Unitarian Hymnal Sing-along

In which Kathryn attempts to sing a different song everyday from the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, 'Singing the Living Tradition'. Earlier posts are based on songs from the Reader's Digest songbooks she found at yard sales as a child, including: 'Reader's Digest Treasury of Best Loved Songs', 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook', and 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook of Faith and Joy'. Bonus Folk song material from: 'Folk Song USA', by John and Alan Lomax.

20 December 2005

"Love's Old Sweet Song"

And oddly enough, this is a sweet song, from 1884. It reminds me of campfire songs like 'Irene, Goodnight', 'The River of Texas', other cowboy-style tunes. That's why it reminds me of the Boy Scout camp, Philmont. In a good way--not that everything about that experience wasn't just all out great.

The story really starts when I was about thirteen or fourteen years old. I had been in Girl Scouts since I was an eight-year-old Brownie, and I loved it. My younger brothers became Cub Scouts and then Boy Scouts in turn, and by the time I was in high school it was obvious that they had the far better deal: regular camping trips, big scout gatherings to attend, a great camp to go to in the summer, and a charismatic Scout leader who made them work hard for their merit badges in a sedutively challenging way. I was so very jealous. So I did what any girl would do: I wrote the Boy Scout council and asked to be allowed to join. Ah, if I had known then what I know now! I still have their reply letter somewhere. Of course they said no, and suggested that I join their co-ed branch, the Explorers. This seemed like a bone, indeed. But some of the adults, parents of sons and daughters my age, thought that creating an Explorer post wasn't such a bad idea. Later I realized that the real reason was that some of them wanted to go to Philmont when our Scout troop went.

I can't blame them. Philmont is in Cimarron, New Mexico, and it's like a Boy Scout Mecca. We went the summer I turned sixteen. My council sent 125 scouts, and three of us were girls. Three! On a bus for three days out to New Mexico! The mind boggles. It was an amazing trip. Not all of the people on our bus (there were three buses altogether) were from our combined Troup-Post, but it took no time for all the boys on our bus to be incredibly protective of us. Nothing really bad happened, and we made friends that would last for years afterward. We did sightseeing along the way, ate at way too many McDonalds, and eventually we got to Philmont.

It was like being inside one of those nature calendars. We hiked 125 miles over ten days through the most incredible country, up and down mountains, carrying everything on our backs, breaking camp nine out of ten days. Just amazing, and too many stories to tell here at at once.

But we did sing. My friend, Veronica, and I sang the entire time, or so it felt. We sang the songs that we learned from the rangers, we made up words to familiar songs, and we made up our own songs entirely. All the songs I associate with Philmont will always be dear to me. My father, who was one of the adults that came with us, said that that was what he remembered most: our singing.

I came home weighing less than I would the rest of my adult life (thus far, at least), and eager to go back. (I may have to wait for my daughter to go, though I would go tomorrow if I could. Or maybe in the summer.) I had branded boots (sadly, lost in my travels), a Philmont belt and buckle, and the white bull patch that I could 'legally' sew onto my jacket with its tail crossing the shoulder seam, since I had climbed up Baldy Mountain, the highest peak in the place. I had a lot of fabulous memories, and I have those songs. And the fabulous thing about a song is that it is, again, like a scent: it can hold so much memory in it, where, when, how, light, color, flavor and more. Sweet, sweet, sweet song.


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