MEMORIES OF TOMAHAWK
by DAN PRATT
Greetings to all who have walked from one end of Camp Tomahawk to the other in the black of night, knowing full well that the eyes on the side of the road were bears, watching and waiting.
Although I won’t be able to join you (eds. note: at the 2004 reunion), I wish you all the best in this gathering. Some of my fondest memories arise out of the ashes (literally) of Tomahawk. During my time there we had fires that ravaged our tents, drunken escapades from which we should never have survived, racous lunches at the dining hall with songs about “The prettiest girl, I ever saw, was drinking cider through from a straw”, secret smokes in the cabins beyond the watchful eyes of the chaplins, and quiet conversations in the late of night that helped us grow from adolescence into manhood. All have survived as special memories that linger still in the mind of one who misses the innocence of those times.
On weekends there were foray’s into town (Rice Lake) to buy beer with which to boost our courage to flirt with the local girls and then, after making no progress with them to go out in the fields and ride cows ... some of which were not cows and refused to behave with feminine manners. Dick Boyle, Perry Campbell, Tom Campbell and I rode in Boyle’s ‘53 Chevy on those evening raids, at times racing trains across rail road tracks and at other times pushing the limits of that Chevy enough to lift it off the ground as we sped over the country road humps of rural Wisconsin. Stupid were we; and lucky to match.
I also remember the fire that burned my tent and melted my trumpet. This was my prized horn and now it was nothing but a smoldering, smelly mess of metal. The smell of burnt “everything" lingered for months in my mind and tainted the good times.
But, one the most memorable things of that time was the generous spirit of Dick Fihn and a host of other “elders” whose maturity, humor and general good sense got us through some difficult times. Recently, Dick sent me a photo that shows a lean and mean Dan Pratt at fifteen. How in God’s name he knew that was Dan Pratt I’ll never know. Because for the first two years that I worked at Tomahawk I used my brother’s name, Terry. He was my idol and had worked there in proceeding years. My best friend from that time, Perry Campbell, only found out my real name some ten years after camp, when we met accidentally at an event.
So, I’ll raise a glass (you can choose -- wine or beer) in a toast to the boys of Tomahawk and to the times that helped us grow in ways that were very special. We were innocent and we were brash and we were foolish beyond reason. But I wouldn’t trade a minute or a memory with any other time of my youth. It was grand. All the best to those of you who gather in June.
The following is from a letter to Bob Albright:
Bob: It’s unbelievable, but also more than admirable that Dick Fihn is still trapping and resisting the gadgets of the 21st century. I was struck by the hand-written note he sent me, with that photo. Such letters are fast disappearing in my world.
Near as I can recall, my tent (and trumpet) burned the summer of ‘57. I was fifteen and that would make it ‘57.