Archives for June 2014

Raptors Flock To Falling Creek

This Saturday marks the end of June camp’s honored camping tradition raptor week. Steve Longenecker, Local naturalist and US Fish&Wildlife raptor educator, brought 7 rescue birds to their seasonal mews here at Falling Creek for the fourth consecutive year for the boys to have a chance to join the ranks of esteemed Falconers of Falling Creek.

Steve’s new recruits have had their work cut out for them, having to take care of every aspect of the birds upkeep: checking the locks, giving them water, make sure they have food, organizing the schedule. But he didn’t take just any candidate.

“I’m not going to announce where we’re meeting tomorrow,” he tells the group of 13 campers who assembled Monday morning. “If you’re not there, then that’s because you weren’t listening. That’s how I’m going to filter out the group. I need you to listen to everything I say.”

Longenecker began Monday by taking his first group out to the raptor pens (known as mews) scattered around the woods around the Nature Hut. After taking care of a pair of screech owls (named Yoda and Harley), Steve had his falconers of Falling Creek in training open the box up of a full-grown kestrel. The bird, named Princess Leia, is the size of a giant crow, with white speckled feathers and a rosy-red wing-span.

After showing once his helpers the proper method of tying the leash’s knot loosening the bird’s leather-straps, he finds a brave volunteer to step forward to de-leash the bird in his hand. As the bird started to fret, Steve cood it, giving Leia his trademark "good girl.”

“I named my dog ‘GG’ since I spent my whole life ‘good-girling’ things,” Steve says to the kids as he quietly chuckles to himself. Feeling more comfortable, the boy finished work on the knot.

After the kestrel settled down into its mew, the flock of campers moved up the hill to “Fort Knox", a complex dubbed so to denote the house of the Great Horned Owl and Peregrine Falcon. “I need someone to bring me R2,” said Steve. The campers took a visible step back as the brown mega-owl called R2 peeked out of its carrying cage.

“Peek-a-boo. You’re just such a sweet thing. Yes, you are,” says Steve to the owl like an old friend. The bird leaps from the box into Steve’s waiting glove. “Usually I have to bait him. But since I don’t have any bait. We’ll see what it does.”

Just as Steve says this, the owl flutters off the perch of his glove and strains on the leash. Steve clasps the owls ankles as it does a roll. He takes the time to show off the bird’s feathery claws. “Look at the size of those talons compared to the other guy.”

After everyone got a good look, Steve invited someone from the group to help him. As a timid young falconer stepped up to loosen the leash of R2, Steve nodded at him with respect. “You’re hesitant. I can appreciate that.”

Steve placed 5 birds in their mews that hour alone (7 birds in total), leaving the bulk of the responsibility in the hands of the older campers. All 13 boys returned the next day. Steve didn’t lose a single recruit. He even retained 3 campers from last year. Later in the week, after the campers spent time helping him to care for and feed the birds, he took them to Looking Glass Rock, a local attraction near Brevard where they can see the birds out of their cages and in the wild. Looking Glass, a traditional nesting sight of Peregrine falcons, is an opportunity too for the boys to see the birds outside the context of camp.

Saturday, Steve has planned for each of them to give their own presentation after having researched one of the birds in front of the entire camp.

Raptor Week

For Steve, this is just the end of another Raptor Week. But for the campers, this is the first step toward being a Falconer of Falling Creek Camp.

- John Granatino

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Jim Kurtts Talks Falling Creek & Personal History

Jim Kurtts

Some of you may only know him as the Indian Lore man. But Jim Kurtts is one of the longest returning staff-members we have here at camp. Working at Falling Creek since the camp opened in 1969, he has seen the camp evolve from a small clearing around a couple lakes to what it is today. The only summers he has missed were due to serving in the military during the Vietnam War.

Sitting down with an interview with him wasn’t difficult. He told me to stop by whenever I had time. So impromptu, I took him up on his offer and dropped into the Indian Lore Lodge during free choice. He sat at a table in the lodge listening to the sound of the nearby Falling Creek rushing by in the background with the newspaper spread out in front of him.

I asked how young he was when he started working on staff. He told me as soon as he graduated High School he got the word. “[My friend knew I] would be moving from Boy Scout camp to a private camp. And [he] said, “Stop by Hendersonville at Camp Greystone to see Jim Miller. He’s been talking about having a boy’s camp.”

