Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Big Storm and the FPC Staff

It was an impressive storm.

It started late Saturday night. By the time we saw the sun again on Tuesday morning, the snow was thigh deep. Trees, laden with mounds of wet snow, bowed to the ground. Some snapped under the stress. The veranda canopy’s metal super structure crumpled in the middle of the night as if it were made of Tinker Toys. It would have been a wonderful winter adventure, were it not for the fact that we had 115 people in camp – a high school group from Phoenix, most of whom had never seen a snowfall in their lives.

Our duties to the group prohibited us from standing in the warmth of our homes next to a picture window, clad in cozy wool sweaters, sipping mugs of hot chocolate, and issuing folksy proclamations like, “Heavens to Betsy, I haven’t seen a snow like this since the blizzard of (insert date here).” We had to engage instead of merely observe. That means lots of snow removal. Our maintenance staff started plowing at 5 AM and finally called it a day after one last swipe of camp sometime around 7 PM. Between serving up hot meals, our kitchen staff kept the coffee brewing and, yes, the hot chocolate mix coming. The rest of the staff started the morning by feeding the horses, lugging buckets of feed through the corrals. The snow in some of the unprotected areas was so deep that you could see where a horse’s belly had dragged as it trudged up to the feeders. With that done it was time to grab shovels and clear steps piled high like frosted cupcakes; and dig out walkways, the course of which one could only guess at. By the time the first clearing was complete, we would survey our work and, like Sisyphus, watch our efforts silently obliterated by a fresh covering. Time to start again.

This ordeal taught me two thing. 1) I’m so lucky to live in Arizona. I grew up in Michigan, but I left 33 years ago. In that time, I’ve grown a little soft and spoiled. 2) Friendly Pines has a wonderful staff. The crew never once complained. In fact, I heard far more laughing and joking than I heard grumbling. Most folks came in on their days off to help pitch in. I never asked, and not one of them requested to be compensated for their time. In truth, I have seen these displays of teamwork and selflessness over and over during my years at Friendly Pines. I have watched their pleasant, positive demeanor even at the end of the longest days. It is a loyalty and dedication to purpose that is difficult, if not impossible, to repay.

A totally unrelated item. Friendly Pines has gotten involved in a new ad campaign ….on TV. It’s not as dramatic as it might sound. The ad consists of a picture of the camp with some text and a voice-over, so it’s not that different from looking at an ad in a magazine but it’s on television. The medium is the message, right? It’s supposed to air through the month of March on Good Morning America and something called ABC News at 5. I was shocked to discover that the 5 referred to 5 AM; however, I’m told that people are actually up at that time and coherent enough to absorb current events. Anyway, keep an eye open for it, and let us know what you think.

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