Junior Staff at Camp Swampy
A story based on personal experiences
By James Giegerich
Chapter 1: The Beginning
There are two words that are beloved by every junior high and high school student across the nation. These are words that show the spirit of the common ones, the passion of teenagers. These are two words that show the sense of liberty and accomplishment that exists in the hearts of children throughout our great nation. The two words that define the true meaning of Freedom itself: the words “SCHOOL’S OUT!!!”
Now bear in mind the perspective this is coming from. I am not by any means your run-of-the-mill high schooler aspiring to be a great author someday. I do not by any means sit around repeating my name out loud and picturing it on the cover of a book like some weirdoes I’ve run into do. I don’t study writing methods and other authors very much, and I am not one who uses perfect grammar and freaks out when others don’t. In fact, I hate English class. It’s my least favorite subject. Science is good. Lit is okay, but I’d rather read about things like sports heroes and people doing stupid stuff for kicks. Random things like that make me laugh. Anyway, this paragraph was meant to show you that I am just a normal teenager. Some of my friends are laughing at the previous statement.
Just as a forewarning, this will not be written only in a story form. I will freely and frequently share my opinion(s) with you and I don’t care who you are or what you think, even if you are standing over me holding a battleaxe and threatening to chop the head off of our cat and then cook it for Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t listen to crazy cat-murdering Vikings with bad breath. And yes, I am talking about you, Hagar the Horrible.
Not to worry though, none of the following will in any way be offensive, politically incorrect, or sinful, unless your name is Hagar the Horrible. Now back to summer and school releasing its pupils into the wild.
I was homeschooled and lived in South Bend, Indiana. I had just finished my eighth grade year. I finished that final math problem then promptly threw my books aside to the place on the floor they would stay for several months.
Summer was here! Thinking of the great time it would be having no school and sleeping in every day, I rushed into the kitchen where my parents were standing at the counter talking. My dad had just set down the phone and was relating some information to my mom.
“So I guess that’s what we have planned.” He said.
I smiled inwardly, knowing that they were discussing summer vacation plans.
“Where are we going this year?” I asked.
Mom turned to me and said, “Well, not really anywhere.”
“What?” I said. “What do you mean, ‘not really anywhere’?”
Dad turned to me and answered, “We don’t really have the funds to go on a vacation.”
“What do you mean ‘don’t really’?” I pried further. I could tell they were beating around the bush about something, and I was determined to make them spill as soon as possible.
“We’re not going on a vacation per say.” Mom told me, “More like a ministry trip” Now before I go any further, I need to explain a few things. First, my parents are missionaries to the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University of South Bend (IUSB). They’re working to reach the student and faculty with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being only 14 years old at the time, I supported the ministry and was somewhat involved and I used my talents (I’m a chalk artist with awesome people skills) to help provide deputation and support needs meeting at churches for my dad. I would draw while my dad preached. Now you may see that the phrase “More like a ministry trip” wasn’t a big surprise to me.
“Where are we going?” asked my little brother David who had just walked in the room. My older sister, Karis, had also entered the room.
“We’re going,” Mom paused for a dramatic effect, “to Camp Swampy”
Now, dear Reader, does this sound like an awesome vacation to you? Going to a camp named Swampy? We didn’t think so. We remained rooted in this opinion and became even more established in it after what our parents told us next.
“It’s rather domesticated,” Mom told us.
“Rustic,” Dad added.
“Unique,” Mom put in.
“Far out,” Dad said.
“How so?” I wondered.\
“Well,” Mom stopped, trying to think of the best way to put things, “See, it doesn’t have running water.”
“Which means no showers,” said Dad.
“And it has no electricity,” said Mom.
“Which means no TV, video games, or—“
“We get the point,” I told them.
Mom continued, “We’re supposed to be the missionary family this year. I’m supposed to give the missionary story, Dad will give the devotionals, and James you’ll do a chalk talk one of the nights.”
“How am I supposed to do a black light drawing when there’s no electricity?” I asked, hoping to eliminate the possibility of going. I thought I might be able to by bringing out small fallacies little by little.
“There’s a central generator that will provide some lighting and also power the kitchen appliances,” Mom said.
So much for that idea.
“Plus,” Dad for some reason needed to add, “The mosquitoes are really bad.” None of this was making us feel better. Especially the last comment about the mosquitoes.
“Can’t you get malaria from mosquitoes?” I asked, trying to make my parents see that this was a big mistake.
“What’s Malaria?” David asked.
“It’s a disease.” I told him.
“Oh great,” David lamented. “You mean we’re going to a disease camp?”
“No, don’t call it that,” Mom scolded him. “We’ll only be there for a week, so it won’t be that bad.”
“Where is this Camp Swampy?” I asked, knowing that further resistance was useless.
“It’s in Hibbing.” Dad said.
“Where’s that?” Karis wondered.
“In Minnesota.” Mom told us.
“Where’s that?” David asked.
Mom answered, “It’s next to Wisconsin and above Iowa and Illinois.”
“Are those countries or continents?” David pondered.
I could give you the details on how the rest of the conversation went, but it would be pointless. We didn’t want to go to a camp, and definitely not to a disease camp with man-eating mosquitoes. And to this day, David still gets his countries and continents mixed up. Plus, the description given of this camp didn’t sound good to us and I doubt any citizen of the United States of America—which is a country by the way—would think it does (unless you are Hagar the Horrible) .
The dates were set for the first full week of July. We would leave on Saturday, July 5th. There was no getting around it. We had no choice. We had to go.
The summer progressed and our feelings toward Swampy didn’t change. June was winding down and that meant soon we would be loading up the van and driving to Hibbing, Minnesota to spend a week at Camp Swampy. The Fourth of July came, which was normally a good day for me. But the dread of a ten hour drive and spending a week at a primitive place like Swampy lingered in my heart as well as David's.
As my head hit the pillow that night, I wondered why I was worrying so bad. I mean, any place that is fit to stay at for a week can’t be all that horrible. Plus, I had heard the pastor of the church that does the camp had a daughter who was only a year and a half older than me.
After I had thought the previous sentence, I hit myself on the head, scolding myself that that was the dumbest thought that had ever crossed my mind, even more so than the thought of spending a week at a primitive disease camp named Swampy.