Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Order of the Fork

I was mentally willing a stoplight to turn green today when, inexplicably, I whispered a long-buried refrain:

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”

Suddenly I was thirteen again, sweating profusely in a Boy Scout t-shirt as the older guys took up their forks and marched around the mess hall while singing at the top of their hairy lungs….

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”

Every Wednesday after the noon meal, the more muscular staff members of Camp Tuscarora struck dread in the hearts of their less developed campers with this most unsanctioned of initiations. For three long weeks in a row I’d sighed with relief as they’d passed me over for some other squirming unfortunate.

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”

But I was living on borrowed time. As a junior camp counselor, I was a prime target for the older guys’ abuse. I’d held up pretty well so far, but as a bookish dork not good at anything but reciting Steve Martin comedy albums, I deeply dreaded this inevitable ritual.

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”

Their voices grew louder with each new burly member that joined the chant. Marching around the crowded mess hall, they slammed their fist in unison on passing tables to punctuate their mantra. Then they’d poke some feeble young schmuck in the ass and drag him to the center of the cavernous hall.

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”

I knew I was in trouble when I spotted Steve-O leering at me with unmitigated glee. Steve-O was a big, rangy farm boy who took special delight in my lack of athleticism and penchant for difficult words. When he and his thug buddies drew near, I knew the jig was up - even before the dull tines pierced my tender flesh.

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”

Instantly, I was on my feet, surrounded by a crush of Jamboree ’76 shoulder patches and chest hair. Behind me, straggling members of the Forked Brotherhood reached over and got their own tardy jabs in. I barely felt a thing as I was locked and loaded on the industrial size stainless steel pitcher being held above the crowd.

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”

Their off-kilter hymn increased in volume and tempo as a beefy pair of hands poured the pitcher’s grisly contents into an oversized mug and thrust it into my reluctant palms. Though I knew better, I couldn’t help but examine the swill within. The color of pancake batter and the consistency of kindergarten vomit, the gritty bile glistened and sloshed as the crush of counselors pushed the vile mixture to my lips…

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”

Afraid I’d dry heave in front of God and everybody if I didn’t get it over it with, I allowed the mess hall rotgut to be poured down my throat. Despite being a committed finicky eater, I swallowed and gasped as thick streams of chunky scum poured down both sides of my mouth. What little cross my tongue tasted like liquid cigarette butts and purified cat litter. But with out-ranking giants all around me, I had no choice but to force it down - knowing for certain that, if it didn’t kill me on the spot, this abominable concoction would somehow make me a man…

“We are, we are, we are, we are the Order of the Fork…”


I hate long stoplights.


Weaver said...

I can hear the noise of those old metal tables with fists a poundin' as if I were just there yesterday!

I gotta get my boys down to Old Tuscarora!

(I wonder how I avoid being forked at camp?)

The Quartermaster said...

Camp Sabattis had the Order of the Oar. Anyone unlucky enough to have a birthday that day got so many whacks with a canoe paddle.

tapeguy said...

Nice to know so many of us are/were Scouts and can look back so fondly on our "traditions." Camp Raven Knob camper/staff alum here. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, Stew....

Anonymous said...

I don't remember you. I don't remember Steve O.

I do remember that song.

I remember being stuck by "Stand Up" Matt C. and Andy S. I think I was bruised for a week. I was also unlucky enough to be in the last round of "inductions" before it was summarily stopped.

I must admit, every so often that song creeps into my head. And I do mean creeps.

Anonymous said...

Hao, brothers,

Two years after your post and 30+ years after my own induction into the order. Ours was not at summer camp but at OA Spring Fellowships and Fall Pow Wow at Camp Strake.

Ah - Such things probably aren't allowed any more.

".. and each and everyone of us is loyal to the rest of us."

Yep thanks for the memories.


Anonymous said...

The 1980's version of the second verse - "some of us are good enough to be among the worst of us.."
I was graciously poked by Rainey P. and Mr. Haney.
What great memories at Camp Tuscarora...
Andy S

Anonymous said...

sigh, this blog has made my, day seeing how im sitting in Afganistain. What a wonderful life it was to be a scout and staff member at Camp Tucarora, I sooo remember the marching around the mess hall during the OF induction...and lets not forget the dreeded "green gizmo"....Matt C.