Wednesday, February 13, 2013

There's Gold in Them There Hills - the Klondike Derby

 Every other year, the troop participates in a council wide event called the Klondike Derby.  Most councils in the cold regions of the US (and Canada) hold some version of this race.  It's held at the same scout reservation as the Highland Games.  And as in years past, we only go for the Saturday events, rather than camping the entire weekend (26 January).  A lot of troops do camp, but I'll bet they were sorry they did this year. More on that later. 

The Klondike Derby is an homage to the dog sledders of the Iditarod and the Klondike Gold Rush.  Each patrol (and we had 2 this year) has a dog sled with tow rope for the "dogs" to pull the sled.  The troop is given a list of gear needed for each sled as well as a general idea of the events that the scouts will be participating in.   There were seven events this year, and each patrol would participate in three of them - but wouldn't know which ones until the day of the event.  The patrols compete in groups of three (two patrols from other troops) and are awarded "gold nuggets" by each event organizer at their discretion.  They take into account teamwork, sportsmanship and skill in awarding the nuggets.  The nuggets are weighed at the end of the event to determine the winners.  First, second and third in each group, so everyone is a winner.  And to really torment the scouts, the nuggets are gold wrapped candy. 

We spent the last few meetings honing scout skills such as knot tying, fire building and first aid.  The sleds were built years ago and are in very good shape.

Because we weren't camping, we had to travel down to the camp on Friday night for a pre-event meeting.  And of course, there was a small snow storm.  We ended up getting a couple of inches that night with the temperature in the teens.  Me, the scoutmaster, Simple J and the Pudge drove down (on some icy roads) to attend the meeting.  Fortunately, it's only about a ten mile ride.  And it was cold.  I felt sorry for those poor bastards at the meeting that were camping. 

We gathered the boys at our church bright and early at 7:00AM on Saturday morning.  It was a balmy 15 degrees.  Opening ceremonies started at 8:00AM at the camp.  There were probably two dozen or so sleds entered in the event.
As soon as we arrived at camp, the boys got the sleds out of the van and started puling it over to the parade field.  This was sled #2 with a lot of our younger scouts.
This was sled #1 with the Pudge (he's the one with the white ski tag on his chest) and the more senior scouts (including Simple J on the far right).

I followed the Pudge's patrol around for the day.  Their first event was the frozen lake crossing.  They had to use materials they packed (rope, staves, etc.) to build a rig that would allow them to take their sled across the "frozen lake" (tarp) with out the sled touching the lake.  The scouts were allow to walk on the lake but it wouldn't support the sled and the scouts at the same time.  They ended up rigging a line between two trees.

The first station was the frozen lake crossing exercise.
Their second event was archery.  Although they all love archery, what made this tough was they had to take their gloves off to shoot.  They did really well in this event.
The second station was the archery range.  That's the Pudge shooting.  He put his first arrow over the dirt backstop. 
The third and final event was the shepherd's sling (think David and Goliath).  They had 30 minutes to sling as many small super balls as they could at a stack of cups.  They received points for each cup they knocked down.  Pretty simple, right?  Two other patrols were in the gaming area the same time as our patrol, and between them they knocked down 4 cups.  But our patrol had a secret weapon - Simple J.  He is a tall, awkward boy that can barely walk, but he knocked down over 20 cups.  It was a good day for him.
The third station was the shepherd's sling.  The camp has a wooden "Fort Apache" type fort and this event was inside the fort.  I'm on the upper level looking down into the fort. 
Here's the fort from the outside (courtesy of the Southern New Jersey Council site).
Lunch Time!  Every scout (and leader) that participates in the Klondike is required to bring a can of soup (tomato or broth based) with them.  All of the cans are dumped into two large pots for the "Commissioner's Soup".  Scouts bring up their cups/bowls/thermal mugs and get their choice of soup - as much as they want.  It's surprisingly good - when you've been standing out in 20 degree weather for 5 hours. 

The boys taking a well deserved rest at lunch time.

One of the small ponds on the reservation.  I thought it unusual that so many ducks were in the water.

