Last week for the first time in 59 years, I went again. Camping at Rock Eagle, I was a volunteer. There were about 1,000 preteen campers and some of the bravest people I know — the adults — led by Cherokee County Extension Agent Trudy Christopher and her assistant Ashley Witcher.
Others like Janie Ray and Hal Jones, who are a product of 4-H, have been going as volunteers for decades.
Going to camp after 59 years was not exactly the same. This time I carried 40 extra pounds that were not in my suitcase. I was not one of the girls rushing into a cabin trying to claim a top bunk bed either.
Whoever made duty assignments must have heard about me. Probably the lifeguards had some say in that. I forgive them if they were thinking about possible permanent damage to their backs if they had to rescue me. Thus, my first assignment was on the side of the pool and not in the water.
Someone was probably concerned about my having a heat stroke when they decided what my afternoon duties would be. I was in charge of putt-putt. I was simply handing out and putting away putt-putt balls and clubs.
Since the temperature was 97 degrees, it would have been easy for anyone to have a heat stroke just doing that.
Since my years as a camping 4-Her, many things at camp have changed and many are the same.
Some campers still get homesick. They have a headache and/or stomachache. Most recover when they begin having fun. It may be when they go down the giant water slide or are learning to canoe.
Often kids who are 10, 11 and 12 years old do not fully comprehend the instructions their parents give them. One girl was reminded that going swimming was not the same as taking a bath. “You must take A BATH,” her mother had said.
She did exactly what her mother had told her to do. She took “A BATH” on Wednesday. Other days, she did not bother.
For some reason when a child’s underwear is lost then found, the child will never own up to it being theirs. They must be too embarrassed. That happened in our cabin, too.
Four-H Club camp is a learning experience and a fun time. As well as learning about the origin of Rock Eagle, life from centuries ago, birds that are raptors, leather tooling, etc., the campers learned more about everyday living skills.
We call them life lessons. Being on their own and managing their money for the first time, some learned not to spend all their money on the first day.
One bemoaned she had spent most of her money on several five dollar bracelets and did not have enough left to buy the canteen’s fabulous “icees” for the rest of the week.
Campers were allowed to bring disposable cameras. A camper used all her film on the day we arrived taking pictures of the cabin she was in. When she wanted to take pictures of other things, she was out of luck.
My morning poolside duty was with about 20 campers who were beginning swimmers. All of them learned on the first day. On day two, they all mustered up the courage to jump off a diving board. The instructors were encouraging and had the patience of Job.
Some parents had put their children’s clothes for each day in big Ziploc bags before putting them in their luggage. The parents were probably shocked when they opened the luggage after the campers got home and saw most of those Ziploc bags of clean clothes had not been opened.
Each cabin was competing to be awarded the tribal shield at the end of the week. Among the things that caused a cabin to lose points was having a light on after lights out. That included flashlights.
It was a serious competition. Some of the girls in our cabin were concerned we might lose points because of a lightening bug in their room.
I tried, but I could not catch it. So, I assured them the light from a lightning bug would not count against us.
I confess that while 4-H Club camp is as wonderful as it was 59 years ago, I am not the same. For two days after we returned I spent a lot of time dozing on the sofa.
Now that I have gotten my second wind I keep thinking, I hope Trudy and Ashley will need an overweight, well-seasoned volunteer for camp next year. I will be available.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.