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  • Dear Pippo,

    I hope this letter finds you well and free of rips in your seams. I am fine.

    Here is an excerpt of my observations from Bible camp last week.

    We are beginning our second week of church camp and we are starting to fit in. Instead of being where the deer and the antelope play, it is more like “where the iPhone and the internet don’t work”. Saturday we received a message by carrier pigeon that The Wife needed to call the office. Unlike the 60’s TV show, Green Acres, we didn’t have to climb a telephone pole to call Beautiful Downtown Cherokee, but we did have to get in the immensely-large-hard-to-turn-around mega van and drive eight miles or so up to a pine tree covered mesa while monitoring our cell phones for signal bars like geologists looking for an oil deposit (with as much excitement when we “hit the sweet spot”).

    Our phones began beeping and booping and pinging as we got in range. Reality, as well as information overload, came sweeping in like that Japanese tsunami. We ran the batteries down on our phones just receiving messages.

    There is a learning curve when you stay in the mountains for church camp. If you are just visiting a mountainous area on vacation, you are in complete control. If someone says, “Hey, let’s walk up there!” you can say, “Uh…I think I’ll go to my hotel room instead and lay down for a bit.” If you are at church camp, you do EVERYTHING that everyone else does.

    I remember when my grandparents would talk about walking to school in the snow and claiming, “And it was uphill both ways!” I didn’t believe that was possible until I came to camp in New Mexico. There really are places that are uphill both ways! However, the people who designed the camp were smart. They put the dining hall at the top of the hill. The only way I would subject myself to that much uphill walking is if there were food involved. It’s either climb that hill which has as many steps as an Egyptian pyramid or starve to death. So, three times a day The Wife and I trudge up the hill, taking turns pushing each other forward, to enjoy what I believe is the best camp food I have ever eaten.

    The camp, as most camps are, is somewhat rustic as you would expect. We were fortunate to stay in the newest building in the camp (a faux log cabin), but I’m not sure this is just a trap to get us to commit to come back next year. The buildings here range from our cabin that was built last year to a log cabin that has a historical marker on it claiming Billy the Kid slept there. After touring that cabin, I think they haven’t changed the mattress since then. That will probably be my room next year.

    We have an area at camp called a “Ropes Course”. This area is instructed and monitored by a number of qualified professionals. It includes a number of physical challenges that allow the campers to stretch their capabilities, fulfill their adventurous longings, and in the opinion of some, cheat death. One of the biggest attractions is the zip line. This is where you scale a rock-climbing wall on a 50 foot tower, attach your harness to a 200 yard long steel cable, and then leap into space while hoping your full body harness really meets its specifications. “Did I do it?” Oh, yeah. Now I didn’t climb the rock climbing wall, I used the ladder. But I thought to myself, “I’m used to the altitude by now. What could happen?”

    On the way up the ladder, one of the camp employees pointed a camera down at me and said with a chipper voice, “Look like you are having fun, Dan!” I paused for the picture but my motive was not for crystal clear photo. I was taking advantage of an opportunity to breathe, an act that I so sadly take for granted in the hills of Central Texas. Upon my arrival at the top of the tower, another chipper individual said, “Ready to go?” I guess he hadn’t looked over the side. If he had, he would have seen my lungs still 20 ladder rungs below.

    After a short breather, I was beginning to feel a reunification of body and lung. The moment of truth had arrived. Now most people would be worried about the safety of a “mature sized” adult on the zip line. However, being a public relations guy, I was confident it would be bad PR for the camp and the zip line guy to miscalculate the abilities of this apparatus.

    As fate would have it, my zip line partner, located some 8 feet to my right, was a cute little 14 year old girl who was also making her maiden jump. Of course, she opted to do a jump best described as a “Reverse Superman” which is where you attach the zip line to the back of your harness (thus enabling the “Superman” part) and you simply jump off of the 50 foot tower BACKWARDS. Good for her, but I just felt fortunate that I jumped and didn’t resemble one of those airplanes that dump water on a burning forest. Oh yes, the bladder as well as the zip line met and exceeded their specifications and “Supergirl” and I reached the bottom of the line at the same time (I caught up with her even though she went first. Something about the laws of gravity I think).

    Zip line operators are optimists by nature. They want everyone to jump. They think it is fun. They are right. However, in my case, they left out one important fact. One that I would have really liked to have known. You see, petite young girls and lanky teen boys (when they ride the zip line in the traditional position) generally form the shape of an “L”. Back straight, knees forward. “Mature sized” adults can assume that position as long as they hold tightly to the zip line rope. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the zip line, there is no “getting off” platform or ladder. Another chipper zip line worker slides a rope and pulley gizmo to your spot and says with a perky voice, “Just let go of your zip line rope and attach this line to the loop at your waist while unlatching the zipline.” Here’s the part they left out. The second a “mature sized” adult lets go of the zip line rope, he immediately shifts from a position like this, “L”, to a position closer resembling this, “^”. Now I need arms that stretch like that guy on the Fantastic Four to reach the release clips. My perky assistant on the ground is shouting encouragements to me, but it’s hard to remember what was said because I kept trying to black out each time I went from the position “^” to the position “v” to try to reach the latches. Oh yeah, and the little teenie bopper that accompanied me on my flight was already half way back up the hill with her zip line in tow (and she was running!). Needless to say, I am already working on a zip line harness modification for next year that hopefully will pass the safety inspection. I’m thinking of naming it “The Flying V”.

    The zip line isn’t the only event for the young thrill seekers in camp. You can opt for the Flying Squirrel if you so desire. Although the name alone has caused me some sleepless nights, I’ll try to explain the activity.

    The carefully trained professional operators put a harness on the unsuspecting camper. The harness has a loop on its back to which the operators hook a rope which loops over a pulley system located at the same approximate height as the zip tower. The other end of the rope is attached to 11 of your “friends”. The “squirrel” (insert the word “victim” here if you prefer) starts to run in one direction while the “friends” take off running in the other direction. At the exact moment Einstein’s Theory of For Every Action There is a Reaction and reality intersect, the “squirrel” is subsequently yanked into the air and experiences exciting Near Death blackout from the force of the lift and the subsequent scream that naturally follows. The “squirrel” is then lowered gently to the ground, allowed to change their pants, and then gets to pick someone they hate to be the next victim. Flying Squirrel is the kind of event that can cement a lifelong relationship with one’s chiropractor. Me? I’ll stick to the zip line.

    So, my Dear Pippo, we can put another chapter of The Adventures at Camp Blue Haven to rest. My doctor will be glad to know I will not be cancelling my blood pressure prescription. I hope you fared much better.


    Gohedan Duitt and his wife, Shirley Knott Mee
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