I pushed my two-year-old daughter, Loma, in a stroller down the gravel road next to the Mail Processing Center on Tuesday morning, July 23, to visit the grassy knoll where Philadelphia Youth Camp archery headquarters was situated under an army tent. We were just in time to witness dorm 4B, minus the infirmed Mitchell, confidently crest the hill between the seven-acre lake and the clearing, and then descend toward us like a regiment of foreign invaders.
Edmond staff member Travis Lugo, who had been chatting with archery instructor Bailey Crawford and assistant Emma Moore in the comfort of the sturdy shade structure, escaped in his big red truck just in time.
As Loma feasted on a chocolate-chip cookie, dorm 4B counselor Tony Seme, assistant Elias Noe, Benjamin, Ashton, Samuel, Caden, Peter, Josh, Dillon, Michael, Seven, and Jude dropped their backpacks and sat on the benches under the tent. Mr. Crawford asked all of us to tell where we’re going for the Feast of Tabernacles, plus one place we would like to travel to. Benjamin, like my family, is going to Wisconsin. About half of the campers said they wanted to visit Australia, much to the delight of the Australians in our midst: Miss Moore, Mr. Noe, and Ashton.
After Mr. Crawford impressed Loma by removing her nose and by pulling an entire whistle out of her ear, he equipped the campers with forearm guards and one bow per pair. Loma got her own guard and a miniature red bow.
Out on the shooting range, the archers took aim at six hay bales, each covered with a target bullseye surrounded by nine rings. A bullseye was worth ten points, the first ring nine, the second ring eight, and so on. Josh appeared to be dorm 4B’s best hope of breaking the camper record of 56 points out of a possible 60 with six shots from the white-painted ten-yard line. Each camper and counselor attempted this three times. Josh finished barely shy of the record, with 54 points.
The next drill was more complex. An archer would shoot one arrow from inside an orange-painted box at five yards out, retreat to the ten-yard line for another shot, take three shots from 15 yards away (one from straight on, one from several feet to the left, and another from the right), and finally launch the sixth arrow at the 20-yard line. Again, Josh finished with dorm 4B’s highest score: 49.
The final drill of the day: shooting arrows with large fletching and a rubber golf ball attached to the tip at white plastic baskets nailed to wooden posts. Dorm 4B, as a group, attempted to shoot seven such arrows into a basket but fell just short.
Before each round of shooting, Mr. Crawford blew his whistle once for the archers to nock an arrow into their bows. Two whistles gave permission to shoot, three to retrieve arrows from the targets, and four to return to the firing line. From time to time, Mr. Crawford blew the whistle twice instead of three times, tricking inattentive campers into walking to the targets despite not hearing a third blast.
Watching teenage boys fire deadly weapons was fun enough, but the conversations I enjoyed with the campers and workers made archery class feel complete. Mr. Crawford, Miss Moore and I noted the luxurious class format and agreed that shooting arrows from a stationary position was nothing compared to shooting while running, aiming at a moving target, or facing return fire in war.
I sympathized with Ashton when a gust of wind waylaid one of his shots. Jude told me how my wonderful brother, Micah, talked with him and others in sick bay the other day. Several of us reminded Caden of his resemblance to Herbert W. Armstrong College graduate Ezra Hochstetler, much to his agitation for no reason at all. Peter and I chatted about his father designing the German-language version of theTrumpet.com. Josh informed me that only about five Philadelphia Church of God members live in his home state of Hawai’i. Michael and I joked about the widespread passion for Mountain Dew in his home state of Kentucky.
Throughout class, various campers yelled out nonsensically, “Don’t drop the croissant!” Had I been carrying one, I would have heeded the warning.