Gather 'round the (Virtual) Campfire:

Stories from Camp Read's Past

North Country Newt

Submitted by Greg Pitonza

   Revised November 28, 2017 and September 2020

Contributions by Tim Haag

   October 2, 2020

Edited by Bill Langham

   October 6, 2020 

Several years ago a couple of us spoke about an interpreter strip based on the language, metaphors, colloquialisms and idioms used by Bob Newton (a.k.a. Ranger Bob, Newt, BMFIC, Rose, Newton for President, Ranger Emeritus . . .). Below is information about the strip[1] followed by a dictionary/list of phrases.

 

Unofficial Requirements for Interpreter Strip:

  1. Provide a colorful description of the patch honoree, or read the second paragraph on page 325 which describes Bob’s early life in Horicon, NY, his experience working on the Northway and his hiring as Camp Read Ranger in 1969 in For the Joys We’ll Ne’er Forget; Curtis S. Read the Camp, the Reservation, the Complete History 1920-2009 (Farley, John 2009)

  2. Use at least five words or sayings from the dictionary/list of phrases in the correct conversational context.

  3. Share three stories related to any term or phrase from the dictionary/list of phrases (these would be fun to post somewhere!)

Completion and verification of requirement completion is based on the honor system.

 

*Actual BSA interpreter strip requirements state:

 

Youth and adults may wear this strip if they show their knowledge of a foreign

language or the sign language for the hearing impaired by:

  1. Carrying on a five-minute conversation in this language.

  2. Translating a two-minute speech or address.

  3. Writing a letter in the language (does not apply for sign language).

  4. Translating 200 words from the written word.

Patch Design and Placement

Based on the Boy Scouts of America Interpreter Strip.

 

Officially, “The Interpreter Strip is not an award... it is optional insignia, not temporary insignia. Its sole purpose is to serve as an immediate, visual cue to others that you are able to perform as an interpreter, when needed... not to award your ability to converse in another language. (This is also why its placement on your uniform is near your nameplate.)” From the BSA Official Awards page, “Interpreter strips are made in the alphabet of the native language represented, not the English language translation. To accommodate the cryptic characters of various languages, the size of each interpreter strip for each language may vary slightly.”

 

Although the current patches are tan with red lettering, the patch is red with white embroidery, as used during Bobs’ time as a BSA Ranger. The “North Country Newt” interpreter strip/patch is 4” x ½”. Golden embroidery was being offered for the first person who could explain why Bob is also called Rose. [2]

 

Placement of Interpreter Strips on the BSA uniform is “immediately above (and flush with) the BSA strop (above right pocket); but, below the Varsity and/or Venture strip(s), if applicable.” For guidance, see Insignia Guide, No. 33066.


Payment - In lieu of payment consider making a donation to the Camp Read Association by joining or with your next renewal (see https://www.campread.org/donate).

 

Alternative Requirements for Interpreter Strip

  • Have previously donated 2 pints of blood (cuts, scrapes, etc.) while working for the camp ranger.

  • Work resulting in the need for a surgical procedure, or requiring a police report automatically qualifies for payment.

Local Language and Dialect

The local Brant Lake area has been noted, by others, for their local expressive references. “Brant Lake bass ain’t used to living on painted kindling.” – “Uncle Jud” Smith of Horicon, regarding fishing plugs (Listed within some quotes by and about guides on page 367, of Guides of the Adirondacks: A History by Charles Brumley, 1994). Quotes like this illustrate the types of metaphor used in the Brant Lake area for generations. The dialect represented by Robert J. Newton offers a unique mix of regional expressions with modifications and adaptations developed through interaction with a diverse range of other influences (conversations, CB exchanges, anyone south of Warrensburg, Dale Earnhardt, individuals caught or scared into

the creative use of wording, the box hooked up to the satellite dish, etc.). 

 

Native to the Brant Lake area, “Ivory Jack” has expressed numerous memorable and curious sayings noticed by scouts, leaders, willing volunteers or those not so willingly volunteered, etc. It is likely that these same observers also contributed to the vocabulary and phrases used by Bob Newton (at least one of the phrases listed has been claimed by a southern scout professional from NJ). Ultimately the additions, applications, and variations to the language have evolved into the language we informally call “North Country Newt.” These are listed below in the “Dictionary/List of Phrases.”

