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Senior Seminar, Part VI

The Wrong Road Home. Our group had begun the Mexican adventure at one end of the designated territory then ended at the opposite. This gave us a tiny advantage: everybody else had to come to us to meet the buses, except for the group that ended in El Desemboque, where we began. They got a ride back.

One by one, the other groups trudged into our camp. After collapsing in the sand, one group dug into their packs and threw bags of food out on the sand, angry at lugging so much extra weight. They happily surrender a sack of Bisquick which we turned into pancakes on the spot, devouring as many as we could.

Another group found out who we were. “Oh, so you are the Commandos? We heard about that. Cool.” We didn’t know we had a nickname until we weren’t a group anymore.

As soon as everyone had arrived, we packed up our gear into the buses then drove a few miles down the road. On the way, Ziegler explained our final activity: a 10k race in the wilderness. Just what we needed.

We turned off the gravel highway into dusty trails then lurched to a halt. The route had been flagged with white fabric streamers so all we had to do was follow the markers. The track guys began whooping it up, challenging each other as to who would win the race. No prize was at stake, other than bragging rights.

I was in good cardio shape but never had been a distance runner. My plan was simple: finish. I’d move at the pace that suited me. Read More…


Senior Seminar, Part V

Sargento. Solo. The Away Team returned an hour after the Leadership Invasion confiscated the contraband salmon. The ensuing yelling match caused a change in whale migration patterns for years after. It was more about the hunger and disappointment than any real blame. Well, except for Ray and his inconveniently honest mouth but it can be tough to sell recriminations over truth-telling.

After the frustrated Commandos emptied their emotional magazines we learned the details of the mission.

The guys had spent a lot of their time waiting for the adults at base camp to settle into sleep. They huddled in the bushes until all was quiet, at which point it became evident they would be caught if they tried to reach our gear, since Pam was snuggled down at our main fire. At that point the plan was revised to scavenge the buses for anything that might prove useful in converting raw salmon to succulent cooked salmon.

The buses had little to do while the Seminar was in operation. One of the buses became storage for the barrels of replenishment provisions for the teams. As quietly as could be managed, these were searched.
In the end, nothing came of the foray into the heart of enemy territory except to alert the leaders that wayward Soloists were running loose. Why the intruders weren’t apprehended on the spot is a question I’ve never learned the answer to.

Eventually our adrenaline faded and we chased the dark edge of sleep the best we could. Read More…

Senior Seminar, Part IV

Sargento. Solo. The key event for the time in Mexico was Solo. When Zeigler spoke of it, both during his recruitment speeches and for our preparations, he became almost solemn, reverent.

People had experienced life-changing insights, visions (read: hallucinations), raptures, whatever. Life-changing sounds good until you learn the price.
Solo is time spent alone in the wilderness without food; three days in our case. I looked forward to changing my life, to the new horizons that would open up after such an experience.

Pam would supply us with water each day. We would put our canteens out where she had access but wouldn’t risk meeting up with us. We took our sleeping bags, matches, pencil and notebook (most urgently critical for scribbling our ketosis-induces musings), and knives.

It was vitally important, we learned, that we be spaced far enough apart that we wouldn’t see each other. It wasn’t enough to stay in our own private zones; we had to feel in every respect that we were completely isolated.

We trekked out past the estuary to shallow bay. Across the water we could see the dunes that melted into the sandbar leading southward towards Shipwreck Island. My camp anchored the Southern end of our desert Maginot Line guarding this unnamed bay. Pam and I agreed on a canteen-refill location then she and the rest of the team trudged on. Read More…

Senior Seminar, Part III

“I want everybody at Kathy’s camp tomorrow morning. Wait for me there.” With those final instructions Pam huffed into the Sonoran night trailing her anger like a cloud of locust.

Laura poked bitterly at the fire until she couldn’t contain herself. “Why’d you tell them about the fish?”

“I don’t know,” said Ray. “It just came out.”

“You could have said anything. You could have said nothing! Tell them Laura’s taking a piss and she’ll be right back! Damn it, Ray! Now we have nothing!” Read More…

Senior Seminar, Part II

Ziegler crunched his way determinedly into the darkness, through the scraggly underbrush and over the berm in search of Laura and the soon-to-be-legendary fish.

Pam folder her arms tiredly as the fire light danced across her face.  The cool night air felt suddenly hot on my face as I felt the urgent, desperate need to monitor every minute detail of the fire.

“Where are Dave and the others?” she asked. 

Now it was my turn to make things worse.  “They’re getting more wood.  For the fire,” I answered.  Pam rolled her eyes at the small mountain of sticks nearby.

“Why aren’t you where I left you?” she said, changing the subject only slightly. Read More…

Senior Seminar, Part I

Sparks hissed into the night as I tossed another stick into the fire. It was a good fire, as it should be: I kept it fed but hungry. We didn’t need a great deal from it. February, yes, but this was the Sonora desert along the Sea of Cortez. The nights felt cold after the heat of the day, especially on the beach, but we were in no danger of exposure.

I watched the sparks climb into the air as though they wished to be with the stars but their little embers consumed their fuel completely in seconds rendering them puffs of ash driven by the sea winds. Their dreams of joining the stars only a flash of chemical energy then forgotten by all.

Ray and I kept up the effort at conversation but the length of fire duty began to drawn down the reserves of interesting events in our quite, mostly boring, short lives. Reaching deep for something to keep the silence from overwhelming us I came up empty. I sighed and shrugged my failure just as two figures appeared suddenly in the small ring of firelight.

Two adult figures. Not who we were expecting at all.

Ray’s face was a triangle of three large circles. Oh, man. We are in trouble. Read More…