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Dock Test (Mitchell Slepian)

If we wanted to swim in Rock Lake, Camp Kunatah we had to pass a dock test. All of the swimming areas of the waterfront were divided up based on a scout’s ability to swim. We had non-swimmers, beginners and advanced.

On the first day of camp, our Chappy Scoutmaster Rodney would give us a tour of camp. It ended with the dock test. We started going down the muddy steps of the Hill. You can’t beat the Hill. We hiked through camp.

Rodney showed us the nature lodge, we went to the Kunatah Dining Hall, where we might have rocked-n-rolled or discombobulated. We stopped at the trading post for Bon Bons or a Coke.

Eventually, we made it down to Rock Lake. By the way, it rocks.

All of us eager scouts went up to the docks and gave our name to one of the dock guards. One by one we jumped into the lake and we were charged to swim three laps of any stroke. But we were forced to conclude with the elementary backstroke. Then we had to tread water for about a minute while holding the Scout sign and repeating the Scout Oath, Law Motto or some other scouting stanza. Our dock tester decided what we would do.

Those of us that passed all parts were given a red and blue buddy tag. We needed to check in with this when we went swimming. ‘Ya see you and your buddy would give it to dock guard who was manning the Buddy board. You told him which area of the lake you were jumping into. He attached the tag to the Buddy board’s respective section and you were off for your swim.

Sounds simple and fun, right? Well, I was always an advanced swimmer. In fact, the first merit badges I earned as a Chappy scout were Swimming and Rowing. You think I would have an easy time with my dock test.

Well, well, well.

One year, perhaps ’85 or ’86, a man who I call My Leader gave me my dock test. He had been a waterfront director in the now closed Kotohke or D-1 section of camp. Sadly, these days Chappy and Kunatah are closed too. During his day he spent a lot of time on the lake and used it for swimming, boating and well? I have nothing more to say.

Back to my dock test, my leader asked me to jump into the lake and begin. I easily did the laps. I do a great elementary backstroke. I learned it as a young Cub Scout age in Lake Ohrbach, Pouch Scout Camp, Staten Island. I figured I was home free. Then came the treading test.

I followed My Leader’s orders and held the Scout sign upside down and began repeating the Scout Law no big deal. Oh, I forgot to remind you the esteemed leader is not into it. I will never say what being into it or not into it is.

But for some reason that morning he became into it and made these interesting facial gestures while I treaded. By the way, he made me tread far longer than it would take to repeat the Scout Law, Oath and Motto. We skipped the OA Obligation. I’m not sure why. Then all of a sudden strange noises started to emanate from his smiling mouth. I was aghast. Eventually, he said I could climb out of the lake onto the dock. I speedily did that. He gave me a passing grade.

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