Jim recalls being whisked away from graduation on the bus down to Hendersonville for the meeting. He had always had an affinity for Indian Lore and looked to start the program up at this new camp. When he finally met Miller, where he found him lounging out by the flag-plaza at Camp Greystone in an Adirondack chair, buried under a pile of papers, trying to put together a camp. Miller, looking up from his work, asked him what he thought he could teach.

“…I said ‘At Scout camp I did Indian Lore.’ And he goes, ‘Well, what do you know about Indian Lore?’ I peeled my shirt up a little bit where he could see my fully beaded belt. And he goes, “So I think you know something about Indian Lore!”

Jim spent the next week freezing in the frigid spring waters at camp Blue Star getting his WSI (Water Safety Instructor) certification. Then, went to the area that was in the makings of being a camp. “You just had the first 12 cabins, the infirmary, the dining hall. Lake front was assistant director Paul Neil’s house. The field and the barn: much smaller than it is now… The waterfront was pretty much like it is. But it didn’t have the upper deck. And Blobs hadn’t been invented yet. It just had a diving board and that was it." Among other details, Jim recalls a lack of canoes and a monkey bridge spanning diagonally across what is now the paddling area.

With a staff of over 130 now, I asked him what the early employees of Falling Creek who ran the camp were like. Jim recalls the first staff-members of FCC were from all over, some veterans of wars and from other camps. “Horseback riding had been run by Corbert Alexander… who had been in WWI as a cavalry man.”

Corbert used the fields that are now for soccer and ultimate Frisbee for horse shows. “The first summer they [Corbert and Sally] did a gymkhana, which was like some athletic stuff on horses and things up on the field. The whole camp sat up on the bank. And we were told to be careful not to sit and break the trees, because they had planted all of these white pines that are now like hundreds of feet high. We were told to be careful because they were no less than a foot high."

Jim, being WSI trained, served as a lifeguard, and taught the first caretaker’s son how to swim. He also served as a member of the canoeing staff. He remembers the days he would travel down the steep mountain roads to the Green River with the canoes strapped to a trailer, and the next year when he would ride horses up the same roads as a member of the riding staff. But he does have one area that he’s always had a fondness for.

“Indian Lore has always been my favorite. I did it before. That’s what got me the job at camp. All these years later I still do it.” Having written the curriculum for the original Indian Lore activity, and attending local Pow-Wows by the still-living tribes of America, his role in the area is an ongoing passion.

Jim and boys making the famous fry breadJim and boys making the famous fry bread

“What I like is the night of ‘Grand Counsel.’ Everything becomes transformed and the kids become Indians… The fire is going. They’re all dressed up. They’re doing their roles. And everything we’ve done— you know, all the little bead stringing, all the leather dying— comes together. They’re there. They’re present in that moment. The drum’s beating. The fire’s burning.
“Everybody always says [to the kids], ‘Don’t you get scared in front of the audience?’ And they always say, “What audience?”

From the beadworking to the singing, he has done his part to maintain the integrity of the the traditions, keeping it as close to the standards of the culture as possible. “You’ll be respected among Native Americans if you tried your best to be traditional and make things correctly, and act correctly, and dance correctly.”

With his ambition unchanged, adding pioneering-esque woodwork to his classes this year and establishing the Indian Lore lodge as well as its surrounding area in its new location on North camp, he still works to leave his impact on camp. I thanked Jim for his time, letting him know that I would be back to learn more about his hand in building the camp.

-John Granatino

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Take a Look At Our Camp Gym

The McGrady Family Gym

The McGrady Family Gym is a hub of activity at camp.

Gym Next To Dining Hall

They gym took two years to complete, and Platt Architecture certainly captured the rustic style we desired. They were a pleasure to work with during the entire process.

The upper level is an open air basketball court.

FCC Stage

It also acts as a stage that is being used for our theater program, talent shows, and the occasional morning assembly.

The basketball court is terrific for daily instruction.

It has a fireplace that is handy if we have to make a plan for rain during Sunday night Campfire program.

The Sports Field

The synthetic turf field adjacent to the gym is a big hit!

