I had driven all over campus for the last 10 minutes, searching for the bright orange of dorm 1B. About five minutes before their campus improvement class, I found them walking south past Imperial Academy on their way to the woods. For the next 75 minutes on that Tuesday afternoon, July 21, they would use a menagerie of creative cutting tools to clear out the undergrowth along the walking path to the Hall of Administration.
A pile of hacksaws, pole saws with unique string contraptions for pulling the blades together, large bins, a wheelbarrow and a tarp awaited 1B just outside the forest. Landscaping supervisor Carl Hilliker would return in a few minutes from dropping dorm 3G off at their work destination by Armstrong Auditorium.
As 1B gathered around, Mr. Hilliker instructed the ambitious deforesters to cut any tree limbs lacking greenery and to trim the evergreen trees encroaching onto the walking path. He demonstrated how to use each tool and then allowed the boys to try it for themselves. The objective: clear away all dead undergrowth up to 20 feet from the walking path, all the way down to the “fork in the road” at the bottom of the hill.
Counselor Daryle Hochstetler divided his guys into two groups of six—one to work up by the main campus road, and another to work down the hill where walking paths from the straightaway and from Faculty Row converge.
As for my part in the cleaning up of the small wooded area, I piled all branches and leftover roughage raked up by camper Owen onto a small tarp, then transferred tarp-load after tarp-load into the bed of a small stick-shift Japanese landscaping vehicle.
Once the truck bed was piled high with dead branches and pesky twigs, landscaper Evan Fraser hopped into the driver’s seat, peculiarly located on the right side of the vehicle. I accompanied him to a massive burn pile in front of the Windsor dorm in the northwest corner of campus, where we unloaded our haul. In just over an hour, we would make five total trips to that gigantic pile.
On our periodical trips to the burn pile, I playfully chided Evan until he always wore his seatbelt, drove the speed limit, stopped fully at every stop sign, and used his turn signal. Years ago, I had lost my landscaping driving privileges for a couple months because I had hopped into the bed of a moving truck, and I didn’t want him to suffer for similar shenanigans. We also used the time to talk about his expectations as an incoming freshman at Herbert W. Armstrong College. He said he was glad to be accepted in the same year as his cousin Kyle.
1B, perhaps spurred by hard-working German assistant counselor David Michels, worked extremely efficiently for the entire class period. In each group, a camper raked severed twigs and limbs into piles, another camper swept the sidewalk from time to time, and several campers cut prodigious amounts of branches. They all then emptied trash bins and wheelbarrows full of deadwood onto the tarp, which Evan and I loaded onto the micro truck. By dutifully fulfilling their assigned tasks, they accomplished much more than I had anticipated. I was impressed to see the dorm working as a unit and having a good time doing so.
Before we knew it, our opportunity to beautify campus had come to an end. We had fulfilled our objective, leaving the perimeter of the forest much more pleasing to the eye than it was before we started.
Camper Joseph excitedly told me of how he swung from a thick branch to break it from the tree. 1B refilled their water bottles and put their tools in the bed of Mr. Hilliker’s truck, and we all went our separate ways for the last class of the day: swimming for 1B, more hard work for the landscaping crew, and softball (kickball because of the rain) for me.