Oh My God!  Someone save those poor ducks!  Relax, they're just decoys.

See, the ducks are fine.
After lunch, the boys practiced their wood cutting skills by sawing logs with two-man saws and log splitting with hatchets and axes.  The wood was used for the evening bond fire, which we did not attend.

Then came the final activity of the day - the Iditarod Race.  This is a sled race from the lower parking lot up to the parade field.  It's about a 1/2 mile with about a 40 foot elevation change.  The boys raced in groups of 3.  Sled #1 (the Pudge's) race looked like a scene from Ben Hur or Gladiator.  Their sled runner got caught with another sled, and that sled flipped over, dumping all of it's gear.  One of the other sled's boys got hooked on the side rail of sled #1 and he was dragged several feet.  Fortunately, no one got hurt and sled#1 won the heat.  Sled #2 came in second in their heat.

The boys resting up for the dreaded Iditarod Race.

The boys of sled #1 (on the right) sprinting from the start of the Iditarod race.  I'm actually backpeddling as I'm taking this picture because they came at me so fast.
All said and done, after the nuggets were weighed, both Sled #1 and Sled #2 came away with 2nd place finishes.  A fine effort on a really cold day.  The boys took consolation in the fact that they were going home and the 1st place teams were camping out that night.  The temperature topped out at 27 degrees!

The Pudge and I couldn't stay for the awards ceremony because The Mrs bought tickets to see Heart down in Atlantic City that night.  I got home, showered (and thawed - my feet were frozen) and off we went to AC (no ticket for the Pudge).  And I'm glad we saw the concert.  We had good seats and Ann Wilson sounded great.  They encored with Led Zeppelin's Black Dog and that was a great song to end on.  I slept pretty good by the time we got home - at midnight.  A long day in the Yukon!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Uncle Henry...Delivers

You may recall a while back that I told you about my life growing up and living next to Uncle Henry and Aunt Pat. After he and Aunt Pat passed away, their property was sold to a developer who tore down the studio and gardens and subdivided the property into 5 parcels that have houses on them today.  Just prior to the sale, my sister L (who was closest of all of us to Uncle Henry) scavenged some of the artwork that Uncle Henry liked to make and display on the outbuildings on the property.  She has some of these still, but a bunch of items ended up in my mother's garage.  Well, when my mother passed five years ago, I cleaned out the garage and took some of these items to my house, where they have been languishing for years. 

So in early December, I stumbled (literally) over a sign that was from Uncle Henry's property.  He had a long, winding front walk that led up to the front door of the house, which they never used (or answered), so delivery people often got confused.  So Uncle Henry made a sign out of scrap wood that he hand carved, painted and attached to a post at the front door to send them to the back of the house.  This sign is at least 40 - 50 years old (probably older) and I can still see it (in my mind) along the walk. 

So I thought this would be a cool Christmas gift to give to L.  I knew she would immediately recognise it although she probably thought it was lost  forever.  Having been outside in the weather for decades, it was in rough shape.  So I cleaned and lightly sanded it first.  Then I put some metal straps on the back to hold it together and keep it from splitting any more.  Then I got some black, oil based stain and painted the bulk of the sign.  I had taken it up to the local Ace Hardware and they made the recommendation on the paint.  I next got some white and red acrylic paint from the local AC Moore and painted the lettering and arrow.  This took several coats and some tweaking with the black stain to get the lettering and arrow edges as clean as I could.  It probably took me longer to paint this then it did for Uncle Henry to carve it.  Finally, I added a hanger wire on the back so that L could hang it on the wall in her house.  This wouldn't last outside again.

The rear of the sign.  The wooden brackets are original.  The metal brackets and hanger wire were added by me.  Note the wood burned deer in the background.  The Pudge has taken to wood burning since his last Boy Scout Summer Camp.  The sketch and wood burning were done by hand.

Here's the finished sign.  I hung it on my wall just for picture taking.

A close -up of the carving work.  It's kind of hard to see in the picture.

Another close-up.

And even closer still.
I gave this to L last week and she was very touched by it.  It will have a new home on a wall in her den.