Friday, September 14, 2012

Philmont Journal: Day 13


Day 13: June 22, 2012

            We only had 4 or 5 miles to go today so we didn't start right off. We were unable to get signed up for program yesterday so we did it today at 8 am. The activity was spar pole climbing which is essentially climbing really tall, wooden poles with no handholds whatsoever. Instead, you climb using boot spikes and a strap that run around the far side of the pole. Again Nash bragged that he was going to beat us all and again he was beat. My youngest brother beat him by the most. The whole experience was fun; there's just nothing quite like hanging out over empty space by nothing besides two spikes on your boots! Out crew went quickly (because we were awesome and competent like that) while some of the other crews had issues. of course, the problems always seemed to be with that one kid. You know the one that I'm talking about; the one that probably joined scouts because his parents made him and looks like he hasn't seen the like of day in two or three years. Invariably, they try and try to get up the pole but just manage to look like a cat trying to climb a sanded down, greased tree trunk. One that's made out of metal.
            After the program we headed down to the burrow pen and tried to wrestle our two devil spawn into their packs. Murphy seemed to be a lot better from the previous day and went into his pack much more easily. Within 28 minutes, we were on the trail. With the end of our trip in sight, the hiking went by quickly and we arrived at Ponill, our last camp, at 2 or so and took our burrows down to the pen to return them. The wrangler that we were returning them to was really funny in a straight-faced, sarcastic sort of way. It was at least a quarter of a mile from the porch (where we left our packs) to the burrow pen, so when Michael left our crew sheet with his pack, the wrangler made him go get it. Michael went running up to get the sheet and running back. The wrangler took the sheet, looked at it, and said, "Have you gotten this thing stamped yet?" Of course Michael looked at him a little weird because stamps aren't a thing but answered that he hadn't gotten it stamped yet since we had just gotten into camp. The wrangler told Michael that he would have to get it stamped before we could return our burrows. The look on Michael's face was hilarious until the wrangler told him that he was kidding.
            After turning in our burrows, we headed up to the porch for a talk which turned out to be incredibly entertaining. I arrived to it about 10 minutes late, and the first thing that I remember was the girl who was giving it talking about the shower schedule. Essentially there was a set number of times that crews could shower, and one of the adults from a different crew was not happy about it. Later we speculated that this man was drunk out of his mind when he signed up for this trip because he thought that he was at the Hilton with the way that he expected to be treated. I mean seriously dude, have you ever heard of roughing it? He wasn't pleased with the schedule, the fact that only one shower slot was open for the rest of the day, or anything for that matter. Naturally he was ticked off that the schedule only ran until 3 pm (to conserve water for dinner. I guess he would have rather gone without food)and that all of the times left open for the following day were too early. He was on a real role, chewing out the (female) ranger in what I thought was a very un-Boy Scoutly manner and it seemed like he would go for a while until he said irritable that he hadn't had a shower in eight days!
            "Wow!" I said. "You had a shower eight days ago?! You're lucky!" (we hadn't showered in 12 days) That kind of took the wind out of his sails and he shut up after that.
            We did arrive in camp in time to sign up for a pistol shooting event called the "Action Cowboy Shooting" program. We sat through yet another ridiculously long safety briefing like we did before any semi-dangerous event at Philmont (these events included rifle shooting, spare pole climbing, rock climbing, whittling, preparing food with sharp knives, preparing food with dull knives, eating marshmallows, and sleeping on foam). Once the great brief was over, we headed to the range. Before we could shoot, we had to come up with western names and catch phrases. I gave up my best name to Paul and went with Pistol Pete (Paul's name was Presto Paul the two toed cowboy. "Sometimes I don't get the pistol all of the way out of the holster," he explained). My catch phrase was "Help your local medic...double tap!"  As you can imagine, this went over like a lead balloon with the staff, but for that to matter to me I'd actually have to care what they thought. After all of the hoops that we had to jump through, we got to shoot a whopping 5 shots out of the .38 specials. It was fun but seemed like a bloody lot of work to go through for five shots. It's be like going through a huge long safety brief and such so that I could climb five feet on a climbing wall (I'm over 6 feet tall).
            It was close to dinner time, so we headed back to camp to get ready. Today we had a "Chuck Wagon Dinner" which meant that we didn't have to cook. We were happy to see that though we were not eating dehydrated meals, they stuck to their policy of not feeding us enough food. There's nothing quite as bad as actually being, oh I don't know, FILLED UP by your meals. Too much energy is bad, or something like that. Anyway, while we were getting our dishes from camp, Nash spotted a baby bird being fed by its mother. It was so cute; there's nothing quite like seeing an animal throw up into another animal's mouth in terms of cuteness! The mother finished and flew off, followed moments later by the baby. Near as I can tell, this was the figurative 30 year old bird who still lives in his parents' basement.
            The final highlight of the evening was the cantina show that the staff put on. They were very talented (probably still are) and sang songs and played the guitar, fiddle, piano, and even an upright base. The best part of the show, however, was our fire safety briefing. "There are 3 signs that something is on fire," the guy said. "1. smoke, 2. heat, 3. THERE'S FIRE ON IT!" He also had such gems as, "Statistically, 99% of deaths by forest fire happen in the forest while only 1% occur in tents. So should you find yourself in an inferno, head for your tent and wait it out. Statistically, you are more likely to survive." My personal favorite was, "We all remember Stop, Drop, and Roll. Should you find yourself on fire, Stop next to your friends, Drop them with a fire punch, and Roll all over them."
            All in all, Ponill was a good camp for our last night of the trip.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Unsung Heroes: Jason Dundrum Part 6


