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Firecrafter - History Chapter 2
The Royal Order of Hi-Bark

While Minisino originated as an accolade for special merit in Firecrafter, the Royal Order of Hi-Bark became, for a time, an outlet for the fun and games group. Starting as a prank to relieve the tedium of staff life, it quickly caught fire and burned its own special brand of loyalty into the hearts of its members.

Hi-Bark began one day in the summer of 1924, when P.D. Hoelscher, the camp physical director, Harry Ice, and Merle Miller were standing in the old swimming hole in Fall Creek discussing, as campers will, the needs and shortcomings of the world and what to do about them. Having considered the merits and demerits of their fellow campers, they decided to form a new and exclusive organization to be known as the Blockheads, whose motto would be "Down with others." As they talked, they noticed that a number of bark-covered slabs and chips of wood were floating down the creek from a logging operation at Fort Benjamin Harrison, and this gave them the idea of having some "Chips off the old Block." For the first Chip they chose Norman Hammer, who was Hoelscher's tent mate and Commandant. Norm was assigned the task of providing Hoelscher with water to shave with in the afternoons, and also to arrange the setting for a stunt to announce to the other campers the formation of the new and exclusive organization. Norm found a pile of bark and decorated the campfire area with it. Late that night, a plot was hatched to hoist a piece of bark up the flag pole the next morning instead of the camp flag, and to require all present at reveille to salute the "Bark on High." Morning came, and the bark was hoisted, but the campers rebelled at the idea and dubbed the staffers "High Barks" and themselves "Low Weeds." The result was a vigorous competition in every staff/camper event for the rest of the camping season.

The movement, now formally called "Hi-Bark," really got off the ground the following season. It was made invitational, open only to Minisino staff members, and total exclusion was certain for an eligible man who expressed an interest in becoming a member (the Eternal Minisino added to the Eternal Woodsman!). A candidate, upon being chosen, was "chipped" with a length of bark-covered log, which he pulled around with him at the end of a rope. The candidacy was filled was long and strenuous, emphasizing athletics and high jinks, and lasting as long as an entire camping season. The candidate (called a "Chip") had to get up early every morning and run a mile, swim half a mile, do thirty push ups and twenty pull ups, and run between the tent rows dragging his log and barking to awaken the campers. If the candidacy progressed satisfactorily, a piece was sawed off the log each day until it was down to a chip of wood on the tow rope. When the candidacy was deemed by the Senior Hi-Bark (known as the Grand Mahogany) to have been successfully completed, the "Chip" was taken to the pool, and there, atop the high board with all the camp watching, he was "dubbed" with a tree name and propelled into the pool by a blow to the seat with a paddle fashioned from the original bark-covered slab.

Hi-Bark had no formal emblem, but it had its rituals and functions. The woods next to the infirmary were set aside and marked as Hi-Bark grove, which could be entered only by observing a strict ritual code, and which was the site of many business meetings. Hi-Bark, besides being a fun organization, was a further challenge for Minisinos, and its members considered themselves keepers of Firecrafter and the camp, addressing themselves to solving the problems of the camp, whether personal or physical.

Alas, all of the shenanigans involved in the Hi-Bark candidacy did get in the way of regular camping activities, they did have the appearance of tolerated hazing, and they did not necessarily please all persons in authority in Scouting. So in the end Hi-Bark had to go. The last recorded meeting was held at the Fortieth Anniversary Reunion of Firecrafter in 1960, at which time "several Chips were dubbed in true and proper form." As recently as June 1977, an informal reunion was held at Camp Belzer, with twenty members present. The Hi-Barks were thereand they shared fond memories. However, nothing else has survived, not even the dubbing paddle or the totem pole into which each members name was burned. So ends a fascinating, if troublesome, chapter in the history of Firecrafter.


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