Why not the Y?

The "Y" or the YMCA or the Young Men's Christians Association or my summer vacation
Albert Pine said:
What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.

While touring on my motorcycle the other day, I passed by the tri-camp compound of the Port Jervis YMCA. It had been many years since I did any "formal" teaching of wilderness skills. I missed it and in a flash recalled my time with the teens from Thera Trex. A peculiar thought over took me and before I knew it I was dropping the kick stand in front of their main offices.

With a bit of time on my hands I thought it might be fun to spread a bit of wilderness wonder with the camp kids. Before I could reach the office door I was intercepted by the camp Director, an amiable and friendly sort of fellow with a welcoming smile and enthusiastic attitude. I explained my intentions and after a few days of background checks and reference calls, I was welcomed to come out to the camp and spend some time with the kids.

I know from experience the first exposure to these types of skill sets had better be both attainable and entertaining or new comers will often lose interest quickly. For that reason, I chose Fire making as our first session and Flint and Steel as the technique due to it's ease and visually friendly almost theatrical nature. Once again it proved to be the best decision.

I began with splitting wood with a Parang. I find the baton and Parang technique easy for young hands to master and when working "in the round" it is often safest as well. No sharp tool is swinging in the air or impacting anything in a way that it might glance off causing injury.

With the kids eagerly helping with the fire wood, I moved on to the Flint/Steel lesson.

The plan was for us to make bread. I mixed up a batch of my favorite wheat/white recipe the night before and readied the dutch ovens.

The ovens provide both the feast and the entertainment.

It's a great feeling when a young person with doubt in their abilities to accomplish new things manages to prove it to themselves that anything is possible. I watch for the look in their eyes when the task is complete, relief, joy and pride are always better then reticule, embarrassment and regret. I'm happy to be part of that.
I find wilderness skills to be a powerful leveler, particularity with kids from an urban environment. We can play ball and participate in games almost everywhere but you can only have a wilderness experience in the wilderness. I hope these Boys and Girls get that opportunity. Character is very often made when we are out of our "comfort zone". These simple tasks, trials and tests can provide a fun way for a young mind to think outside the box.

They tell me the bread was delicious and a big success, I couldn't tell you. I couldn't get near the table. I guess they liked it.

As a surprise, I made up a small batch of scrambled eggs on the lid of the oven while it was still hot. The axe served as an expedient spatula.

As surprises go the biggest was mine, Jack Lund the President and CEO of the Y was touring the camp and stopped to share our meal. Jack claimed he liked the bread but I could tell he really enjoyed the company of the kids even more.

Well to spite the 90+ degree day and the heat of the cast iron I enjoyed my time with the kids and look forward to more time with them. There is nothing left to do but clean the pots and stir up the ashes.

A cool drink before clean up.