Topic: "Camp Pleasant" (2)
Faramir and Frodo feared for the future. This alliteration emanates from the time when the Fellowship first began, and poverty and lack of educational opportunity were clearly delineated amongst Citizens in Middle Earth. Faramir and Frodo found each other while they individually searched for a "relevant" course for their energies in turbulent times. For Frodo, Camp Pleasant started as a summer job, for Faramir it was a life's calling.
The Family & Child Services of Washington, D.C., and THE EVENING STAR, a now defunct afternoon newspaper, sponsored a program called "Send a Kid to Camp." Five two-week sessions of residential summer camp for inner-city kids were conducted in the Prince William Forest Park by the agency, the expenses of which were covered by donations collected by the newspaper. The counselors and team leaders were usually idealistic young Hobbits of college age. They were mostly white. The campers, nominated to attend by social workers, were mostly black, poor, and all of them were no more than 12 years-old. The idea was to give kids a chance to have some fun, and three squares a day.
The fourth session was the one that troubled Frodo and Faramir the most. All of the campers were inmates of a Youth Detention Center known as "Maple Glen." When they got off the bus that first day, they all wore white tee shirts, blue jeans, and combat boots. They marched everywhere, and no one smiled. Frodo and Faramir spent days doing their best to break down the walls, and to make the kids have a good time.
Out beyond the campgrounds, in the middle of the Park, there stood the remains of an old pyrite mine ("Fools' Gold" is a component of several chemical processes). It was a good distance for a day's hike-and-back, and usually the kids had a good time looking for rabbits and picking plums off old trees. The kids from Maple Glen just marched. They marched to the mine, ate their lunch, and they were marching back. Frodo knew that he had to "change the course."
Frodo watched as the boys waded across one of the many creeks along the trail. He waded into a wide pool, cupped his hands, and pulled up a big slug of mud from the stream bed. Without a word he threw the mudball toward the back of Faramir. Faramir turned, with vengeance in his eyes, and waded into the creek. He raised his hands with a similar weapon and discharged it in the direction of the elusive Frodo. The mud ball hit one of the campers right square in the mouth. As Frodo and Faramir looked on in horror, they noticed the teeth grinning through the mud, and they felt the first of the onslaught from all directions. The battle continued until all were exhausted, and covered in mud from head-to-toe (Somehow a picture of John Belushi comes to mind as Frodo recounted the tale).
Finally the weary combatants assembled on the other shore and, young and younger, they walked back to camp, arm-in-arm. The mud, of course, was drying cement-like on each, but that only inspired them to break ranks, and to sing songs together.
"We are the Cherokee, mighty mighty Cherokee,
Everywhere we go-oh, people wanna know-oh,
Who we are, so we tell them,
We are the Cherokee, mighty mighty Cherokee,
The entire camp turned out to see the boys from the Cherokee lodges of Camp Pleasant. The Director grinned from ear-to-ear as Frodo and Faramir led the group into the showers. All of the boys were laughing.
The days that followed went far too quickly. When the day came that the buses arrived to take the boys back to Maple Glen, it would've been very hard to determine whose heart broke more. Frodo knows now.
Faramir became a Priest. After many years, he left and has since married. He has a son.
Frodo has not forgotten those who were small and weak. Every once in a while you can find him making mud-balls, and smiling.