Return to Memories

Alex Nixon


HANK, first period swimming, constructive criticism with Mayes in the JC cabin after midnight, Ronnie Pickett, Ogle, canoe trips, sleeping in rain soaked tents on the island at Lake Glenville, preventive maintenance with Mr. Taylor, Briggs, working in the dining hall, mowing with the tractor, ET McCullough, the cattle truck, shinny, the ditch, the cables, cinnamon buns, beans and rice, milk gravy and biscuits and the list goes on.

During a campfire at Illahee someone threw shotgun primers in the campfire, one went off and landed in a camper’s chest. Maddest I ever saw Mayes when the whole camp was put in the gym to gain a confession or the time we came out of the Coed Theatre uptown and saw all the commotion at the end of the street. Some drunk had driven his car into Frank the cook’s house and knocked Frank out of bed

…or the Summer of the Panther!


Favorite Memory of Deerwoode? Bill Mayes is my favorite memory of Deerwoode.  Without him, my brother John nor I would be where we are (no snickering) today.  He taught us to do the right thing and that everything is either black or white, no gray in life son.  So far I have been successful in instilling that in my college bound daughter (11 years at Illahee) and I am working on my 15 year old son.  I tell him daily that if only I could put him with Bill Mayes for one summer. John tells his son the same thing.

Four men formed my life; my father, Bill, my high school football coach and my high school lacrosse coach.  My father and lacrosse coach are now gone so all I have is Bill and my football coach who lives in Maine. Not to sound corny, but after Deerwoode I was able to go to a prestigious but very Spartan boarding school in New England.  Their motto is “Simplicity of Life, Directness of Purpose and Self Reliance”.  I believe that sums up what my father, Bill and the two coaches instilled in me.  Thank you, Bill!!  You have no idea how grateful I am.  Greatest Achievement at Deerwoode?  Either my first or second year as JC I spent all my time on the tractor mowing or in the kitchen working.  The campers got on my nerves.  In the decathlon you had the basketball shoot, 3 layups from each side, 3 free throws and 3 jump shots.  I walked in and made all 12 right in front of Radford and went back up the hill to wash pots. I was tied by Greg Keith in the basketball program, a hot dog from Charlotte who thought he was the man, went on to Georgia on a BB scholarship. Anyway, I was the talk of the day as it blew Radford away.

Best memory of either the Rifle Range or Archery? Bill Ogle and Gene Fowler.  Bill Ogle from Memphis was known as “Super Camper”  He was probably the most nonathletic body in camp but Mayes loved him.  I was a JC with him as he was older.  He knew everything there was about firearms, ammunition, etc.  That was the beginning of the skeet program which Bill worked really hard on and Bill started the reloading of shells program with Ogle.  “Mr. Gene”(husband of Effie Fowler, our beloved cook from Arkansas.) and Ogle ran the gun shop and skeet range with an iron fist.  Ogle also had a way with animals as there was not a snake that went through camp that he would not catch for the nature program.  He had a great personality as he always wore army dungarees.  The campers loved him.  His relationship with Bill reminded me of Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke”, when “Captain” wanted his shotgun, it was always there for him.  Ogle was the man and a great asset to the camp then.

NATURE MAN – Best memory of Nature Class? EeeeeTeeeee McCullough!!!!!!  A different dude, strong as an ox for his size but was one of Deerwoode’s first “tree huggers”.  Needless to say, Hank stayed on top of his program!!!!  One day we were all dining at supper when the two front screen doors open and ET walks in wet as a rat, covered in mud with sticks in his hair.  He marches over to Hank’s table to demand that a certain counselor(s) be fired immediately.  If memory serves me right, it was Bradshaw who was the counselor of discussion who was sitting calmly at his table showered and all cleaned up. Apparently on the afternoon canoe trip, ET was ambushing and tumping at the first bend but when he returned to his hidden canoe it and his camper were mysteriously missing.  He was the last one, so he had to walk, float, swim… all the way back to camp.  Hank removed his fork from his meal, rain it through his hair a couple of times and told ET to tell it walking.  ET then bee lined for the JC table which Bill always presided over.  We must have had soup or chili that night as all I remember was Bill hiding that famous grin of his in the bowl. By then the entire camp was in laughter, and ET stormed out the door with a forehead hot enough to fry an egg on it.  Bradshaw was not reprimanded. Classic Deerwoode!!!!

