Wildland 2

Not Your Average Woodcraft Class!

by Reid Hill

A group of my best friends and I hike quickly through the woods in the morning light. Speed and timing are everything. Each of us understands his assignment and our common goal. We have practiced our techniques and know that we can execute when the time comes to attack or defend. We know where the enemy is, and how best to outwit them. As we round a corner of dense pine trees, we come face to face with the opposition: not campers and counselors in Blue and Gray or Green and Purple, but a crackling wall of red, yellow, and orange.

If you had asked me, back when I was a camper, what I would do when I grew up, I probably would have told you I didn’t know. But one thing I knew for a fact was that I loved the War Game (now known as the King’s Game). A decade and a college degree later, I find myself in a career as close to that exceptional game of strategy as I believe exists.

During my time at college in Montana, Wildland Firefighting became an interest, which transformed into a passion, and which has now become my work. It’s only in retrospect that I have made the connection between this job and my Pine Island (and War Game) experience. I’m certainly talking about the physical skills I gained as a camper, climbing through the ranks in my favorite activities and learning the ways of the wilderness out on trips. But it’s more than that. I’ve found that the ability to make connections with people has become the most important skill I’ve gained from my summers on the island. Resolving a quarrel among tentmates is not so different from having to settle conflicts among the fire crew. Showing a young camper how to shoot a rifle for the first time is not so different from assisting someone who has never run a chainsaw before. And explaining to a concerned member of the public that we will do everything in our power to protect their house is perhaps not so different from consoling a nervous parent as they drop their son off for his first summer away from home.

This is not to say that PIC is steering campers to become Wildland Firefighters when they grow up, but rather to illustrate a fact that most of you are very familiar with. Pine Island is giving boys the guidance they need to grow up to be thoughtful, capable young men, well-equipped to engage in their lives. These foundational years in a boy’s life are where he discovers who he is and who he would like to become—whether that be a master canoeist, a Kababologist, or even, perhaps, a Wildland Firefighter like me.