Capture the Flag!

Three summer camp girls on the blue team during Capture the Flag.
Go Blue! The red taggers can’t be far behind!

I wish all of you could hang out on a summer’s eve like this one and watch the activity that makes up a camp-wide game of Capture the Flag. I wrote a few days ago about spending my summers as a kid  with my grandparents. I heard from several folks that memories flooded back from their own childhood of carefree summer nights spent with the neighborhood kids, roaming the streets like we owned the world…playing games like “Kick the Can” and “Capture the Flag.” One of my favorite nights at camp is a huge camp-wide game of Capture the Flag for that very reason.

I’ll have to stop here and tell you that it’s not about the game…at least for me. Now, Dave…our amazing program director (if your girls take tennis, you’ll hear about Dave) would tell this story a little differently. His description would be punctuated by details of strategy with the ultimate goal of winning. What fascinates me, though, is the backstory…everything else that is going on while the game is being played. I’ll start by saying that I appreciate the fact that God put on His great earth a never-ending hodgepodge of personalities…one of our campers who I photographed several times today is a girly-girl (actually she’s a great girly-girl). At the start of the game, she asked me to take a picture of her with a couple of buddies. They were wearing the team colors and looking cute. I was ready to get some action shots, and said “once the game starts, I’ll take your picture.” She said, “oh, but I don’t run.” I got a little tickled; she laughed…and I snapped her picture.”

So, about 80% of the girls are running like crazy trying to get the other team’s flag to their side. They’re the competitors. It’s about as much fun as you can have on a beautiful summer’s eve. There are two flags for each of the blue and red teams, “taggers” dressed in yellow “pennies” who can send the opposing team members to jail. The flag is kept in a circle of safety on the opposing team’s side. Jail is more “Elvis” than San Quentin. Music is playing and the inmates have to dance. Every once in a while at the whim of the warden, an “ah-oo-ga” horn blares indicating a jailbreak…at which time, all the girls who have been caught are free, and those who are in the safe circle around the flag have to vacate for fifteen seconds, during which time, they are “fair game” and can be sent to jail by taggers.

I like being behind a camera. What I like even more is telling the story. Words and photographs do that. I have written before that I like sharing the responsibilities of being camp photographer because it keeps me “out there.” That is certainly true. Today, I went down to Woodworking on my standard trek through camp, and there was a line waiting to get help using the nail gun. There were two other nail guns, and several more staff members, but the staffers didn’t know that it was o.k. to use the “staple” style guns in addition to the brad nailers…long and short was that I swept through, took a few pictures, and then dissected that line from 6 to 2. By the time I left, all of the girls were busy sanding instead of standing in line because they had finished nailing their projects. Now, I don’t tell that story to impress with you with my problem-solving skills, but like most things, it is important for us to be present to set the expectation. The result is that everyone feels better about what they are doing as I am sure the counselors leading the activity were just as frustrated as I was that girls were waiting for their turn.

Back to Capture the Flag…some girls go to jail and never leave. Why would they? Jail’s like a big dance party and everyone’s having a great time. So they stay and dance with favorite counselors. We have boundaries, but girls can go in the woods and across the creek that bisects the upper pasture from the lower pasture. A number of girls cross the creek for the first time and get distracted by all the cool stuff that is living down there. I mean, there are crawdads, and tiny fish, frogs, and salamanders. Then, there are the “Swiss,” girls who wander onto the other team’s territory, but are unconcerned with being tagged and sent to jail. They’re just visiting. If a “tagger” shows up, they have an excuse that prevents them from being sent to jail. We have a camper who came to camp with a knee injury and is on crutches…the fastest girl on crutches I have ever seen. I’m sure her orthopod would cringe, but she was undeterred.

But, probably my favorite part of Capture the Flag is watching our counselors. I can’t help but having flashbacks with some of them who are still so “into the game.” They are  running hard…maybe a little slower, playing with an intensity that I haven’t seen since…they were campers…cheering on a new generation. I love camp for that reason. It allows us all…those first embarking on the great adventure, and those of us who have been on it for awhile, a chance to sit back and take a break from the hustle and bustle that we allow to make up our lives and get excited about the stuff that matters. That “stuff” is all about relationships.

Tomorrow, we sleep in. The Krispy Kreme man will come early with fresh donuts which will be the “dessert” to a breakfast of cereal, eggs, and fruit. We will worship our great God in the Woodland Chapel and then enjoy a yummy Sunday lunch of fried chicken. It will be a great end to a terrific week.

One response to “Capture the Flag!

  1. I have truly enjoyed your “blog”, which is sort of a new concept for a guy that went to camp in Tuxedo in 1953 at Camp Arrowhead with Joe and Mary Bell. When my wife Linda and I brought Hardin to camp last week I have to tell you how impressed I was with the camp facilities…just unbelievable!!But what was really unbelievable were the wonderful people starting with you and Laurie. You both,in a very hectic moment, made Linda, me, and our granddaughter feel so warm and a part of your “Camp Illahee” family. I sincerely thank you for that special feeling. Just a short note to thank you both for all you do for so many wonderful kids.
    Regards, Gordon

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