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Camp director, Part 1: Assistant

Camp director, Part 1: Assistant

by Wolf Pascoe on November 11, 2011

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! whare the crick so still and deep
Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,
And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below
Sounded like the laugh of something we onc’t ust to know
Before we could remember anything but the eyes
Of the angels lookin’ out as we left Paradise . . .

— James Whitcomb Riley

The trouble started at a Fern Hill Parent Teacher meeting.

Every year, the school has three or four of these get-togethers for each class, low key affairs where twenty or so parents circle up with the group’s teachers. It’s a chance for everyone to re-connect, catch up on schoolyard news, troubleshoot problems.

“So, Don, where are we going camping this year?” says one parent, during a lull.

Every year on Memorial Day Weekend, the whole school reserves sites at a state park and troops off for three days of car camping. It’s not an official school event—more a tradition. One or two parents do the organizing, which mostly means reserving the sites. Don is in charge this year.

“We don’t know yet,” Don says. “But Wolf will be helping.”

“Say what?”

Several parents swivel their heads to look upon the surprised face of the newly appointed Assistant Organizer for the Spring Camping Trip. I look at Don, who looks back with a Cheshire grin.

“Uh, I guess so,” I say.

Inexplicably, the word no has just disapparated from my vocabulary.

It’s kind of a shock, but I think I’m okay with it. Nick looks forward to the trip every year, and every year, Nora and I get better at it. We have a nice big tent I can stand up in now, and an air mattress with a manageable leak.

“So it’s settled?” says Don.




But I’m not in the room anymore. I’m back at Olive Grove, the sleep over camp I went to long ago, ten golden summers that sing to me now of verdant youth, another Eden.

I twice took Nick to visit this camp, which continues on, oblivious to time.

“Maybe next year,” he said each time after the tour.

One thing bothered me about the last trip. Nick and I had been standing outside the old rec hall. Above its doors, in bold letters, a sign I’d never noticed before proclaimed HALL OF FAME, and listed some luminaries of the place–past directors, song leaders, and so on. I wasn’t on the list.

“Is your name up there, dada?” Nick said.

I had loved Olive Grove and had even been head counselor once, but my contributions, apparently, had not been immortal.

“No,” I said.

A new deficiency, out of left field. There was nothing else to say.




Ah, but now, I find myself thinking, when I go home tonight, I will have something to say. I imagine the conversation:

Nick, guess what!  Something wondrous has happened.

Yes, dada?

Nick, tonight your father has become something immortal.

Really, dada?

Yes, really! You are looking at the newly appointed Assistant Organizer for the Fern Hill Spring Camping Trip.

He is speechless with admiration. I am fatherhood redeemed.




The Parent Teacher meeting is over. Nora and I turn to go. Don approaches.

“That was kind of unfair of me tonight,” he says. “Are you sure it’s okay?”

How hard can it be? Besides, we’re not talking about my organizing the trip. The title, after all, has the word assistant in it. Don will carry the bulk of the load. He’ll tell me what he needs done, show me the ropes, break me in. He’ll be there every step of the way.

“Just let me know what you need,” I say.

He flashes the Cheshire grin.

Nora frowns.

“Piece of cake,” he says.



Camp director continues next time with Promotion. Oh, does it continue.

How much do you know about the world, dada?



Animated Knots — Forgot the Sheet Bend? Brush up on your skills



Got a camping story? A volunteering story? Inquiring minds want to know. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Parkevich November 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Stories of camping ?? How big is your site ? How many gigabytes of data can I post about stories of outdoor reverie with a local Boy Scout Troop …..and the many boys I helped shepard into manhood. A troop that camped out twelve months a year…….in monsoon rains and coffee pots frozen solid to the ground.
Then there were the nights, far from any town, when after getting my scouts to sleep, I would walk out to favorite knoll and look at the “milky way” in the darkest , black sky you could imagine. So many stars…….a meteor crossing the night, the illumination for a few scant seconds stays with you for a lifetime. Sounds of wild turkeys in the misty morning….that time just between dark and light…dinners cooked from scratch in a “dutch oven”, such taste you could never find in any restaurant. Scouts, a little bleary eyed, standing at reverie, saluting our nations flag, and watching them stand a little straighter and a little taller. I could not in a lifetime, describe watching scared little eleven year old boys grow into confident, able bodied men, who have succeeded in their lives so much, that sometimes I feel a tinge of guilt because so many boys within this troop have gained so much while other boys, who I could not reach out to, are left to fend for themselves in a world that will eat you alive. And this damned diabetes has hobbled my legs…..I could never again hike the 68 miles across BSA Reservation/Philmont, New Mexico, up to 10,000 feet to look out from Mt Baldy. But, one time many years ago, I watched a young Scout, whose legs were bent and deformed from a genetic condition, and the deftness in the way he wielded his crutches, during a multiple troop gathering to hike ten (10) miles of the Buckeye Trail. Stories ???? I have a heart full..


Wolf Pascoe November 11, 2011 at 10:54 pm

This sounds like the motherlode, Jim. I was a scout, but I never made it to Philmont. I keep wanting to write a post about my old scoutmaster . . .


Alameda November 11, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Don’t know why but there is something special about camping. We’ve traveled to many exotic places, but there is nothing like camping stories: broken down cars, kayaking down Colorado river, sleeping outdoors without tents, getting the tents soaked by rain, hungry kids, campfire stories, insect bites, broken limbs and on and on and on. Priceless moments.


Wolf Pascoe November 12, 2011 at 1:05 am

And getting there is half the fun!


Barbara November 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I’m jealous of your ten summers at camp. I always wanted to go to one after watching Parent Trap, but the closest I got was a weekend Girl Scout camp. And that word “No”… I misplaced it for years, but I have no regrets. 🙂


Wolf Pascoe November 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I had such a crush on Hayley Mills!


Daisy November 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I love camping too–but I have a bad feeling about this “assistant” business. I wish you luck ♥


Wolf Pascoe November 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm

I should be more suspicious of what I agree to.


Privilege of Parenting November 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm

if you give a man a piece of cake… But if you teach a man to bake a cake you ditch the immortal thing and de-scribe all fame in trade for an eternal situation.

When my counselor told me to use elbow grease on the pots I was chagrinned to find the KP store to be out of stock–I’d have been better of with ambergris when it was a dark and drizzly November in my soul.

But today you’ve brought cake.


Wolf Pascoe November 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm

And I believe you should sail about a bit and see the watery part of the world.


Sirena November 14, 2011 at 2:01 pm

We went on a family camping trip to Yosemite when I was about 9. They already had big tents set up which were more like little cabins so it wasn’t too primative. I don’t remember much of the trip except that the river water was VERY cold and my mother complained about the whole camping experience. That was our only family camping event. My sister and I were sent off to summer camp up in the mountains for one week every summer which I loved, although I felt there was never enough candy available. I finally wised up and snuck in candy bars instead of having to resort to eating tooth paste. I’m sure now every summer camp has vending machines and plenty of junk food, maybe even a McDonald’s on the grounds. I’m worried about the next installment of your “assistantship”.


Wolf Pascoe November 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Nick eats toothpaste. What is it with you people?


Kelly November 14, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Ah, I’m laughing WITH you. This happens to me all the time. In fact, I overheard someone once say, “Ask Kelly, she can’t even pronounce the word ‘no.'”

Can’t wait for the sequel!


Wolf Pascoe November 14, 2011 at 6:15 pm

What is it about no that makes pronouncing it so hard?
There should be a song. I’m just a girl who can’t pronounce the word no.


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