Photo by Deb Spalding
Families participate in the BOJC and serve as “Bridge Builders” as they impart information from generation to generation. Pictured from left are John Hoke (BOJC “Bridge Builder” and former BOJC President 2010-11) with his sons, Michael, Daniel, and Steven; Dave Mackley holding his son, James Mackley (future BOJC member), with Dad, James L. “Buzz” Mackley; Jim Bittner has sponsored many BOJC participants including five grand kids (not pictured): Michael Sinclair, Christopher Miachle, Robert Miachle, Sam Bittner, and Calvin Bittner; Dick Bittner has sponsored his son, Thad Bittner (the Builder of this bridge) and Thad’s son, Dakota Bittner; Robert Abraham, Sr. (shown front right, former BOJC President 1976-77), is shown with his son, Robert Abraham, Jr. (current BOJC President), and his grandson, Hayden Spalding.
By Deb Spalding
A new foot bridge was constructed at Camp Airy in Thurmont this spring by Thad Bittner, his son Dakota, and the crew members of DPI (Decks Patios and Improvements, LLC) of Thurmont. These individuals represented the physical “Bridge Builders” for the project that holds symbolism in many ways. In 1941, The Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock (BOJC), named after a chicken-like bird whose neck feathers are sought by anglers for tying flies for fly fishing, had its first-annual Campfire at Camp Airy, and the event has turned into a tradition that remains strong today. The close relationship between Camp Airy and The Brotherhood of Jungle Cock can easily be attributed to both organizations valuing the importance of imparting knowledge to youth and providing them with strong role models. This bridge is a physical reminder of these ideals.
Thurmont BOJC member, John Hoke, fills the formal role of “Bridge Builder” for the BOJC, as his father did before him. In that role, he recites the Bridge Builder Poem at the annual BOJC campfire that takes place each May. About the poem, John summarized that its words reaffirm its purpose, “To guide and teach today’s youth in their responsibilities and opportunities of tomorrow, which in respect to BOJC, mean the responsibilities of good sportsmanship, conservation, and preserving our natural resources.”
The actual bridge that was constructed by DPI spans over the culvert between Bentz Hall and the camp road. Thad Bittner created its layout and design. “I looked at the layout of the land, and I saw it in my head. I just drew it up, got approvals from the BOJC Board, and went to work,” said Bittner.
The bridge is faced in stone, has side walls at sitting level, matching handrail abutments, and a stairway to the porch of Bentz Hall. In addition, the project features artwork highlighting the bond shared between the BOJC and Camp Airy. R.S. Kinnaird Memorials completed the engraving of the Bridge Builder Poem on a large rock and engraved other symbols on rocks in the project.
John Hoke (pictured left reading the poem during the 2014 Campfire) said, “It has been a privilege and my honor to follow in the footsteps of my father, H. Lloyd Hoke, and to recite the Bridge Builder Poem at the annual BOJC campfire ceremony. Dad first recited the poem at the 1978 campfire (pictured right), and it has become a tradition for the organization ever since. This poem has very special meaning and captures the essence of what the BOJC stands for. It also has special meaning to me as a father of four. The “Bridge Builder” reminds us that life is full of obstacles, especially for young people who have many new paths to travel. To that end, we should all strive to “build a bridge” and share those lessons learned whenever we can.”
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The Bridge Builder
by Will Allen Dromgoole
“The Bridge Builder” was written by Will Allen Dromgoole (1860–1934), a female poet from Tennessee, who wrote over 8,000 poems during her lifetime.
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came in the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide,
Through which was running a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
That sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when he reached the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old Man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“Why waste your strength in building here;
Your journey ends with the ending day,
And you never again must pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm deep and wide,
Why build your bridge at eventide?”
The Builder lifted his old grey head;
“Good Friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
The chasm which was nought to me
To this fair haired youth might a pitfall be;
For he too must cross, in the twilight dim;
Good Friend, I’m building the bridge for him.”