 

Those qualifying for the “North Country Newt” Interpreter Strip carry on a tradition of colorful comparisons, creative communication, Brant Lake tradition, Camp Read history, and have the requisites for persuasive influence along with the potential for political office. (Note - While the campaign for President Newton may have been in good fun, the modern reality is the rise and fall of political figures based on the evening news sound bite). Transcending literal and figurative understandings of this dialect may also give a person a broader philosophical outlook and coping mechanisms for encounters with the “Numb-nuts” of the world.

 

While it is of course an unofficial recognition by the BSA, other “spoof” patches are commonly displayed on the uniforms of scouts and leaders. Several of these are used as patrol names (like the “No Name” patrol); others for adult training and positions (such as “Untrainable,” and “Railroaded”); other unofficial interpreter strips (Klingon is one example); and a wide variety of others. You will not be alone if you choose to wear yours with pride. It will very likely lead into inquiries and the chance to share some stories. 

 

Ultimately, the North Country Newt interpreter strip allows the recipient to recognize and share their experience as a camp staff member between 1968 and 1997. Your contributions to camp during this time gives you the prerequisites for this award, and personal reflection/oversight of requirements for this interpreter strip qualifies your earning of this unique designation.

Dictionary/List of Phrases –

Etymologists of the North Country Newt Language understand that its study is not an exact science. They may not understand all the nuances since much context has been lost over time. But remember, too, that North Country Newt is constantly evolving. A phrase attributed to the current Camp Ranger Kris O’Connor seems worthy of addition to the lexicon: “He's/she's so inept he/she can't use Velcro." Tim Haag, CRA Member, and Frederick W. Smith Award recipient, provides a working example of NCN Language in action. [3]

 

Below is a dictionary/list of phrases (and context information if applicable). The search for other additions continues (please send suggestions w/usage or definition to Greg Pitonza Greg.Pitonza@canjo.org).

 

A

  • @$$hole deep to a ten-foot Indian – A really deep hole...

  • Ain’t not two guys alike but they’d better operate together or else – See the song about frogs singing in the choir (All God’s Creatures).

  • As useful as tits on a boar hog – It or he/she is useless

 

B

  • Back like a bad penny – Can’t get rid of him/her, Problem keeps arising, You’re back, You’ll be back

  • Backhoe – An extension of Bob’s right arm. The machine you don’t mess with, John Deere tractor (with bucket and backhoe)

  • Ball of fur – Woman luring an innocent staff member astray

  • Bring it on – Camp is ready, response used to accept a challenge. Also a way to encourage and “wind ’em up”

  • By-Geeges – An Exclamatory expression for emphasis, surprise or awe

C

  • Cordy - something or someone tough, well-built, rigidly flexible, a hard physical worker.  

  • Corker - A difficulty or problem

  • Cut-em loose – Fire them, Forget it, Cut it off (with bolt cutters or oxy-acetylene torch are the preferred methods)

D

  • Daylight’s burnin’ – Time to get to work

  • Day’s half over – Why isn’t more done? Get going, Don’t be lazing around, Get out of my dining hall and get back to work

  • Deep hole to a ten foot Indian – See “@$$hole deep to a ten foot Indian”4

  • Don’t cost nothin’ to ask – Ask first before you mess up

E

  • Every little bit helps, that’s what Gert says when she pisses in the ocean – Emphasizes progress, but not necessarily a futile effort

 

F

  • Follow the road to where Old Man Brown’s barn used to be.  (Phrase to give directions) - embellished phrase to offer navigational directions.  Akin to “Take a left where that big old tree used to be”, alluding to the fact that no one but Bob remembers Old Man Brown or that big old tree.  Simply put, we were left to our own devices to figure out how to get where he wanted us to go. (Tim Haag)

G

  • Gaining' – Getting work done without “no back-track’n”

  • Gaining' good – Even better

  • Get’m humping – Get the crew going

  • Give it to’em – Don’t hold back, Give them hell, Tell ‘em like it is

  • Gotta go – I’m busy, I’m leavin’ *Also see Off like a dirty shirt

  • Gotta pull together – Useful advice for a couple (used by Bob as best man in July 1992)

  • Gotta pull together, can’t pull apart – Cooperate or else

  • Got to put some levers in my hands (accompanied by gestures related to backhoe use) – Verbal expression of an ingrained bio-neurological need to use the camp backhoe

H 

  • He’s or she’s an awful bird – He or she is fun, interesting, or committed

  • Hey babe – Phrase used to call deer (typically when putting out feed corn)

  • Hey man – Hello (sometimes used with How be ya?)

