Chapter 3: Of Mosquitoes, Junior Staff, and a Random Turtle
As we pulled out of the Stevens’ driveway, I decided to try to make conversation with Rachel. Pastor and Dad were in the front two seats, Mom and David in the middle two, and Karis, Rachel and I were in the back. I was in the left window seat, Karis in the middle, and Rachel in the right window seat. Wondering what I should talk about I decided on the obvious.
“So what has your experience been with Camp Swampy?” I asked her.
“Well,” she replied, “After I became too old to be a camper, I had a lot of fun as a member of the Junior Staff.”
“Junior Staff?” I asked. “Are you kidding me?”
She smiled and said, “Nope. I know it sounds dumb. I wish they’d just call us ‘staff’ because ‘Junior Staff’ sounds really absurd.”
David heard the word “absurd” and turned around and said to Rachel, “James says that only nerds say ‘absurd’” I was very close to whacking David over the head. He likes to bring up stupid things that I’ve said in the past. He never seems to remember my wholesome and wise sayings, only the dumb ones.
Rachel grinned and gave me a sideways glanced and then answered, “I am a nerd, so I guess I’ll keep saying it.”
Whew. That was close. I almost offended the first staff member I met. I was glad she had a sense of humor.
From there, the conversation turned to random things and Rachel, Karis and I hit it off like old friends. I found out that she was a lot like me. She had my sense of humor, a lot of my interests, and Karis got along with her too.
We drove a ways, and then turned off the road into a dirt path and then stopped. Pastor Stevens got out of the van, and proceeded to open a large gate. He got back in the van, and then drove through. He got back out, shut it, then got back in the van and we started off down the winding dirt path. It went on for about a mile and a half with dense woods on either side. Finally, we came to a large clearing.
“This is the field we play most of the games in.” Pastor Stevens told us. “But for right now,” he parked in the middle of it, “we’ll use it as a parking lot. Everyone can get out and take a look around. It’s not a huge camp, so if you stay out of the woods, you won’t get lost.”
I was the last to step out. When I did, immediately, I was attacked by my first ever Swampy mosquito. After I killed it, I looked up to see my family walking into a small, white building. There was a small overhang of trees above a picnic bench, with a basketball hoop next to it on the right. To the left, there was a target for baseball, two roughly made soccer goals, and two overturned carpetball tables lying parallel to the each other. Beyond them was a small shack and a rather large contraption of pipes and water barrels. I found out that this was the washstand. I kept walking and to the right of the washstand was another larger shack that had a large window that looked like what you would see on a concessions stand. I kept walking and came to the door of the long white building that the rest had gone in. I stepped in to hear Pastor ask Dad if this would be enough room to set up an easel for my chalk drawing. I told him it would be just enough.
This long white building consisted of two sections. In the larger section there were tables and chairs set up and there was a piano in the corner with a TV on a stand in the other corner. The tables were all in the central area. It was a rather small room, just enough to hold maybe sixty to seventy people.
The two rooms were separated by a wall with a doorway on each side, and a big window with a countertop. On the other side, there was the kitchen.
As I noticed the décor of the building, I could tell the week had an Olympic theme to it. A large banner hung on the wall with the message, “Going For The Gold” printed across it.
We exited the building through a door on the other side, and saw Lake Swampy. It wasn’t a beautiful lake, and it wasn’t a nasty, swampy lake. It was an average lake. There were two docks that stretched out for maybe twenty or so feet, and out in the deeper waters, there was a raft that floated on several large blue water barrels. Pastor Stevens led the rest of the family inside the boys’ cabins which were nearby the lake, but I stayed outside because Rachel was walking on the beach looking at a large black spot on the ground. Battling mosquitoes most of the way, I walked over to her.
“Whatcha looking at?” I asked. As she answered, I quickly saw what it was.
“I’ve found a friend,” she told me. “I think it’s looking for the water.”
On the ground was a large boxer turtle.
“Maybe you should help it find its way,” I suggested.
She smiled and said, “Actually, I’m kinda enjoying watching it. I want to see if it makes its own way back.”
“That’s cruel,” I joked. “You’re definitely a Republican.”
She laughed and said, “Yeah.”
On the other side of the dining hall was the girls’ cabin, and then further beyond that was the staff cabin. Next to each cabin there were large outhouses. I don’t think I need to explain what went on in them. Unless you are Hagar the Horrible.
After this tour, we got back in the van and drove back to the Stevens’. On the way, I asked Rachel, “What’d you do with the turtle?”
She answered, “I put it back in the water. I loathe dead animals, so I decided to help this one find its way back.”
“Loathe?” David asked.
“It means ‘hate’,” Rachel explained.
“Why don’t you just say hate?” David asked.
“Loathe is more interesting,” Rachel quickly replied. “What is also interesting is what some of the cooks do to Mr. Lehman’s food.”
I thought, oh great, we’re going to a camp with carnivorous mosquitoes and devious cooks.
“Who’s Mr. Lehman?” David wondered.
“He’s the camp director,” Rachel told him. “He’s so very fun to pick on.”
“What do the cooks do to him?” David asked.
The rest of that conversation was very disturbing so I won’t include it here. It wasn’t disturbing because of Rachel’s reply, but because of what her reply led to. David immediately thought up a lot of weird and very crude things to do to Mr. Lehman, a man he hadn’t even met yet. Mom had a talk with David once we arrived back at the Stevens’ house.
Nothing interesting happened after we returned, other than we all went to sleep. The next day was Sunday, and we went to church (which was right next door as I may remind you). The morning service passed, and then we ate lunch at the Stevens’ and then played Monopoly: Here and Now, which is a whole other story in and of itself.
Before the evening service there was a camp staff meeting. It was a good chance to meet the other staff members and to find out what we would actually be doing the following week. My first impression that it would be a good week was from a man named Schumacher. The meeting was winding down, and Mr. Lehman had just run through what was going on the week. He asked if there were any questions, and that’s when Mr. Schumacher raised his hand and made a proposition.
“I was wondering if there was an opening on one of the nights because I bought some fireworks and—legal fireworks—and was wondering if there was anytime I might be able to, heh heh, shoot them off?”
I liked him right away. He was a man of average height a girth, with gray hair and a moustache. He was very lighthearted and very very funny as I found out that week.
There would be six other members on the Junior Staff that week: Trent Melnotte, Rodney King, Aaron Bjorkquist, Shannon Belding, Marissa Crowe, and Marisha Lindquist. Trent and Rodney were at the staff meeting, but the other four were driving down from International Falls, Minnesota on Monday Morning.
That night, slowly but surely that nervous/excited feeling began to grow in the pit of my stomach as I anticipated the following week. It seemed unbelievable that this week had approached so fast. I still wasn’t sure what to expect. But I knew I would find out soon enough. Thus began my experience as a member of the Junior Staff at Camp Swampy.