I know how to make a fire from watching Survivorman and Bear Grylls and Man Woman Wild with my brother. The experts always say that it’s harder than it looks–but c’mon, how hard can it really be if you got matches, right? Hahahahahaha.
Rewind! I’m getting ahead of myself here.
I believe I’ve mentioned before…I’m not a big camper, peoples. So when I was asked last-minute to be a camp counselor at a Christian girl’s camp, I didn’t really…want to. Camping! Camping isn’t my thing! But as much as I’ve been doing it lately (three times this year) it might become my thing, hahahaha. Anyways, I felt like the Lord was telling me that being a camp counselor for one week was a good way to serve Him this summer. So, I went.
Between the other counselor and I, we had fourteen girls with us and they kept us busy. In spite of the busyness however, things were actually going just dandy! Every night everyone would participate in what the camp calls a “Great Special”–some form of game that’s great and special. 😉 Every night the Great Special changes. One night it was kickball. Instead of bases, you had to stand in piles of rotten sauerkraut and green beans. Yuk!
Tuesday night, however, was different. Instead of the whole camp doing the Great Special together, each counselor took their girls and built a campfire, had s’mores, and the girls put together and performed their own little skit. It was rather…intimidating. I never went to summer camp as a kid and it was my first year being a counselor at one. I felt thrown into it, but the other counselor with me had had camp experience which made me feel better. Still, I desperately wanted to do a good job.
We set the girls to work gathering small sticks and things to use for kindling. The sticks were placed into piles according to size, but much to my dismay, nearly everything around us was either damp or still green. Not very, but enough that I wondered how well this was going to work. Once we had a pretty good amount of sticks to start with, the girls left and began practicing their skit leaving us to get the campfire started.
“I know how to make a fire,” I told the other counselor.
“You do? Perfect! I will leave you to it then.”
I began to build the fire. Smallest things first, the tiniest twigs and other dry stuff that’s good for starting a fire. Then build a teepee around it with a little bit bigger, bigger, bigger, sticks. Making sure to leave a way to get the match down to the small kindling.
Meanwhile the camp director was making his way around to see how us counselors were doing with our campfires. When he checked mine, he said that it looked like a really good fire, though I had yet to light it. I felt proud. A little too proud, perhaps.
After he left, the girls performed their skit for us. It was hilarious, and very long. We lost track of time, and before we knew it an hour had passed. It was time for me to light the fire. I pulled out the tiny book of matches and stuck one, holding the flame to the twigs. As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs so I didn’t panic when it didn’t light on the first match. But as the second, third, fourth–twentieth match was lit and extinguished, I became overwhelmed and frustrated. It was nearly dark. I had forgotten my flashlight back at the cabin. I had a headache. The girls were all asking when they could have marshmallows.
Last match. I whispered a prayer before I struck it and held it to the kindling. I got a small flame! I blew gently to try and grow it. When the embers fizzled away, I wanted to cry.
“That was the last match,” I told the other counselor with me. “What do we do now?”
We used the walkies and asked the camp director to come down. I was extremely embarrassed; the feed went through to everyone else and I learned that the other group had a fire going. When the camp director came, he brought along a blow-torch of sorts. He said the same thing I thought–the kindling was bit too green, but we also needed a little more of it. I borrowed a camper’s flashlight because by now it was seriously dark, and helped gather. And finally–at long last–we had fire.
“Thank you so much,” I told the camp director as he stood. “The girls are so glad to have marshmallows!”
Maybe he knew I was still embarrassed. “You did a good job. The other group used dryer lint,” he told me.
We had a fire, everyone got a marshmallow and a piece of chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers, and everyone was happy. In the end, I learned a couple important lessons to help me if there’s a next time…
1. Building a fire? Definitely harder than it looks
…especially on your first try. No matter how much you know about building one, it’s still a tricky business if everything’s not just so. There’s no shame in asking for help.
2. Don’t count your chickens before their hatched
especially if said chickens are a small book of matches. You go through them quicker than you think.
3. Have fun
because camp is about having fun. We still had a blast with the skit and spending time outside together and worst case scenario is eating a raw marshmallow and chocolate. Plus it’s making a memory.
4. Dryer lint
apparently really helps. Or a blow torch, but dryer lint is probably more accessible, especially at summer camp.