Saturday, 30 October 2010

Shilo Ranch

I taught a class to green star cadets the other night about exercise preparation. After following the lesson plan for what seemed like forever I finally found myself going off topic, which of course is infinitely more fun that following the rules. We talked about weekend camps that are more memorable than others, and how they get that way. We discussed what makes a camp that you tell your kids about. It's not easy to decide which ones make the books, but in all my years, one thing is certain, the best camps were the ones that were, at the time, sucking.

Of all the weekend camps I have participated in over the years, I find it hard to remember places we went, training we did, anything that would make something stick out in memory. Nothing that would be worthy of stories down the road. Just run of the mill camps. The ones you remember are the ones that were essentially traumatic, if only to the young ones.

Hence, Shilo Ranch.

Shilo was a weekend camp in 1982 or 83, either way, a long time ago. Now, I was only 14 at the time, so I would love it if some readers (you know who you are) would add to my little account. I know several people who read this were there, and your additions to this little story would do alot to add to it. Use the comment feature at the bottom and go to it!

Shilo wasn't infamous for what happened, but rather what didn't happen - training. It was a wet, cold, foul muddy weekend camp in a field just south of Windsor. I was selected as part of the advance party for the camp - the group that sets up the tents and generally gets the place ready. So off we went Friday morning, trucks loaded with tents, tables, kitchen equipment, and various other stores required for almost one hundred cadets to spend a weekend in the field. Certainly, a large undertaking. The weather was beautiful Friday afternoon and we set to work setting things in place. The remainder of the Corps was to arrive around 6, so we had to have it all built by 5ish. Members of the 21 Service Battalion trucked everything out to us in their MLVW trucks (large 6x6 army trucks - they had the nickname 'mighty large volkswagens'). We spent the afternoon building modular tents and getting the training areas ready.

The rest of the Corps arrived at 6ish, disembarked from busses and got the grand tour. After a couple of hours of quite forgettable camp routine, the rain started.

And it didn't stop.

All Friday night the rain continued. The field where we set up was quickly becoming a mire of mud and ponds of rain so deep you could easily find yourself up to your knees in it if you weren't careful. The temperature dropped from a balmy 60ish during the afternoon to a wet cold 40ish in the evening. Everything became wet. Your clothes, your hair, hands, feet, sleeping bags, food, everything. It quickly became a chore and a goal just to find something, somewhere, out of the water. With 100 people on the ground, it also became impossible.

This is where my memory of the events begins to fade. I was a junior cadet at the time, not quite privy to the goings on of the staff and seniors, never mind the militia guys. So I ask you to fill in the holes.

I do remember a few tidbits. I remember Dave Brooks had a Ford Pinto that was the only vehicle not bogged down. I remember him bombing past an MLVW that was up to it's axles in mud and completely immobile.

I do remember John Pudar jumping up onto a 6' folding table inside the mod tent, and the table collapsing into the mud.

I do remember seeing a fire actually floating.

I do remember the mud.

I now remember that was the worst weekend I ever experienced. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Not for the pain of it all, but for the memories (however sketchy), and the experience of being there. In my new position as assistant training officer, I hope to plan weekend camps that are useful, educational, and fulfilling to the cadets. I certainly don't hope for a write-off like Shilo Ranch, but at the end of it all, I won't remember the successes.

Please help me fill this one out. Joanne, John, Villian, Joe, Veronica, Paul, Phil, Jeff and more, you guys were there, add your thoughts!


1 comment:

  1. War Games!!!
    Camp Fire, Fire Pickett, marching down Texas Road at night, fun no matter what happened. Rain???Cold??? Those were the least of my memories. I guess we choose which ones to keep. I kept the enjoyable ones.


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