            Jason was at the city gate well before sunrise the next morning. He had stayed at the tavern until early this morning, discussing and improving the plan that he had devised. Immediately following that, he had gone to his house with Brandon and they both had packed what they could. Now they stood side-by-side at the city gates, waiting for the villagers to arrive. They hadn’t gotten any sleep since noon on the previous day, but the effects of that wouldn’t hit them until later; right now they had enough energy to take on an army.
            Seven men on horseback approached the gate and stopped when they reached the two men there.
             “Well, Jason,” the leader said. “Let’s hope that this plan works. We’ll meet you at Lake Caplin as soon as we can and let you know how much support you’ll have.”
            “Very good,” Jason said. “I’ll make sure that our men move slowly. We’ll reach the lake in exactly seven days. If you arrive before that, wait for us to go into camp.”
            “We’ll meet you there,” the rider said. To the other horsemen, “Gentlemen, you know what your jobs are. See you in a week.”
            Jason watched as the horsemen rode off in all directions. Whether their leader realized it or not, he had given them purpose by calling them ‘gentlemen,’ something that they had never been called before. For the first time in their lives, they had been called not by the name of slaves, servants, or property but of real men. For the first time, they had a cause to fight for.
            The rest of the villagers began to arrive soon after the riders left and continued to trickle in until half an hour after sunrise. By the time Jason surmised that the full number had arrived, the small army stood one hundred and thirty-seven strong. Only about half of them were in what Jason considered to be the optimal fighting age with the rest being too old or too young, but he wasn’t about to complain. There was a lot to be said for having bodies on the battle field no matter the age, even if it was just to scare the other side.
            As Jason scanned the make-shift army, he noticed the ill preparedness of the group. Though it was to be expected out of a group of peasants, it still didn’t make him happy. There was only a handful of weapons among the people, a few swords and spears. Most of the soldiers, Jason already thought of the ragtag bunch as soldiers, were armed with pitchforks, quarter staves, scythes, sickles, and other tools. Bows were scattered throughout the army, but they were hunting bows and not intended for war. It was uncertain what use they would be against armored soldiers. Jason gave an inward sigh while keeping his outward visage one of utter confidence. He had known that what he was proposing would be difficult, but the magnitude of that difficulty was just now setting in. He nodded to Brandon who called out the command to move out; coming from Brandon, no one could mistake the command for anything else, and the small army left the city and began their long journey to Lake Caplin.
            The army snaked its way across the terrain at a pace much slower than Jason would have liked but no slower than he expected. He and Brandon walked off to the side of the soldiers, examining them throughout the day.  They didn’t move like a well-trained army because they weren’t one but instead stretched and compressed like an accordion. Their bearing was nothing like that of an army nor did it appear as though their discipline was. Jason had known that they wouldn’t be as disciplined or as skilled as trained soldiers, but even so the quality of their abilities disappointed him.
            Most importantly of all, they appeared to lack unity. Grudges and feuds ran through the ranks which was to be expected of the citizens of a town, but Jason knew that they would tear the unity of the group apart which would be devastating to them in battle. He would have to do something about it, but what he didn’t know. At least he would have time to think about it on the march.

