I was a member of the Yellow crew back in either ‘94 or ‘95. Found my old hard hat in a box in the attic recently, just reminiscing. It has stickers signifying my skills I had mastered, and messages written in sharpie from all of my team members I spent 5 weeks with one summer. Sigh, good memories. We all bonded like sisters and brothers, from all states, and all walks of life. We had written letters and kept in touch that following school year, and then sadly drifted apart as we embraced our high school reality.
Just remembering those long, strenuous days of packing in our tools, lunches, GORP, and gallon jugs of yellow (treated) water. We did trail making, and slash piling, I learned how to use a pick ax and what good, honest, physical labor was all about. I had a sense of pride at the end of the day as I looked back at my work, and how our team help keep the forest safe from fires. The smell of the trees and earth was all around us, and the clear air filled our lungs are we huffed it to and from the work site. We all wore the same dirty blue jeans, shirts, boots, hard hats, packs, and huge smiles as we walked back to camp each day. The girls and guys set up their separate tent and sleeping bags, made the fire, then dinner, and the best part was eating the dinner we cooked ourselves as a team!
I gained so much in that summer, I learned how to break social boundaries, gained friendships, no longer a self centered teenager, I learned how to be part of a team! I became more respectful of my crew leaders, and appreciative of their knowledge and guidance. I looked forward to weekend mail call, I received a card from my then high school sweetheart, and now husband each Saturday. I realized how much I missed and loved my family, they sent a letter or gift every weekend. I shared the sugar and cool-aid packets with my crew, thanx Mom. Each weekend our crew would go out and explore Oregon’s beautiful playground, one time we even went rafting with all of the crew’s, that was a blast! We would meet in town and go to the laundry mat, go to the market and load up on candy, oh ya. Looking back on those summer days and nights, remembering how tired, yet energized we were setting up camp, building a fire, or learning how to cook out of a Dutch oven, are cherished memories. Those are golden moments that shaped who I am today. The love I have for our mighty Ponderosa Pine tress, the respect and awareness of nature. The can-do attitude toward hard work, the patience and integrity of a team player, and the deep desire to connect with people and community.
Those 5 weeks of summer seemed to last forever, and yet, wasn’t long enough. On the big white bus ride home there was a feeling of bittersweet, as we all wanted to continue on, we missed home. There was loud chatter of the highlights of adventures together, friendships founded, and laughter almost the entire drive back. But then there was silence as we drove into town, thoughts of self reflection, sadness, anticipation, and ultimately a feeling that I was ready to embrace the world with a positive attitude, and ambition that I discovered within myself while at Northwest Youth Corps.
Kristina (Davis) Mae Clarke