One of my fondest memories growing up were neighborhood-wide games of Capture the Flag. We’d play til we were red in the face, completely dehydrated…exhausted. My mom would finally ring the big farm bell that sat on a pole by the walk to our back door, and we knew it was time to come in. That was always well after dusk…probably when she felt a return to sanity that we could begin to chip away at again when we walked in the door…with our grass-stained laundry and constant needs. Those were easy days, and summer nights still elicit a joy that only those who live in or visit the country know. Capture the Flag…the Illahee version is much more complex, and it evolves every single year. Some of you have sales meetings. In our world, it would not be unusual to have a “Capture the Flag” meeting. Jealous? I thought so… In fact, Kris, our Assistant Director and Flag enthusiast, passed by me after we had finished “Camper Transport 2012” and said, “next year, I am going to be Captain of one team, and Dave is going to be Captain of the other.” At Illahee, there are reds and blues (odd and even numbered cabins). Each team has two flags on their side in a circle that is a safety zone until a jailbreak. For ten seconds after the jailbreak sounds, there are no safety zones…in fact you have to leave it. Girls in yellow pinnies (ten each side) can tag anyone on their side and send them to jail. Points are awarded for getting a flag to the other side and for girls sent to jail. Confused? So are most of the girls until the game starts, and then it makes sense. There is music playing, and dancing in the jailhouse.
I write every night during the summer, and sometimes I lose my sense of audience. I have been doing this for over ten years, and in an attempt to avoid repetition, I have realized that sometimes I forget to tell new session parents about important things. Hannah Ford Farm is quickly becoming one of my favorite places. It’s a good story. Some of the best biking and most beautiful farmland in western North Carolina lies along the headwaters of the French Broad River Valley close to camp. These are important trout waters, and important to the vitality of our community. This past year, three different breweries are building major east coast expansion projects along the French Broad below us…Sierra Nevada, New Belgium (Fat Tire), and Oskar Blues (Dale’s Pale Ale). Since the height of the real estate market bubble in 2007, I had been watching this tract, which is literally 4 miles from camp, and an 8 minute drive. A local builder had found easy money and bought a 60 acre tract from a wise old farmer for an insane amount of money, thinking he was going to flip it. Like so many, his timing was a little off, and long story short, I caught wind that a foreclosure was imminent. I called the builder to see if I could help him avoid that, but there were other investments, and he had given up. The property was neglected. The barn was falling down, a block building needed a roof and more, and everything was overgrown. We closed on the tract in February of 2011, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. For those of you who don;t know me well, my other “love” is building (besides camp). I am a woodworker, a hammer swinger, and love intelligent design, especially renovation. Our farm neighbors are ecstatic. We have been using the heck out of it. It is such a great outpost for camp…canoeing, tubing, a farm activity, gardening, overnights, and tonight, Capture the Flag.
There are 1800 feet of river frontage, which means almost 18 acres of the flattest fields you can imagine. We cut hay for our horses from the first growth, but have kept it trim with a grooming mower since, and it looks good. The farm is framed by the Black Balsams to the north…in fact there is a great view of the Blue Ridge Parkway. To the south, we see Dunn’s Rock over acres and acres of farmland…beautiful. So another “tweak” we have made to Capture the Flag is moving it from the horse pastures at camp to the farm. It takes two “movements” to transport all of camp, but our logistics geniuses have that figured out too. We started after fifth period with the youngest girls, and the food was all set up. I have been BAD this summer. I don;t eat a lot of meat, but there is something about barbecue that really tests my fortitude. I think it may be the Southern-ness of it. I’m all about all things Southern. You can get barbecue from our purveyors. That’s not how we do it. Boston Butts (doesn’t sound Southern), cooked to perfection and then hand pulled…tossed with some sauce. You should have seen those girls eat. Barbecue done right and bacon will tempt even the most resilient vegetarian. We had corn on the cob shucked by Laurie and some camper friends today, baked beans, cole slaw and watermelon…oh yeah and brownies too! If I had to paint a portrait of a perfect summer evening, I don’t think I could do any better.
I wanted to remind everyone that our website does some fun stuff. One thing that is really cool…for those who ordered this, there is a down pointing arrow when you expand any image. This is a separate high resolution version of the image that when you click on the arrow, you can save to your computer or a disk to take in to Wal-Mart to print (or print on your own printer). We will leave that enable all year long, and there is no limit to how many images you can download.There are some great pictures that I’m sure some of you will want to keep!
Can you tell it was a great day? I don’t think they can get any better. We’ll keep trying, of course. We had four birthdays today. Counselors Lawton, Kaki, and Kalen (on the barn staff)…and camper Ellie. Ellie came by me tonight exuberant…I said, “you know, this was all for you.” She smiled and said, “the best birthday ever”! Indeed.