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post #496
bio: jen

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Summer Camp

Lisa May recently wrote a great piece about summer camp, and that sent me back on a hiking trail full of reminiscences.

Like Lisa May, I went to Girl Scout summer camp. I won’t say where my summer camp was because apparently the camp was recently sold to real estate developers. As a result, my summer camp no longer exists. I’m okay with that. I don’t need it anymore. As for future generations, there will be other camps.

I remember the first summer I went to horse camp. It was a weeklong sleep-over camp. I was probably ten or eleven. I was excited about horse camp because I would get to ride horses. Woohoo. Yeehah. Then I got to ride the horses. We rode around a ring. We rode down a path. We rode in the ring again. We took off the saddles and brushed the horses while flies swarmed around and the horses shat everywhere.

Even though I went to horse camp for three summers in a row and can ride a horse, I am most definitely not a horse girl. I preferred my own two feet over the larger dumber four and really liked hiking. I could look off into the woods, into the patches of poison ivy, and imagine stuff.

I did like swimming and boating. The summer before I went to college, I was a camp counselor (never again), and we took the kids out on rowboats for floating lunches. No, the lunches did not float. Basically, you rowed out to the middle of the lake, ate your lunch, and rowed back. Yes, it was weird, but it was camp.

As I rowed a metal rowboat with five girls out to the middle of the lake, two of the girls looked nervous. They had never been in a boat before. Even though they were on a calm lake and wore orange life preservers, they were not happy campers. As I rowed, I told them everything I knew about boats and made more shit up. They ate their lunches without puking (plus!). When I got them safely back to the dock, I asked if they liked boats. They looked at me like I was mad.

I was never a big fan of arts and crafts. I am a meticulous person. I recently consulted a dictionary when writing a facebook status update. I usually took longer than everyone else to make my crafts.

Now, yes, I know it wasn’t a race, but summer camp activities were tightly scheduled. There were only so many minutes when one could make lanyards. Hurry, hurry, rush, rush. I became an arts and crafts neurotic.

I didn’t mind sleeping in tents. They were big canvas tents on wooden platforms. Each tent had four cots with stinky mattresses. If it got really hot, you could roll up the sides of the tent. The platform was high enough, so the tent didn’t flood except when it rained sideways. As we got older, the tents became cliquey. That was annoying.

My favorite part of the camping experience was building the fire. I can still build a kick ass fire with one match and some wax paper and dry wood. I also can maintain and safely put out a fire. I was never much into the cooking, but I could keep the fire going.

A fire had to be constantly fed. My favorite part of the fire was when it became a bunch of glowing coals. It was super hot and you could see it throb like it had a pulse. Loved that.

When I took a creative writing class in high school, I tried to describe a fire. I tried to get all poetic about it, but the writing wasn’t right. A fire is a fire. It just is.

There were lots of chores at summer camp. We’d have to sweep out the shelters, pick up litter, clean out the fire circle, and clean the latrine.

Now, potential campers, I am going to let you in on a little secret. If your camp counselor gives you a choice of jobs, volunteer to clean the latrine. 

The latrine might seem stinky, but it’s the fastest job to do. All you have to do is coat it with clorox and sweep out the spider webs. It takes five to ten minutes tops. It will take much longer to find wood and clean up a shelter. With all that extra time, the latrine team can go off into the woods, finish their lanyards, and talk about boys.

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