Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I was recently thinking about Scouting and what pulled me from the Scouting movement.

I will agree that probably the biggest motivating factor was the fact that my dad and my brother left for Scouts while I was in Cubs and I felt less than enthusiastic about the replacement Akela. Not that he did a bad job. Merlin was a good leader who worked hard. But to my limited experience, my dad was Scouting. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I didn’t want to be in Cubs if my dad wasn’t Akela.

I like to think, now that I am thinking about it, that I would have returned to Scouting once the scar of my dad’s departure had healed over, if my attention had not been captured by another passion: football.

I was in grade 6 when Neal Campbell showed up at my school, recruiting people for football. My world was shaken. During recess, we would play soccer (or a bastardization of that sport) and I was probably the weakest member of the group, being slow and unable to kick. Here was a chance to use my size to advantage, and a place where my lack of speed would not hurt me.

I talked with my parents about it, and they were willing to get me in. I showed up to pick up equipment (having no idea what my parents did or did not do in registration: they told me to go there then, and I went there then). They had run out of bags, so I had to, to my gross humiliation, empty out a used garbage bag (thankfully there was no wet garbage in it) and fill it with my equipment.

The sting of that didn’t last long, since there were practices, training, more practices, running, running and more running. Neal Campbell was a big one for running. We would run a kilometer before we started calisthenics, then do calisthenics, run another kilometer and start practice. Thankfully, time has taken away my memory of the early running. I had never played many sports, I was not used to the idea of running when you are tired. I think Gimli said it best in The Two Towers when he said “Dwarves are useless over cross country. Dwarves are natural sprinters.” Still, the running got easier, and I actually got in shape.

A note about Coach Campbell:

Coach Campbell was probably the meanest, angriest, pettiest son of a bitch that I’ve ever met. He passed that misery on to his team by way of practice. Too many penalties? Run them out of your system. Too little success running the ball? Practice running. Out of energy in the fourth quarter? Here’s a solution. Run more in practice. It will help your stamina. He was miserable, and he probably spent a lot of his time in his private life being unhappy. But he was a hell of a football coach. And he lived for his team. He drove you, because he wanted you to succeed. He insulted you as a motivational tool. I’ve had a half a dozen coaches over my football career, some tried running you, some tried goading you, some tried cushy sensitivity training. None made me angrier, or more prized than Neal Campbell. I will never forget the lessons he taught me because he did not teach me with words. He taught me with results. If I am ever a head coach of a football team, I can only hope to inspire the despair, the anger, the hatred, the pride in oneself, the loyalty and the love that Coach Campbell did.

Sad to say, a car accident cut short my football season. And it set back my running, my shape and my attitude coming out of it pulled me out of caring. I think that attitude probably affected the next season of football, where I was less than effective as a player and I did not enjoy it as much as I had the year before. I’m sure that a different coach affected that as well. It is hard to climb the mountain by yourself when you only know having been driven up the mountain with a stick. Still, that first year drove into me a love of football, a desire for competition, an appreciation for being in shape and it taught me what it meant to be a team united against a common foe, whether that foe was another team on gameday or Coach Campbell during practice.

My most vivid memory of football was before my first game. We were all more than a little nervous and Coach said “This is for you! The practices are for me and the games are for you. Take this and make it yours!” The love and respect we had for that old bastard at that point was just amazing. We kicked the crap out of whoever it was we played that week,and in the end, despite what Coach said about it being for us, we decided that we won that game, at least, for him.

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

I didn’t like this book the first time I read it. I wasn’t happy with the way that Narnia was ending up, I didn’t like that the good guys had their good work perverted by the bad guys and I didn’t like the fact that the world that I had invested so much time in had ended. It was a hard thing to read when I was 8 or 10 or whatever I was when I actually read it for the first time. (It was nice to actually pass my brother on the series, though – we had a race back then and I got stuck on The Horse and His Boy which catapulted my brother way ahead of me.)

