Hey, Aaron here at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site!

As always, this last week or so has been busy!

A freshman orientation group from Texas Christian University (TCU) stopped by to help us get some work done on their way up to Seattle. Why is a TCU freshman group in Vancouver, WA, you ask? Well, they were taking part in what is known as Frog Camp. Basically, “Frog Camp prepares new students for life outside of the classroom at TCU. …each camp lets new students make friends, discuss college issues, and prepare for life as a Horned Frog” http://sds.tcu.edu/students/incoming/. More specifically, this Frog Camp was a Mystery Camp – they had no idea what was scheduled for them on any particular day. We wanted to have them lend a hand in something that gave them some kind of connection to the site, so instead of having them clean and organize one of our storage areas, I switched things up and had them help prepare for an incoming youth camp, stack wood for the kitchen, and prime newly made benches. This way they could see the immediate impact of what they were helping accomplish.

With the help of Ranger Bobby Gutierrez and myself the TCU Frog Campers got all this done in two hours. With 24 helpers they put in a combined 48 hours of volunteer service towards the Park. Nice job guys and girls! Afterwards, the campers got a quick tour of the Fort. Overall, the project went great. We had no major problems – and most importantly – everyone stayed safe. I really enjoyed coordinating this project and I look forward to many more like it.

TCU Frog Camp celebrating  after a day of hard work
TCU Frog Camp celebrating after a day of hard work

Something else that I got a chance to take part in was the black powder training hosted by Rangers Michael Twist and Bobby Gutierrez. During the training I got to fire a rifle musket, a type of rifle that used a flint-lock type firing mechanism; a mountain howitzer, a cannon that was designed to be relocated easily, and a pistol. While I have fired modern day rifles and pistols, firing black powder weapons is a way more involved experience. There are many things that you have to remember when firing a black powder weapon, but with the great instruction from both Rangers nobody got hurt and everyone fired a weapon successfully (or learned how to handle a misfire!).

Ranger Bobby Gutierrez instructs a group how to "Load in nine times"
Ranger Bobby Gutierrez instructs a group how to “load in nine times”

Lastly, this past weekend we had our annual Vintage Baseball game. This event portrays what baseball in the 1860s would have looked like! If you’ve only ever watched modern day baseball then vintage baseball will be somewhat confusing to you at first. The first thing you will probably notice is that nobody is wearing a glove. That’s right! Baseball gloves weren’t invented back then. The second thing you’ll notice is that some of the rules are different. Here are a couple worth knowing:

  • If a ball is hit, bounces once, and is then caught, the player who hit the ball is out
  • You can be tagged out if you overrun first base
  • There are no “balls at bat”, only strikes
  • Players can be fined for arguing with the umpire

While all of this may seem weird or ridiculous, it really provides for an entertaining game. For our game we had the Sherman Base Ball Club, consisting of soldiers from the Army’s Fort Vancouver, and the Occidental Base Ball Club of Vancouver. Both sides were played by volunteers. While the weather was looking iffy at the start, we played through with no rain and it turned out to be a great night for ball. The Sherman Base Ball Club took the win, but spirits on both sides were high.

The Sherman and Occidental Base Ball clubs after a successful game of ball
The Sherman (left) and Occidental (right) Base Ball clubs after a successful game of ball

That’s all for now,

Aaron