You probably noticed that we don’t post a daily score of Color War in the blog. That’s because a score doesn’t necessarily reflect the competitiveness of the game, and for sure, just about every game has been an aggressive fight. Red’s been consistently ahead, but never by too much. Both Gray and Red fought with every ounce of strength, and with heart, and dedication.
Regardless of the score at daybreak, one thing about this Color War (and summer) was very different. Rain (or lack of it!). A steady sprinkle surprised most of us as we headed to breakfast. We can’t remember the last time, but it didn’t stick around long, just long enough to cause a slight venue adjustment. Stars Basketball would be moved indoors to the gym, and Senior Tennis would be played only on the Har-tru courts at Sky2 as well. Red had come into the last day on quite a roll, responding to everything Gray threw at them, maintaining the edge throughout.
But this day, this very last day of the summer’s biggest week, something was different. After Red nearly swept the morning with wins in Baseball, Golf and Bocce, Soccer, and Football, Gray fought through with a big win in one Stars Basketball game and Senior Tennis as well. However, Blake’s Gray Men had not lost hope- instead they had this swagger, a sort of quiet confidence that their time was coming; it was as if they knew something no one else did. Now that the week’s field and court activities had ended, the only thing left was the afternoon TUGS of War that traditionally, and dramatically, ends Color War.
David’s Red Men had performed magnificently from Day 1, putting them in position to close it out, and probably fairly quickly. It would only take a victory in one of the six divisions in Tugs to win it all. History told us that this was nearly impossible, so shouldn’t they have had the swagger? What ensued will go down as one of the most exciting finishes ever, leaving all spectators searching for words to describe the emotion that was to follow.
Red Team to the Hockey courts and Gray Team to the Tennis courts, for some last second “psyching up,” not that anyone needed it. The camp was abuzz with the summer’s most anticipated event. Shep calls the teams to the Fred Pierce Field. Silently and with faces full of determination, each team marches to the hillside.
It would take best 2 of 3 tugs for a win in each division. When called down, each division staggers the rope. Shep instructs, “Tuggers, take the rope”. Hands clench firmly in position, feet are grounded, deep breaths and the whistle BLOWS! They PULL and PULL and PULL as never before. Faces are tighter than tight, and you can clearly see they want this win more than anything in the world. Muscles bulge so big that you think they’ll burst. Even those who we didn’t realize had big muscles are popping.
Both teams cheer wildly from the sidelines. “PULL!!!!!”, they holler. “PULL!!!!!”
The seconds of pulling seem like forever. Just...don’t…let…them…pull…me…over…that…line, they think. Each says to himself and truly believes, “I CAN DO THIS! WE WILL WIN!!”
When the first round had ended, the Gray, determined, focused, and stalwart in achieving their goal, had let everyone know that they just might win them all, and steal this War. Before long, 4 out 6 divisions close out in favor of Gray. The Tigers and Cubs, who had split their first two tugs, would be left to settle it. Another Gray win in both, and they would pull off quite possibly the greatest comeback in 68 years. And Red, who’d led from the start, was teetering.
The whistle blows, each side pulls so hard the rope doesn’t move. Then one way, then back, just a little more and RED WINS COLOR WAR!!!
On one side of the field Red Men leap into each other’s arms! Smiles, cheers, screams of happy! “ WE WON!!!” A round of hugs and high fives. “YEAH”, they holler.
But on the other side, it’s a very different scene. Gray Men drop to the ground. Many cry, and openly sob. They gave it their all, tried so hard, and it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I could have…I should have… Leaning on each other, they hug. They console. An old one picks up a little guy. And in at least one case we saw, a little guy put his arm around a tearful bigger one.
Blake, with his face full of tears and emotion, uses his last bit of strength to muster his troop. “Bring it in guys”, he proclaims. The team quickly moves towards him. “One more time!”, he says. “ On three!” The team responds together, “GRAY!”
Color War 2016 is over. It’s time to turn the page, in Skylemar style. Captain David and Captain Blake are lifted high above the strong shoulders of their Lieutenants. Campers and counselors follow down the road together to the magical waters of Trickey Pond.
All watch as the Captains are traditionally “tossed” from each side of the dock into the sparkling blue lake. They swim to the center and embrace. The water washes away the competition, and now Skylemar is again one!
The boys take turns jumping in too, once again becoming brothers, through and through. A heartwarming moment came when one boy in a cabin who was a beginner swimmer put on a lifejacket. When bunkmates noticed this, they all put on lifejackets. Now that’s a team.
The camp came up the hill smiling and laughing, as if Color War was a long time ago. Spaghetti and meatballs for the traditional last “regular dinner” of the summer. A casual 7th period of fun, and then it was time for the most beloved Evening Activity of this or any other summer.
The Waterfront Ceremony.
The night begins with the Captains holding giant torches at the Rock Wall, marking the beginning of this most special evening. Slowly they walk towards each cabin, and bunkmates fall in line behind. The whole entire camp of 350 follows in one long silent procession down to the beach. The feeling now of “oneness” is universal.
At the lake awaits the most beautiful bonfire, with uniquely colored flames of pink, blue and red. Tiki torches lead the way to the seating area, where each bunk snuggly sits. Camp songs are beautifully sung in the background, seemingly from across the foggy lake. Once all have settled in, Shep invites us to share in a few moments of silence, thinking about those we love who weren’t here tonight.
The Captains are called upon to speak, as has happened for the past 68 years. David urged all of us to make the most of every single minute at Skylemar. He reminded how fast it goes, and how lucky we are for this good fortune. He also asked that we bring Skylemar values home with us, those of brotherhood, kindness and friendship.
Blake talked about being grateful, especially for our parents who gave us the opportunity to be at Skylemar. He explained how at Skylemar he feels like he’s surrounded by love always, and reminded everyone to keep on loving wherever they are.
These two short speeches were pretty darn incredible. Tonight’s FB video includes live sound bites. You’ll see – they spoke to the camp is if talking to one close friend.
The next part of the night is a favorite. Each person in attendance (all campers, counselors, non-bunk staff, kitchen and maintenance staff, alums and visitors) is called to the water's edge, to place a wishing boat in the water. It’s a block of wood with a lit candle on top. Legend holds that if you place the boat in Trickey Pond and make a positive wish for someone other than yourself, that wish just might come true.
Once all the candles are aglow, Shep speaks to a now-teary bunch of guys. Just hearing about having to say goodbye to Skylemar brothers makes us well-up.
Up the hill and each bunk has their own special campfire in the woods, with pizza and s’mores. It’s a chance to share what we enjoyed and appreciated about the summer, while having a great time being together.
What a great summer it’s been. From Opening Day to the last of Color War, every day’s been better than the next. For this we are grateful!