******

Jason and Brandon sat at a distance from the army eating food that they had packed. The provisions of most of the soldiers were less than he had expected which meant that he would have to start tasking people to scout ahead of the army and hunt for food. It was just another problem to stack on top of all of the others. This was turning out to be a lot more trouble than Jason had expected.
“Are you going to finish your food?” Brandon asked.
Jason looked down at the bread that he still held but was not hungry for. With a shake of his head he handed it to Brandon who quickly scarfed it down. Jason watched his friend, knowing that he should eat, but not finding the appetite. Something about having the fate of so many people resting on him made him not hungry.
“Brandon, you know what our situation with food is, right?” Jason asked suddenly.
“Yeah, we don’t have much of it,” Brandon answered. “It’ll never last for a week of marching.”
“I know,” Jason said. “That’s why I need you to take a group of soldiers to scout ahead and hunt for the army.”
“Sure thing, Jason,” Brandon agreed.
“I want you to take the people that you think will make the best soldiers and work with them while you’re scouting,” Jason continued. “This army has no cohesion, and it needs some. Take people who have potential but don’t get along. Hopefully pushing them into a group together will force them to work out their differences.”
“You don’t think that that will cause problems between them?” Brandon asked. “What happens when they don’t settle their differences and are at each others' throats the entire time?”
“They’ll need to work out their differences if we’re going to survive a single battle,” Jason countered. “I’d rather have the rough patches out here where it isn’t a matter of life and death.”
“If you say so, boss,” Brandon conceded. “When do you want me to start the hunting? Today?”
“No, we have enough to last for another day or so,” Jason said. “Start mixing with the soldiers and choose the ones that you want to take with you. You’ll begin scouting and hunting tomorrow morning. Since you’re scouting, you’ll be leaving considerably before the rest of the army.”
“Understood,” Brandon said. “Is that all on that subject?”
“I think so,” Jason said. “I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.”
“In that case, I would like to bring up a few things that I have been observing,” Brandon said.
“Knock yourself out,” Jason said.
            “Well, obviously all of our soldiers are peasants, so they have no idea how to do things in a military setting,” Brandon began.
            “True, but then again, neither do we,” Jason countered. “Everything that we ‘know’ is all guesswork and observation.”
            “Half of the power of an army is their ability to look impressive,” Brandon said, “but we can’t do that unless we’re uniform and all look the same. We may not know the way that the baron’s army does things, but that doesn’t matter. All that we have to do is standardize what we do so that we look professional and cohesive.”
            “That is probably true,” Jason agreed. “What are you suggesting?”
            “I think that we should set aside an hour or two every day after we are done marching to teach the soldiers a standard way of doing things like marching. That way we’re all on the same page. I also think that it would be a good idea to evaluate the men on their fighting abilities and train them as much as we can.”
            “That is a good idea,” Jason agreed. “I would put you in charge of that, but you are already going to have to be dealing with your group of scouts. Do you know anyone else who might have the ability and experience to teach the soldiers?”
            “Not yet, but I’ll find out,” Brandon said.
            "Good," Jason said and stood up. "Now, go spread the word to get ready to move out."