  • Holy jumpin’ purple eyed Moses – Ask Tim Haag (as of July 2009 he is President of the Camp Read Association - try http://www.campread.org/ )

  • How be ya? – Greetings, Hello, Welcome, Who are you?

  • How the hell are ya! – Glad to see you, About time you came around

  • How’s the Mrs.? – How is your better half doing?

I

  • I’d get 'em going – I enjoyed motivational speaking opportunities

  • I’d give my right nut for a perfect ten pointer – Good hunting is tough

  • I’ll be dipped in (?) – Amazing!

  • I’ve had some awful times – It was good fun

  • I got me a key down the shop that’ll open any lock in camp – Bob has the big bolt-cutters; an expensive way to open a lock so go find the key

  • It hurts a kid more – Referring to excuses made by parents and/or leaders

  • It’s a long road before the bend - Perseverance & tenacity

 

J --  K --  L --  M

  • Jing-wang – A name (sometimes used if name of person is unknown)

  • Knife it – Let it go, Synonym of Cut em loose

  • Lapper – A dog or numb-nuts (a know-it-all) in training

  • Make like Hank Snow – Disappearing, especially when there’s work to be done, Moving on...

 

N

  • No back-track’n – Do it right the first time

  • Nothing wrong with that, is there? – Do you agree? You will agree, It’s done

  • Not more than a hair, but a red one they’re thicker – Unit of small measure or adjustment

  • Numb-nuts – Idiot, Fool, Useless

 

O

  • Off like a dirty shirt – Moving on, I’m leavin’

  • Old jelly eyes – Ask Matt Terribile (try https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-terribile-pmp/) or Tim Haig (see “Holy jumpin’ purple eyed Moses” above)

  • Ole girl – A noun applicable to various things (for example, “rake that ole girl to the center” as in the road)

 

P

  • Pull it til there’s nothing left – Perhaps a reference to towing a car, although other connotations may exist

  • Put it to 'em – Do it, Get it done, Hit it dead on, Go-go-go!, Move on (and now!)

  • Put some “Never Seize” on it – Make it slide, Don’t get stuck next time, Plan ahead for the next time it needs to be taken apart

  • Put the levers to it – Run the backhoe, I can dig it faster with the backhoe

 

Q

  • Quite a spell – It went on longer than desired, or we had a great time

S

  • Send it – We’re ready, see also “bring it on”

  • Shoot the BS – Being sociable, lay on the charm

  • Slap ‘em right on it – Get those guys work’n (or, to it)

  • Slicker than snot on a doorknob – Well done, Works well (first said by Steven Hammonds and picked up and used by Bob)

  • Slicker than trout – Great, works well - Synonym of Slicker than snot on a doorknob

  • Slicker than whale sh*t – Excellent!, Synonym of Slicker than trout

  • Some ain’t worth (excrement) …. – It/they are useless

  • Strike while the iron’s hot – Do it at the most opportune time.

T

  • Tell him to get his goddamn act together or I’ll have to straighten him out or shoot ’em – An ultimatum to get gainin’.

  • The man who knows it all ain’t been made yet – Often referring to someone who thinks they have all the answers, whoever said it is a professional lapper

  • There are too many know it all lappers, they talk much and do little

  • Their ain’t too many with you – You're on your own, camp is empty

  • There you go! First your money then your clothes – Be careful (often referring to interactions with women)

  • They’d break their ass – Hard-working crew

  • They’d knew I’d be around – People knew I would be watching and likely to drop in

  • They’d never said “no” cause they knew I’d get them in the end – I scared them into working (but always helped them anyway I could)

  • They ain’t got us yet – It hasn’t been easy but I’ve got a couple of things ready if needed, I’m still fight’n (a particularly motto when Tomahawk Activity Center was converted back into a dining hall in 1988 after the Buckskin dining hall fire), or when coping with supervisory numb-nuts

  • They ate more ice cream than ten can buy – Said about the crew who built the Griffin Garage at the STEM site (Dicky Parsons, Cliff Lowther, Ed McCabe, Greg Pitonza)

