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Hat Trick

Hat Trick

by Wolf Pascoe on November 30, 2013

An obstacle is a light. An insurmountable obstacle is a sun. — Paul Valery

thunderstorm_bigThe site rush for the Fern Hill 2014 Spring Camping Trip bared its fangs a few weeks ago, marking the third occurrence of this annual bloodletting.

To briefly recount, the Fern Hill community goes camping every Memorial Day weekend at a state park, and must reserve enough sites for everyone when said sites go on sale six months in advance. The sites we want are offered on the Reserve America website at precisely 8:00 in the morning of every November 1st.

The campsites sell out in a few seconds because other families all over the state want them just as much as we do. But others usually want sites for only one or two families. We are sixty families.

I was drafted as camp director two years ago and became responsible for getting the sites. I knew nothing about getting sites. The experience was so traumatic I wrote about it in a seven-post series. I wrote about it again last year, but I was a battle-scarred veteran by then, and it took only two posts to get it out of my system.

We were successful, barely, both years. This year, Nick’s last at Fern Hill, is also my last turn as camp director. Did I want to go out in a blaze of glory? Yes, I did. I wanted the hat trick. Badly. But more than that I wanted to be done as camp director. I wanted an end to my war with Reserve America.

I wanted peace.




A land rush is a pretty dramatic thing, but—been there, done that—may I cut to the finish line? We needed 24 sites this year, the most ever. We got 32, also the most ever.

Never mind that I and several of my reservation team all stars got logged out of the system for no good reason the moment the rush began—several score of trained fingers clicking in unison and NOTHING HAPPENED.

Never mind other team members who actually booked sites and whose carts were emptied by the system for no good reason before they could purchase them.

Never mind that our teeth-gnashing conference call tally began with ten reports of “Nope. Nothing. No sites.”

In the end, the team came through.

We came through because of redundancy. This year we had THIRTY-SIX souls on the reservation team, including Nicholas Pascoe, who scored two sites.

It’s a numbers game.




My feeling of dread about this year’s site rush began the moment we got home from last May’s camping trip. It persisted all summer.

I planned for the site rush when I sat in my house, and when I walked outside. When I lay down, and when I rose up. I inscribed this year’s plan on the doorposts of my house, and upon my gates.

It’s no way to live, believe me.

Live now, the old masters say. For the past six months, I didn’t live now. Miserable, unenlightened fool that I am, I lived in dread of ten seconds on November 1st.

And now November 1st has come and gone and I am released. The Lord is my Shepherd.





Advice abides on the Internet. A lot of cheerleading about happiness, success, and other worries. Here’s one I noticed: The four ingredients of career satisfaction. Not what you think.

1. A sense of autonomy
2. A sense of mastery
3. A sense of impact
4. A sense of community

Note that passion is not on the list, blessedly.

Pretty good, no?

A lot to consider about the four ingredients, there is. But let me say this: organizing a successful site rush for a school camping trip contains all of them. As nerveracking as the past few months were, I also found them satisfying.

It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it. — Robert E. Lee




I want to add my catechism to the list of Internet advice. Here it is:

To be happy, remember the things you do for others.

I recollect a particularly wretched moment two years ago, shortly after I inherited the camp director post. The task of securing the required number of campsites seemed insurmountable, the way veiled in darkness.

I persisted, and my persistence was, at one point, ridiculed. That was the wretched moment, at which I confessed my despair to my friend Jennifer, who gave me an It’s a Wonderful Life sort of pep talk. Among the things she said was this:

You’re spending all this time—going to the location, and talking to all these people, showing them what to do, and taking all this crap. Why? To make memories for your kid. And mine. Thank you. Just thank you.

It brings to mind Holden Caulfield’s vision of the catcher in the rye—another career path that contains the four ingredients.

A bunch of campsites doesn’t seem like much in the grand human scheme, but what of that? I say dayenu.

A Jewish word for which there is no English equivalent, it roughly translates to:

If this is as good as it ever gets, that’s fine with me.




The Angel of Sycamores




The painting at the top is “Thunderstorm” by Grandma Moses, whose lifespan overlapped Lincoln’s and my own. More of her work here. Is there anything not to like about Grandma Moses, who took up painting at 76?




Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy December 1, 2013 at 11:00 am

Beautiful, just beautiful. And thank you. And thank you some more. Makes me want to go this year.

I especially enjoyed your description of the way the worry permeated your moments. Masterful.


Wolf Pascoe December 1, 2013 at 11:36 am

Thank you, number one reader.


Barbara December 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm

First, a huge congratulations!!! I’m so glad you were able to turn in your badge with nothing but success behind you. Next, I’m happy for you that it’s behind you. I know you were driven by the desire to make those memories for the kids, not for kudos for yourself, and I’m glad that mantle has passed from your shoulders. Now let’s see if you pick it up again in some other capacity? 🙂 Thank you for your internet advice. I’m happy to report that I can check off all four of those ingredients in my new career as a realtor. (Well, I’ll continue working on the mastery part – but I like that aspect of it, too.)


Wolf Pascoe December 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm

“I’m glad that mantle has passed from your shoulders. Now let’s see if you pick it up again in some other capacity?”

Hmmm. Campsite realtor?


privilige of parenting December 2, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Maybe now, after the battle is over and you’re living in so-cal ‘d peace that you need the help to heal… maybe next year you’ll be camping in some sort of promissed land–one easier to get to, perhaps only 40 years of wandering and you’re in!


Wolf Pascoe December 3, 2013 at 9:45 am

Will I get to see the burning bush?


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