A picture of Tom Pears

Cyber Home of Tom Pears
Applying Appropriate Technology to Learning


Our New House
Truck Postcard
A Letter
Pics I Bought
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Spoon Ad
AH Davenport
Old Topics

Camp Kawanhee
A Memory Book

Doug Means's Boating Test

One summer in the mid-1960s, when Chuck Hoffhine and I were more-or-less running the Boating Department, young Doug Means had completed his S2 Level in Boating with impressive skill and was almost done with his S3. The final requirement for S3 was to "be able to handle a boat under any conditions." Chuck devised a practical test of that ability and, after giving a heads-up to the other waterfront departments and to Liz Comphor, Camp Nurse, sent Doug and me out in a canoe. As planned, I suddenly went into feigned cardiac arrest, epileptic seizure, and maybe an attack of St. Vitus's Dance, flipping the canoe and dumping Doug and myself into the water. I exhaled and sank like a rock. Poor Doug recovered his wits, dove down, and hauled me to the surface. He kept his head and remembered the department rule, "Always stay with the boat." Doug righted the canoe, managed to slop most of the water out of it, dumped me into it, and dragged everything back to shore with me playing dead. Upon reaching shore, Doug threw me over his shoulder and sprinted for the Infirmary. I think the jolting ride on his shoulder was supposed to serve as a primitive form of CPR (we still used the back-push, arm-lift method in those days, so luckily none of us had ever heard of mouth-to-mouth). When we arrived at the Infirmary, Liz took pity on poor Doug and brought the test to an end by pointing out to him the crowd of counselors and campers who had followed us up the hill at a discreet distance, half carrying Chuck and Fred Ball, who were laughing too hard to walk. Doug was awarded his much-deserved S3 level on the spot by acclamation, but I don't think he has ever forgiven us. I still feel pain in my ribs during damp weather.

Recalling that incident reminds me of Doc and Fergie's Red Cross Lifesaving class. I am sure many of us remember the agonizing Merry-Go-Rounds in which we endlessly practiced the lifesaver's side stroke while holding rocks over our heads. During the final tests, when some undersized kid would be trying to haul him ashore, Fergie would do some sort of reverse frog kick, occasionally even managing to pull himself and his would-be rescuer away from shore. I wish I remembered which small boy came up with the Cross-Chest-Armpit-Hair-Pull that completely subdued Fergie, allowing the camper to complete his test rescue with flying colors.

Thinking of Webb Lake reminds me of the loons we heard my first night as Senior Counselor in Pine Tree Lodge. It was Luis Benitez's first summer in Maine and the eerie call of the loon understandably frightened him. Luis was convinced it was a wolf and quickly persuaded even some veteran campers of his theory. Fearing panic and chaos my first night as a Senior Counselor, I tried to reassure Luis it was only a loon, a name with which he was not familiar. I will never forget the look of utter contempt with which Luis favored me when I told him the wolf howls were being emitted by a bird.

John Willis Camper/Councilor 58-68 Boating/Campcraft.
After Cornell and Vanderbilt [motto: "Harvard: the Vanderbilt of the North"] and decades working in schools, I'm in private practice doing assessments for special needs students from my home in Peterborough NH and teaching graduate students to do the same thing so I can retire.
If I had been a great and famous man, I would have owed it all to Kawanhee.