  • They better slow down or I’ll be picking ’em up on a hook – Going too fast on camp roads will cause you to lose control and go into the ditch on the side of the road (and banging up a culvert will probably get you some extra practice with a shovel)

  • They don’t know half of what goes on around here – Often referring to the intelligence of an outsider, If they only knew how much gets done in camp, I’m underpaid

  • Three fingers – A unit of measure used in the pouring of Black Velvet

  • Throw it in the jaws – Use a clamp, pliers or vise

 

W

  • Well I’ll be! – Wow, Good to see you, how did that happen? Or I’ve just witnessed something extraordinary, I’m impressed

  • We’re due – Time to pay up, we owe, it’s our turn

  • We’re gainin’ – Good progress, They’re not going to get us

  • We’re gainin’ good – Excellent progress, Now we’re getting ahead

  • When we had a job to get done we didn’t monkey around – There was a time to play and a time to gain

  • Where ya been ol’ boy? – Long time no see – can be used as a synonym of “Well I’ll be”

  • Wind ‘em up – To get someone going with a slight reference to instigating a situation

  • Wing-jang – Synonym of “Wing Nut,” A variation of Jing-wang

  • Wing nut – Goofy person, A friendly reference to a “Numb nuts” (adopted from usage by Tim Haag)

  • Work, then float the next day/time – Finish the job then go ice fish’n

  • Works like a bastard – He/she gets things done and keeps going, a hard worker

 

Y

  • You can’t be duplicated, but you can be replaced – We will gain on it with or without you, You’re about to get the boot, Do it or else

  • You got the Ranger! – A reply to calls on the radio, What do you want? Go ahead

  • You/that lapper – You’re a fool but I’ll tolerate you

  • You might better... – Do it, Get goin’, I agree

  • You’ve got the handle on it – You are ready, in control, or you are is a good position (like having the ranger house at the road into camp)

  • You’ve got to be ready – They are coming ready or not, so be ready

  • You’ve got to drop in on jobs – It is necessary to check on progress and make sure it is not done wrong or the crew is messing around too much

  • You’ve got to pull together – You can’t do it alone, be helpful (Stated in his best man speech for the wedding of a former staffer)

  • You’ve gotta work to eat – Terms of meal payment plan

Endnotes

  1. Below are some titles that were considered for the Interpreter Strip – voting for the title was conducted informally during the Camp Read Association reunion, July 2009.

  2. The April 2, 2011 revision of this document included the explanation - Gert let the cat out of the bag last summer. She recalls one of the girls making the connection between Bob and his ability to come out smelling like a “Rose.” Since then, other versions of the derivation of the name “Rose Drive” have been published by the Camp Read Association 2017 Fall Newsletter.

  3. Tim Haag: My apologies for not responding sooner.  I am blaming this entirely on Bill Daley.  He got my brother and me into this High Peaks thing, and we were out all day yesterday climbing Giant and Rocky Ridge Peak.  It was a corker (1) to say the least.  First of all, it was a challenge getting there, as our directions said to follow the road up to where Old Man Brown’s barn used to be (2), and of course the barn is long gone and the road has been rerouted four times since Old Man Brown died.  Then, while on the trail, I looked up and saw the sheer rock faces we had to navigate, and one in particular was so cumbersome I exclaimed, “Holy jumpin’ Purple-Eyed Moses!” (3).  Some of the rock faces and muddy areas were slicker than snot on a doorknob. (4). Bottom line is we made the trek successfully, though it would have been nice to have an elevator for the trip up and a zip line for the trip down.  Had there been beavers around, these would have been constructed, because as we know, “Man can’t make no engineer like a beaver!” (5) 

  4. Editor Note: In seeking clarification on this unusual quote, I googled it and came upon this site of collected country colloquialisms from Linda Cunningham Fluhary in West Virginia.  https://www.lindapages.com/colloq.html. She replied: “Gosh, I don't know. I have not heard that one.”

For generations, summer after summer, scouts have been making memories at Camp Read. In 2020, the pandemic may have forced regular activities to pause, but campers from years gone by are sharing their stories here in an effort to fill in the gap. Read on to get your fix of Camp Read hijinks until we can safely fill a parade ground once more!

 

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