On quiet evenings, when most of the country is busy watching their favorite TV shows, the Hayman Crew often delves into a cutthroat game of “Mafia” around the campfire.
For those who haven’t played “Mafia” before, let this be a warning, for the game is not for the faint-hearted.
Two people are usually chosen to be the Mafia, and their goal is to take out the other players one by one. Meanwhile, everyone else tries to determine who the Mafia is. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.
“Mafia” involves bitter plot-twists and highly- strategized maneuvers. Players often disappear in mysterious ways—death by corn dog, lemonade overdose, killer bees, you name it. Everyone has a different strategy to divert attention away from themselves—some hide behind dark sunglasses, some stare absent-mindedly into the fire and some put up arguments suitable for the Supreme Court. Members of the Mafia sometimes sacrifice themselves or each other to win. No matter what, everyone is committed to maintaining the integrity of their character.
Throughout the summer, playing memorable games of Mafia has been only one of our major goals. We have also been very committed to promoting creative solutions.
For example, when our port-a-potty was out of commission, the crew dug a cathole, flagged trees to mark an obvious path to the cathole and of course, fashioned a toilet-seat out of plywood.
When we were bored (because we live in the woods and have no electricity for ten days), we competed for the title of “hot-sauce-eating-champion” or dared each other to eat spoonfuls of cinnamon for entertainment.
When a raging thunderstorm threatened to blow us, our tents and belongings to Thailand, we huddled around an iPod in the 12-passenger van to watch “Up” and forget the ungodly storm outside.
However, our biggest commitment this summer has been living and working in the Pike National Forest. Eight years after the Hayman fire blazed through the area, mountain ranges remain desolate, and burnt and fallen logs scatter slopes like matchsticks. We have met people throughout the summer who lost their homes within minutes’ notice, but were resilient enough to re-build their lives here.
As part of the Summer of Service, we have cut down nearly 3,000 trees to mitigate fire hazards and built three miles of trail to help restore the South Platte River watershed.
Our work hasn’t been easy. After eight hours of running a chainsaw, we often appear out of the forest with dirt smeared across our cheeks and reeking of sweat and bar oil. But, at least we are committed to smelling bad together.
-Nilanjana Saha, AmeriCorps and Leadership Conservation Corpsmember