Right of Passage – Rail Tradition

When I was in my early teenage years, I attended Camp Deerwood. This camp taught me a lot of life lessons. Being away from home for 7 weeks as a 12 year-old is never easy, but in retrospect it was completely worth it. One of my most valuable takeaways from my four summers there is the importance of recognizing seniority. At this camp, there were many traditions that imprinted this idea in my brain, but one stands out from the rest. Every Sunday night, one of the older counselors was given the opportunity to speak to the entire camp. When we were all packed together, this number was upwards of 100 individuals. We would sit on the back porch of the administration building, looking out over the lake. The speaker would face us, and impart his valuable experiences.

Whie this all sounds great now, at the time I could not BEAR to sit on the hard wooden floor without any support for my back for hours on end. It made the entire experience miserable. It was not until I was a “senior camper”, meaning I had attended the camp for 3 or more years, that I was granted the privilege of sitting on the railing that surrounds the porch. This railing had a comfortable back to it, and gave is occupants an elevated vantage point for the speech. Naturally, these spots were highly desired, but only an option for the “senior” campers. If a younger camper attempted to sit on the railings, the counselors would give the senior campers full license to push him off. This tradition, like many rights of passage, was never recorded or officially declared. Instead, its transfer was entirely achieved through the oral communication and imitation of the camp’s members. This speaks to the power of seniority in not only a “Lord of the Flies” scenario. There is something to be said about the power of precedent, and its ability to infiltrate the actions of even the most stubborn of people.