Storytelling at Keewaydin Dunmore

Why The Kicker?

Summer 2015 Kicker Editor, Sam Besser ’15, wrote the following article for the opening Kicker Campfire in the summer of 2015.

By this point in the evening, many of you may have been lulled into a gentle stupor by the sound of Pete’s mellifluous voice coupled with words that, like a gentle rain, soothe the mind… until you realize all of your towels are still on the line.

Yes, we are nearing the end of tonight’s Kicker. Many of your thoughts are likely elsewhere, possibly puzzling over how the dining hall ran out of rice on stir fry night or wondering why Shawandasee looked so darn familiar. But as the fire starts to dim, let’s bring it back to why we’re here – the Kicker.

After some cursory research, I was surprised to discover that the Kicker, in some way shape or form, is about as old as Keewaydin itself. From 1910 there has been a tradition of sharing stories with the entirety of the camp, mostly reports, and tales from trips away from Dunmore. Where the name ‘The Kicker’ came from is unclear, but given that it’s older than the nation of Yugoslavia it probably comes from some old timey phrase like, “That story sure was a kicker!” or “I’m going to kicker you with this outlandish yarn!” In any case, it seems significant that formalized storytelling has always been a part of our Keewaydin culture.And why is that? What makes the Kicker so special, beyond the opportunity to have Pete recite comestible-themed

And why is that? What makes the Kicker so special, beyond the opportunity to have Pete recite comestible-themed haikus? Of course, it’s the stories.

From cave paintings and oral histories, to “Game of Thrones” and “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” (technically), storytelling has always been an integral part of the human phenomenon. I’m not about to get all academic and anthropological here, so to all you professors and teachers in the audience I confess my bibliography consists solely of hasty Wikipedia searches and the recesses of my own mind. From the former comes the following description of ‘storytelling’: Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values. Now that’s pretty broad and the Kicker surely satisfies those conditions.

But storytelling, in my mind, goes even further than that. Stories are how we connect with each other. Think about it. All of the time you spend with friends you are either sharing thoughts and ideas, telling jokes, or trading stories. From the perfunctory “Bro, I busted this sick gainer the other day” to an in-depth recounting of your entirely wholesome and productive activities between the hours of 1:00-5:00 a.m. the previous night, we are all storytellers. In some ways, making a friend is the process of finding somebody whose stories you enjoy and who you are able to entertain and inspire with your own stories. And what is camp about if not making friends?

Another objective of storytelling is the creative expression. Whatever you may think of the stories, reports, and poems you’ve heard tonight, to write and publish these works took a good deal of courage, even from those who wrote under a pseudonym. All of us have at least a little creative spark in us, and for those who have tapped that spark to create a roaring fire of a finished work, we know there is little more satisfying than having someone come upon our blaze and say “Hot damn, that is one fine piece of combustion.” Indeed we cannot help but share our creative impulses with others whatever the outcome, and storytelling is a means to do just that. So admire the storyteller, if not the story.

And finally, getting a little heavier here, stories are a path to immortality. Even if we know the stories we tell may never be heard again, a part of us believes there is a chance that the adventures, experiences, ideas, and fantasies we are sharing will live on, possibly beyond even our own lifetimes. Sure, it’s doubtful that “This Week on Saranac Lake” will go down in the annals of human history, but that’s beside the point. By sharing our stories, our experiences, we allow our lives to grow and touch others. And maybe our stories will entertain, or educate, or enlighten, or maybe even help someone else through a difficult time. Whatever the case may be, in touching others with our stories we are enriching their lives, and that certainly satisfies the Keewaydin creed of “Help The Other Fellow”.

So, as the summer wears on and we revisit this campfire week after week if ever you find yourself thinking “Why the Kicker?”,  just remember the stories that we all need to tell. The stories we share, the stories we hold on to, and the stories that change our lives. That’s the Kicker.

By Big Chief Editor-In-Chief