The summer of 1971 was a memorable one. My husband Jim had a great job, we purchased our first home, and God had blessed us with a healthy two-year-old son. The most unforgettable event was the week I spent at our church camp as the girls’ counselor to eight, energetic thirteen-year-olds.
My mother-in-law Carol, a retired middle school teacher, had agreed to care for her grandson, Billy. She was happy to have him all to herself but warned me about the girls.
“Young teenaged girls can be a handful, Jill. You are going ‘where angels fear to tread.’”
“I’ll be fine.” I assured her. “They’re only thirteen years old.”
Ten days later, she dropped me off at Camp Laurel. I kissed my little boy goodbye and hugged her. She leaned out the car window and yelled, “Good Luck!”
Sue Miles, the camp director, escorted me to my rustic cabin. “Let me know if you need any help. This age group can be difficult to manage.”
The screened-in cabin held ten bunk beds. A light bulb with a pull-string hung in the middle of the room. I unrolled my sleeping bag and waited for the girls.
The first day was fun. We played volleyball, hiked on one of the many trails, and swam in the cold lake at the bottom of a mountain. That evening all the campers gathered around a huge bonfire where we sang songs, roasted hotdogs, and made smores. Sue ended the night with a devotional and prayer.
The next morning I awoke to birds singing outside the cabin. I peeked at my watch. It was 6 a.m. and the girls still slept, a good time to shower and dress. I pulled my sneakers from under the bed. A small garter snake slithered out and disappeared into a crack in the floor. I screamed, waking the girls.
“Did one of you put that snake in my shoe?” I snapped, still shaking from my encounter.
A chorus of “no” rang out but two girls snickered.
The snake incident set the tone for the remainder of the week. Sweltering heat enveloped the camp bringing violent thunderstorms, damp sleeping bags, and mosquitoes. Lightening struck the pump in the shower house forcing everyone to bathe in the chilly river.
The girls required constant observance. Every night they sneaked out of the cabin and prowled around the campgrounds pulling pranks on me and the other campers. One night when they thought I was asleep, I trailed them to the lake where they skinny-dipped.
On the sixth night, two of the girls awakened me.
“Jill, wake up. Jessica fell down a cliff. She’s hanging on to a tree. We can’t reach her.”
I jumped out of bed, dressed, and stopped by Sue’s cabin. She brought ropes and four other counselors with us. When we reached Jessica, she was hanging on to a small bush with both hands on the side of a cliff. “Hurry, I’m slipping!” She screamed.
Since I was the smallest counselor, the others lowered me down the precipice. I prayed for the Lord’s protection. If something went wrong, we would fall one-hundred foot into the river, which could result in death or injury.
I slipped the noose of another rope I carried around Jessica’s waist and the group pulled us to safety. Mud, scrapes, and cuts covered her face, arms, and legs but she was not seriously hurt—only scared.
Sue and I scolded the girls and warned them not to leave the cabin. They walked silently in the drizzling rain back to their bunks.
The last night, I lay awake until the stars were lost in the flush of dawn waiting and watching for something to happen. However, the scare from the previous night had halted all pranks and the girls slept soundly.
On Sunday morning, we hugged and said our goodbyes. I was truly glad this week was over. My husband took one look at my scratched face, puffy eyes, and bandaged knees and asked, “What in the world happened to you?”
“These are souvenirs. I’ll tell you about them later. I need a shower then I want to sleep for a week, or at least through today. Can you take care of Billy, please?”
Before climbing into bed I mumbled, “Your mother was right. Thirteen-year-old girls can be a handful. I think I’ll stick with the younger girls.”
I snuggled under the covers of my clean, dry bed and slept until the next morning.
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Based upon a true story.
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