This time, the same forboding hit me, though, since I knew what was coming, it was easier for me to make it through. The suffering, it seems, was not quite as drawn out as I remember it. I think the blush of youth and the innocence I had as a reader back then drew the experience out in my mind. (Kind of like my claustrophobia warping the underground sequences in The Silver Chair)

The book is very solid. As I said, it introduced very complex villains who were able to counter everything that the heroes were able to come up with the save the day. In the end, (in the Narnia the story starts in), the bad guys win. They make it to the end, and it’s only Aslan that brings the heroes through. It didn’t feel forced, though. It seems that in Lewis’s world, this is what dying is like. It’s going to Aslan’s country and living happily forever. The characters do that, there is a happy reunion, and they do live happily ever after.

I don’t know that this book needed to have Eustace. He kind of reached his full development in The Silver Chair but I guess they wanted to have the same connection to the Pevinsies that they had throughout the series. Jill was good but also not really all that fully there. It seemed that this was Tirian’s book from the beginning. He was developed, his motivations and character were explored. I would rather that he had either done more with Eustace and Jill or not had them until the end. I can see how they were necessary because of the link, and their story was very important to the endgame, so in that case, it would have been nice to see them developed a little more.

I remember my feelings at the end of the book, bitter at the loss of the series – there would be no more Aslan, no more Pevinsies, no more talking beasts. But sweet because it was a land where joy would never end. I like to think that this was a little bit of magic that Lewis put in there on purpose, because this, to me, is representative of a Christian death. The sadness that the company is parting but a happiness at an eternity in heaven.

I will definitely read this series again, probably when I think that Lily is ready to hear them in a couple of years.



Monday, February 04, 2008


The 2008 Beaver/Cub Winter Camp went this weekend, despite the colder-than-cold temperatures, the doubting co-workers and advice from all around.

It did warm up significantly for the weekend, so it was a successful camp, a fun weekend and a completely exhausting way to spend forty-two hours.

Friday, I left work around four. There was an issue with food transportation (which was ironed out through the presence of Akela's minivan and our wonderfully spacious Corrola. (More on the car in a second).

Food issues resolved, we embarked from our house somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5:30. We drove, and on the way, needs for a stop were obvious. We found relief in Save-on Foods and on our way back onto the Anthony Henday drive, our car was rear-ended. A trajedy was narrowly avoided, since the eggs that were in the trunk of my car somehow remained unbroken. There are currently three holes in my rear bumper and within the time of one red light, I was able to get the guy's insurance information. I drove away angry but I resolved during the remainder of the drive not to let this ruin my weekend.

When I arrived at Camp Evansburg, my anger dissipated and I was left feeling excited for what was to come. That night, we spent some time getting unpacked and ready for bed, then it was cookies and hot chocolate and then off to bed for the kiddies.

We played Settlers of Catan, a game with which I have a passing familiarity but no skill.

Saturday is always the big day for winter camp. This day was no exception. We spent some time outside, wearing a groove in the hill with inner tubes and then went back inside to make soap, beaver cars and eat some snack. After that, it was back outside for a bit and while the timeline is a little confused, I will say that shooting downhill on a piece of rubber, sawing triangles out of wooden blocks and pounding nails into beaver cars absolutely DOMINATED Saturday during the day. As evening approached, we put together the track for the Kub Kar/Beaver Car races that night. Some of the parents got involved and made their own additions to the race. (All of the leaders had their own cars as well. We're all essentially big kids)

My car was soundly defeated but I am not nor have I ever been in it to win it. I am the official race-starter and I call the races (which leads to a great deal of excitement from the kids (and the leaders)). In the end, the Cubs won the head to head with the Beavers but the leaders won against the kids and fun was had by all (well, almost all). Sometimes the thrill of competition can be a little overwhelming and Nick took his first-round exit from the competition a little hard. (Lack of sleep and a misadjusted diet likely didn't help either)

After the races, it was time for supper and then straight into Campfire. This year, Rob and I hosted campfire. It was fun. Songs, skits, a couple of cameo appearances by Bubbles and Hawkeye and a fantastic rendering of the Lemon Song by Rob and Krista (who knew that Rob could sing?).

Saturday night was capped off by a fireworks show put on by two cub leaders and Rob and I. I think probably we enjoyed it more than the kids did, lighting the fuses and then running away, but at least someone had fun.

Sunday, we cleaned up, packed up, took a couple more runs down the hill and headed home.

Exhausted, exhilarated, funned out and ready to sleep for a month. All necessary components of Winter Camp.