Flag football and ultimate frisbee are just two of the sports that utilize the field, as well as numerous all-camp events and evening programs.

The Lower Level

The lower lever is an enclosed indoor soccer field with built-in goals. It has a turf field and has a wall of hockey glass that allows for natural light and spectators, while also providing maximum safety.

The lower level of the gym is perfect for indoor soccer and epic dodge ball games!

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Art Embarks In Other Areas At Falling Creek

June 4. 2014

With a working roller coaster that slides into a lake, a zip line, a rock wall, a legion of mountain bikes, and a blob, it’s difficult to imagine that we could find more programs that boys could love. We have had the staples of a traditional boys camp for years with a tried and true formula that we know works. Our previous forays into art have been very popular including pottery, arts and crafts, blacksmithing, woodworking, and music.

But now we have taken a plunge into another universe of activities that have remained yet untapped. They may be risky, but we hope perhaps fill the void in a world of standardized testing and emphasises on biology (not that there is anything wrong with either). Programs like…

Theater

Theatre June 2014

Sure, you may have heard of a theater camp, an entire program dedicated to Shakespearean monologues and learning how to cry. Some people go to camps specified for these tracts. It’s a niche that some go all-out for.

With the completion of our new gymnasium, we have also paved the way to fill our own niche. We have the facilities and the talent to make a theater program nothing short of fantastic. Leading the program will be Flat Rock Playhouse veteran Tania Battista, who has worked there for 15 years in every role you could imagine, bringing with her a room-full of props, costumes, and a cast of experienced instructors.

The program will offer gritty character development for those interested in acting serious, as well as skit writing for those interested in acting goofy.

Music Lessons

If you think that Battista plans to stop there, you would be incorrect. She is also re-energizing our music program. To some of you, music lessons may seem like a group of people getting together with plastic recorders playing Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Our program will include instruction in any stringed instruments you can get your hands on, with the guitar, ukulele, and mandolin for starters. If you are feeling creatively limited with something as conventional as an “instrument,” then not to worry, because part of Battista’s instruction requires you making an instrument from objects in your environment; the liquid in your coffee mug, an old coke bottle, a handful of gravel. You are only limited by your own creativity.

“Teaching is about finding a common beat or rhythm,” says Tania. “Once you can find that you can learn to play anything.”

If you think that Tania can rest easy knowing she has brought two programs from scratch into camp, you still don’t know the whole story.

World Beat

World Beat Class June 2014

Teaming up with marching percussion aficionado Kym Haywood, Battista is taking her musical talents to the next level. From her experience working with Babatunde Olatunji, African Soul legend and beloved musician, Tania plans to introduce the art of the Djembe drum, a traditional West-African instrument. To compliment the traditional drumbeat, Haywood plans to show the other end of the spectrum with a marching flourish to complete the ensemble.Together, the two are unstoppable, and have 15 new Djembe’s for campers to play on.

John Granatino

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A Native Tradition Living On At The Creek

June 3, 2014

Jim Kurtts at June Camp 2014

With an activity that’s been around since the beginning of camp (along with swimming and mountaineering), it’s understandable that we would hope that some of the traditions wouldn’t be lost in Indian Lore’s move from the East side of camp to its new location. It has been one of the trademark features of camp that boys have loved since Jim Kurtts introduced the program in 1968.

But in Indian Lore’s move from Iroquois to its new location overlooking the creek on the North side of camp, nothing was lost in the shuffle. With the new location, the area has acquired a new lodge, a new field to grow a garden of strawberries, Jerusalem artichokes, sunflowers, and squash, and as well as having a new view. Best of all, the area will have Kurtts, the original counselor who wrote the curriculum.

In the program this year, Kurtts intends to include a focus on wood-crafting skills (which includes knife sharpening and fire building) harkening back to the pioneer days when they depended on the land for all of their needs. Campers will learn to survive off the land using Native American tactics that have been used for hundreds of years

The new lodge, according to Kurtts, will stand roughly the same size and area of the old lodge but will include a large field complete with log-made bridges for ceremonies and dances.

In addition to all the new frills, the campers will be allowed to continue some of the original activities that have made the activity popular with campers, including costume building and traditional dance and song practice.

John Granatino

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