Wash Your Hands, Send Your Letters: Chapter 3

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Coordinators Kal Bowers and Caroline Zerilli are back with another chapter of their original story, Wash Your Hands, Send Your Letters. This week, Kal checks in on the Rock Trolls during a game of Capture the Flag.

(Catch up on Chapter 1 and Chapter 2!)

Chapter 3: The Battle of the A-Field

The summer sun was just starting to show its face in the Valley. The days got warmer and warmer during the late May afternoons. As the ground softened and the frost melted away, the wildflowers and grasses of the Ossipee Mountains started to flourish. The blueberry bushes at the Waterfront returned to green, and the frogs and tadpoles swam curiously along the Pond’s edge, happy to see that almost all the ice had melted away.

The thousands of birds who call the trees their home seemed to chirp louder and wake earlier in the morning, the Wishing Tree noticed. A local cat whose family lived nearby had wandered over to the base of the Tree and lazily flopped onto a sunny spot near the it’s trunk. Ever so carefully, the Tree reached down with one of its branches and gave it a small scratch behind its ear. Eventually, the cat climbed up the leaning branch up into the Tree until she found a comfortable spot. On the stoop, a small postcard sat waiting to be read.

Dear Wishing Tree,

Hey, it’s Jacob from Canaan last year. I understand why we can’t go back to camp this summer, but it’s still not easy. My cabin has been together since we were Pioneers and we were going to be four-week Trailblazers this summer. My family has been playing a lot of games together, but I can’t wait to be back to play Capture the Flag. I’ve been coming up with some strategies. Just wish I could use them now.

-Jacob from Canaan

Ah, the Rock Trolls, some of the humblest and hardest working creatures in the entire state of New Hampshire. They are also some of the shyest folks you can imagine.

The Rocks had taken residence on the hill near the AC when the camp was first being built. Eventually, they found it so comfortable that when the Amphitheater was created, they immediately volunteered to serve as the benches, thrilled by the idea of supporting Merrowivsta’s community members in their quest to develop their best selves. They felt… important! Strong! Noble! Their flat heads and smooth surface made for perfect seating, and they didn’t mind the company either.

From where they stayed, lodged in the side of the hill, they had watched dozens of MV theatrical productions, MV Idols and Closing Circles. They had watched campers complete their climbing goals and play dodgeball on rainy summer afternoons.

When the Wishing Tree called the Rocks’ attention from just a few feet down the hill, the Rocks rolled from the dirt that had held them in place for so long.

Lumpy, some would say, the surface of the rock troll’s skin was weathered with lichen and dusted with dirt, which got stronger as kids ripped up the grass when they didn’t want to pay attention to a certain MV idol performance (they of course paid full attention when the nose flutes emerged. Ah, the glory of Chris Morse).

Anyway, as they emerged groggily from the hill, there was a slight rumbling to the ground. One by one they plummeted forward, with the smallest of the trolls almost bouncing off the AC floor due to their lengthy descent.

One would think a Rock Troll’s face would have limited expressions, due to the rock and all, but no. These were charismatic souls, contorting their stone features to express an impressive range of emotions, but their expressions of competition and brainstorming were some of their most striking. Once one troll had an idea, the whole troll fleet would suddenly be deep in thought, furiously wrinkling their foreheads–almost as if their minds were one single entity, making them a fierce competitor to anyone who dared challenge them.

Calling Igneous! Calling Granite!
Calling my wonderful friends, the Stones!
It’s time to rise up!
Rub your eyes and shake your bones!

It’s been too many years
since I’ve seen your expressive faces
I call upon you for a game with cheers,
Soon it will be off to the races!

At each end of the A-Field
Your foe’s flag you must obtain!
I really hope it’s sunny.
Nonetheless, we’ll play in rain!

So stretch those legs, hydrate up!
The Battle of the A-Field is starting soon!
It’s the Rock Trolls versus the Raccoons
Starting tomorrow, see you there at 6 past noon!

