Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Camping (07/11/05)
TITLE: Hail, Northeast!
By Brenda Kern
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The first one--taken from a bus seat. We've reached Northeast Campgrounds. Since my dad was heavily involved in the camping program, that meant spending several weeks at Northeast every summer--for Kids' Camp, two teen Camps, and the big daddy of them all, Camp Meeting. We'd go a little early to do some preparation and cleanup--which brings me to one of my very favorite Northeast memories.
The plumbing network at Northeast was...ancient, decrepit, and apparently barely holding together. The entire system was shut off in the late summer, and turned on again by the new summer's early arrivals (that would be us). As a follow-up, every faucet, shower, water fountain, etc. had to be run for a few minutes. That was my assignment, for these reasons: the water ran orange at first, and creepy crawlies liked the moist environment, so they wedged themselves into a spigot or "embraced" a faucet--mostly water beetles and daddy longlegs, but sometimes spiders, too. I faithfully did my job, all except in one key location--the girls' shower room. Early on the first morning of camp, I'd squeeze into an alcove just big enough to hide a little girl who couldn't wait for the screams to begin.
Oh, that water! Word to the wise--even after the color had left the water, the rust flavor never really did. The only way to not taste the rust, we discovered, was to hold your nose when you took a sip. What was in it? And how did it affect us? I don't want to know--it's a wonder all Northeast campers aren't dain bramaged.
Next slide: there's the snack shack! I saved all year long so I'd have "spending money," and I'd always request "a Cherry Smash and a Lemon Ice!" What's Cherry Smash? A soda only a kid could love--the ingredients must read something like: water, sugar, a different kind of sugar, still a third sweetener, a red dye soon to be banned in 38 countries, carbonation, and a flavoring somewhere in the neighborhood of cherries. But, it WASN'T made from campground water! Hooray! Lemon Ice was a slightly slimy frozen confection perfect for wickedly hot and humid summer nights. Somehow, I'd always manage to get lemony stickiness all over myself, which made me an especially inviting target for the 'skeeters.
The mosquitoes! They were aggressive--made you wonder if they'd gone through commando training. They were numerous--and that's a major understatement. And they were enormous beasts, possibly the offspring of intermarriage between mosquitoes and dragonflies. I saw one of them training a gerbil to sit, fetch, and roll over! They especially enjoyed satisfying their vampiric needs via attaching to sweaty, sweets-engorged little kids.
Next slide: here's another bus shot, on the way back from the swimmin' hole. Imagine sweaty kids, fresh from a somewhat muddy natural body of water (pond?), at the peak of summer, at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, in a bus that had seen better days, with Naugahyde seats... As a veteran camper, I can give a word of advice: always put a towel under you before you sit down! Otherwise, the ripping sound you hear as you stand up will be accompanied by your own yelp of pain.
Are those kids in the slide all yelling in thigh-pinkened pain? No, they're singing. We sang the stupidest, most wonderful songs! One, "Three Cheers for the Bus Driver," was especially fun for me to sing, as my dad often was the chauffer being cheered in song: "...he's dashing, he's daring, he smells like a herring..." I loved to sing this line RIGHT IN HIS EAR!
Get back to the narration? Okay, Bossy.
This slide reveals a trail heading into the woods, leading to the bonfire pit. I remember throwing a stick into the fire that symbolized my old self, and watching the rain of other sticks going in, too. I thought about all the "new creatures" around me, and imagined how we'd all go back to our "regular lives," but be different kids. How many former Northeast campers are fully grown adults living changed "regular lives" because of a bonfire moment at camp?
Here's the last slide--that's me, asleep on the bus, but the smile on my face makes me think I'm dreaming of returning next year, to once again do battle with the rusty water and the evil mosquitoes.
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