathered around the fire laughing at their misadventures, giggling about muddy socks, scheming how they can swipe the sweet campsite from the other camp tomorrow, having the time of their lives.
    One of the greatest things I ever learned to do here at Camp Highlands is to make a one-match fire. A skill I still practice whenever my daughters beg for s’mores; and now that I think of it, a skill I will add to my resume. Because when you make a fire you do more than just spark a heat source. You invite imagination and laughter and thoughtful contemplation. And that, my friends, is a pretty awesome gift to share.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.


    Perhaps you’ve heard of “gagaball?” It was new to me—but for the last couple of years the fellow who trains our lifeguards every summer has been STRONGLY encouraging me to get one. So this year, I did. And it’s a blast.
    Players enter the “pit.” A hexagon frame about two feet tall, 17’ across. Then they take this little ball, bounce it, then start to bat it around trying to hit the other players on the leg, from the knee down. You get hit below the knee, you’re out. Pretty simple. But the campers go crazy for it.
    One great thing about gaga is it is a self-policing game. Players know when they’re out, and they go out. Games rarely last more than 3 minutes. And they’re FUN!
    A few days ago, a bunch of Cubs and Colts were playing, and the chants started. “Cubbies! Cubbies!” vs. “Colts! Colts! Colts!” I don’t even remember who won; but someone did. Then, during the NEXT game, when there were only two players in the pit, they started chanting again. But this time it was, “ANYONE! ANYONE!”
    Today we celebrated the Fourth of July (on the 28th of June- I know! I know! But YOU try to get 21 trips in and out of camp in 21 days. The first Saturday of the term we have everyone in camp, so we do our All-Camp games) and it was a testament to the art of friendly competition.
    As you know, we divide all of camp in to two teams: the Army and the Navy. Once you’re on a team you’re on a team for LIFE. And so are all of your offspring. I’m a third generation Navy man myself. There really is no rhyme or reason for it- it’s just how we can divide into two teams for our all-camp competitions.
    So this morning we had our Army-Navy Track Meet. And it was a great one- it came down to a 25-point difference at the end—and with over 700 points at stake, that is a slim margin! We run, jump, put and throw- and here’s the thing. MOST of these guys have never competed in track events before. Many don’t even really know about them. So the amazing thing is when we see kids who have never run a 50-yard dash in their lives before run one and then WIN. And suddenly they have a whole perspective on what they can and can’t do. And maybe- just maybe this one win in this one event will change the shape of their lives forever. I know of more than a few Highlands men who learned to love the track and field thanks to their participation in our track meets here at camp. It’s a great event. It can make a hero out of anyone.
    And here is another thing I love about the track meet- at the end of the day we all just love to watch a good race. The Senior Relay is the big event at the end. When our fastest, oldest 4 guys from each team run about a 400-meter lap each. It is SO exciting- with everyone cheering for their team and shouting for their guy, and hoping for your team to pull through in the end. And sometimes they do! But sometimes they don’t. And today, what I loved seeing was that at the end of the big race, with all of camp gathered around hooting and hollering and shouting their teams, when the winner crossed that finish line -he stopped. And waited. And the first hand he grabbed was the guy he just beat. Then all of the relay guys gathered around, from both teams, and shared a smile and a hug for a race well run- and suddenly we weren’t Army or Navy anymore. We were Highlands. They did this with no prompting from a counselor. They did it because that’s how we do it at Highlands. This is the art of friendly competition. And it was on proud display today. It was a great day at camp.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.
    Andy B.

  4. Boys Will Run

    Sometimes I take the little things for granted. And then something as simple as watching a flock of boys run past me will remind me of just how special summer camp can be.
    This morning I had one of those moments. I was sitting on the office porch enjoying one last cup of coffee before the onslaught of the day, and the bugle blew- and there they were- a flock of Cubbies clomping past the porch on their way to their activities. Running. I don’t know what it is about these little guys, but it seems like they are always in a rush to the next great adventure. They greet the day with enthusiasm and pep (Honor Camper Quality #3), and they don’t let a moment go to waste.
    Some of that zest probably comes from the compressed energy of the last two days. Long car or plane rides. A forever-taking bus. Then all those safety talks! Riflery, Waterfront, Boating Bay, Free Swim. Then the instructional talks- how to be a waiter, how to request an activity, how to put up a tent, how to sweep the cabin, how to make a bed! And then the swim test! And then the bad weather drill! It’s no wonder they’re ready to rock on this second day at camp.

    photo 2

    Waterfront safety talk. Boring? Maybe. Important? You bet!

    Ross gives the thumbs up after a successful storm drill. Boring? Maybe. Important? You bet!

    Ross gives the thumbs up after a successful storm drill. Boring? Perhaps. Important? Definitely!

    But all this preparation is what makes for an exciting and a safe summer. So today, it is time to RUN. The fellas in Cabin 24 told me they have the BEST day today. Kayaking, Archery, Adventure (our ropes course) and Riflery. Then they couldn’t wait for Clubs this afternoon. Two will be making model rockets. Two have signed up for our Soccer tournament. All four were brimming with enthusiasm and excitement for this great adventure called “camp.” And all four were running all around, with nobody telling them to stand still or calm down or be quiet or act right. Because they were acting right! They were boys, being boys.
    I can’t remember the last time I ran just for running’s sake, but next time I see that flock of Cubbies blazing by, I think I will join them.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.
    Andy B.