Bursting with excitement, the Rocks spent the next 24 hours preparing for the next day’s competition. While easygoing most of the time, as soon as the Rocks got wind that a competition was afoot, their entire disposition changed.

That afternoon, they did a group jog, well it was more like a group roll, on the path through the meadow and around the Eating Lodge. They used the basketball court to practice defense drills, bobbing and weaving through the cones they found in the Athletic Shed.

The Raccoons, who had also been contacted by the Tree, made similar preparations of their own. As the resident “bad boys” of the Canaan Valley, the Raccoons usually kept to themselves, but just like the Rocks, there was nothing like a healthy competition to bring them out of hiding.

Stealthy, crafty, and cunning, the group of Trash Pandas had a few tricks up their sleeves that they knew would give them advantage during the game. In their mind, it was time to reclaim the A-Field for the Raccoons again, and what better time than the Battle of the A-Field for them to mount a takeover?

The next night was perfect weather for a game of Capture the Flag. The early evening sun poked out just behind Flagg Mountain illuminating the battleground. The Roots had measured out the exact dimensions of for the boundaries and had placed cones neatly around the A-Field. They had made the flag and jail circles on either side and carefully placed the cut-up pool noodles that would be used as flags inside.

The Tree had sent them to deliver paint to each of the teams beforehand, and the Rocks spent the entire afternoon rolling themselves in red paint. The Raccoons carefully used their tails to paint each other’s faces with blue paint as they made the final preparations on their secret weapons.

The vines that trellis around the bell confidently rung the bell 17 times to signal the teams to gather. From the AC Path came the Rocks, marching in formation singing the songs of their people. The smallest and quickest rocks took the lead as the larger, more defensive rocks brought up the back of the formation. The chant they sung went:

(Chanting)

We the rocks
Of earth and stone
Benches we
The AC our home.

For Daniel Hope
We do our best
Put our perseverance
To the test.

The Rocks Rolled in Red made their way to the soccer goal nearest them as the first of the Raccoons started to appear from the L-Village forest. Their blue tails whipping back and forth, the Raccoons pulled a dish cart that they must have stolen from the Dishroom behind them. Draped with a blanket, there was no way to see what was on the cart, but the Rocks were not intimidated, they were going to win this game fair and square. The game was a best out of five, with the first team to win three rounds taking the title.

With the two teams ready to go, the Vines rung the bell 10 times to signal the start of the game. The Rocks and Raccoons ran towards the center of the A-Field and started to size up their opponents. The Rocks were far more organized than the opposition, making sure to assign different Rocks to attack and defend.

A few minutes in, the Rocks had tagged a dozen or so Raccoons who sat impatiently in the jail circle. “Barricade Formation!” one of the large Rocks called while defending the flag circle. Like clockwork, or rockwork, I suppose, the stones lined up and started charging towards the Raccoons flag circle, protecting a few speedier rocks from being tagged. It worked like a dream and before you knew it, the Rocks secured the first round! They cheered the speedy Rock who brought the flag across the finish line and quickly got ready for round 2.

The second round happened much like the first did, with the disorganized Raccoons jumping and falling all over the field. While they had speed and maneuvering skills, they never thought that they would be going up against actual strategic formations! Using a “flying V” strategy, the Rocks easily won the second round, their preparations and training obviously paying off.

With one Rock capture away from defeat, the Raccoons knew that it was time to unveil their plan. Ripping off the blanket from the dish cart revealed what looked like 10 kite-like devices with climbing harnesses attached to the bottom. Smirking, the Raccoons started to climb into the hang gliders that they had constructed out of sticks, leaves and bits of trash they had scavenged from the dumpster. Climbing up the posts of the soccer goal, the 10 Flying Raccoons pulled down their homemade aviator goggles and waited for round three to start.

As the bell rung to start the round, the Raccoons jumped off the crossbar and into the air, soaring over the heads of the Rocks who looked up with panicked expressions. Floating into the flag circle some of the pilots made it all the way to the other side of the A-Field and landed on the opposing teams crossbar. The Raccoons who landed in the flag circle simply threw the flag to those on the crossbar who safely flew back to their territory.

It was no surprise that the Raccoons secured the next two rounds easily, as the Rocks tried desperately to come up with a new strategy to defend against the vertical Trash Pandas. The entire Night’s Doings would come down to one final round.

The Wishing Tree had been watching from down the hill, and was disappointed at the Raccoons for their tricks, as it was definitely not Best-Self Capture the Flag. He thought of what it could do to help the Rocks, but because there are no trees on the A-Field, he struggled to find a solution.

Before the final round started, the Rocks finally came up with a strategy to defend their flag circle. Using the larger rocks as it’s base, the Rocks formed a giant wall that surrounded the flag, with the smallest rocks on top of the wall to tag the pilots. The strategy worked perfectly as the round started! Any pilot who dared venture near the flag circle was easily tagged by the high-up rocks.

The Rocks had a secret strategy of their own, and now that the aerial offensive was being kept to a minimum, the largest of all the Rocks, Igneous Iggy, signaled for the fastest Rock, Sedimentary Tony, to jump into his arms. With a throw that even Tom Brady would be proud of, Iggy chucked Tony all the way across the A-Field and into the Raccoon’s flag circle.

The Wishing Tree gave a small cheer, and quickly covered his mouth. Seeing that the Rocks were just one run away from losing the game, they circled the flag circle where Tony tightly clutched the blue pool noodle. As they closed in closer to the circle, Tony could see no way of escaping and bringing the flag to safety.

Just then, the Roots opened up a Rock sized hole in the grass right in front of Tony! The Wishing Tree cheered once more, and yelled, “Roll, Tony! Roll!” Following the Roots lead, Tony jumped into the hole where he started digging towards the other side of the A-Field. The Raccoons desperately tried to dig into the soil to tag him, but Tony was far too quick!

Bursting out the the ground, Tony crossed the midline and scored the final point, blue flag in hand! The Rocks had done it! The Battle of the A-Field was theirs!

The Tree gave a hip-hip-hooray from down the hill and shouted:

Well, golly, you did it!
The Title goes to the Rocks!
That game was so intense,
It had me nervously knitting my grass socks!
You came together as team
You worked hard, got creative!
Champions once again
A title I am happy to give!

With that, the Roots took the blue pool noodle and replaced it with a plaque commemorating the Rocks incredible victory over the Raccoons. The Raccoons applauded the Rocks graciously, commending the Rocks on their ability to think outside the box. They then returned to the forest to their homes.

The Rocks applauded as they left the A-Field, recognizing the incredible fight they put up. Singing and cheering, the Rocks rolled back to the AC Hill, happy to have gotten some exercise, some fun and just a smidgen of competition.

A huge summer rainstorm hit the valley that night, with streams of water carving paths through the various paths of Merrowvista. The aluminum roofs of the cabins vibrated with the falling rain, creating a kind of percussion performance, accompanied by the sound of puddles being filled with droplets.

The Circle Trees were elated to hear that another artifact was on its way, as the Tree that represented the Trailblazers waiting for the roots to bring their delivery. Within the Circle, the Stone Skippers Licence sat alone on the bench. When the Artifact arrived from the Roots, the Trees’ oohed and ahhed at the pool noodle made completely of stone. The Wishing Tree had really outdone itself this time.

Slowly and carefully, the Tree outside of the Circle gently placed the noodle down next to the Skippers Licence, in the section where the campers of Sentinel, Liberty, Canaan, Laffayette, Carter Dome, Lincoln, Madison and Little Haystack would have sat, and have sat for dozens of summers before. The fire that was completely unlit before began to emit a small purple spark, knowing that something was coming. Two sections represented, the Tree smiled from the Meadow. It was happening, the creatures were learning!