Dubious Run-in with The Man? My third year we were camping as a group at Cove Creek in PNF.  It was Bill’s first year, but he was doing a lot of observing and not saying much.  The counselors were asleep, and we were smoking grape vine, making firebombs with Styrofoam, etc.… Just being typical dumb assess. All of a sudden, out of nowhere appears Bill in a Camp t-shirt, jeans and boots, just standing in the firelight saying nothing. Silence prevailed and he started speaking, softly talking about what he was going to do, asking us what we wanted to do and correcting our manners along the way.  We had some punks in the group, and he put them in their place immediately. We listened to him for about an hour or two then he just disappeared again. Apparently, he had parked down the road and walked in on us.  I was not planning on coming back the next year, but I made up my mind that night that I had to see what this dude was up to. Boy did I not have a clue. Definitely a crossroads decision in my life where I took the right turn.  Wish all of them were like that.

Favorite River Trip Memory? Hank Lewis when I was a Cub.  There was a counselor to every canoe and no tumping.  I was Hank’s bowman and he sang from his stern position all the way.  Man had talent!!!!

When I was a JC we usually took the canoes to the river after kitchen duty.  Sometimes Bill and Big Goofy would do it if we were still cleaning up.  A really big group was going that day so extra canoes were needed.  Big Goof told Bill he would ride on the trailer to keep an eye on them.  Off they went in the station wagon with canoes in tow.  On the really sharp turn just past Illahee the hitch came off of the ball and the station wagon went right and the trailer went straight into the corn field. Bill turned around and said Goofy was riding the front of the canoe wagon through the corn like John Wayne trying to bring a runaway stagecoach to a stop.  Bill said it was one of the funniest things he had ever seen.  Needless to say, Goofy was white as a sheet.

Hank Lewis Story?  One summer Bill decided all the JC’s needed a blade, so he gave us all Schrade Walden’s’.  If he asked for yours to use and it was not sharp, woe be you.  We used to have counselor meetings on the porch of the old Big House overlooking the swim lake (now where Miss Liz’s house sits).  JCs were included.  John Goins was the Program Director then and was talking.  Hank motioned to his boy, Ronnie Pickett, to give him his Schrade to clean his fingernails. Hank loved Ronnie (from Jax, Florida) as when Ronnie was a camper in Hank’s infamous Cabin 15, Ronnie would clean Hank’s 3-5-7 during Rest Period.  Only person back then allowed inside Hank’s bed “zone”.  Anyway, Hank is cleaning his nails away when a wasp buzzed him. After several swipes Hank splits his right ear like a baked potato, blood going everywhere.  He screams “Gawd Almighty” drops the knife and runs around the building to the infirmary screaming for Guilly’s mother, the nurse.  At dinner, he has a big old bandage covering his ear and was in foul humor.  Needless to say, he broke up the counselor’s meeting as there was no way Bill nor John could be serious after that.

There are so many others, but my favorite visual memory of Hank was on Opening Day.  His Camp T-Shirt, his ratty blue with a white stripe Pfeiffer College warm-up bottoms and track shoes meeting the parents. He would walk up with the palm of his right hand parallel to the ground and say,” Hiya, Hank Lewis, Program Director” (or Waterfront Director before Mayes). After cordials he then would tug on his crotch and move on.

 May he rest in peace.  One of the most interesting fellows I have ever known.


Site –  Pisgah National Forest-Just going through stone columns sent chills down my spine.  What a special playground for a young boy.  Had a lot to do with my choosing forestry as a profession. Cove Creek, The Parkway, Graveyard, Sliding Rock and the Davidson River, Fish Hatchery, Looking Glass, Pink Beds, Cradle of Forestry .….

Sound –  Hank at his annual Saturday Supper pre Decathlon Speech ending it with “the Cream shall rise in the morning!”    The Bell, it was always a game changer.

Smell –  Positive The Smell of the Mountains in the Summer, nothing like it, Mrs. Fowlers cinnamon buns. Negative-The Cattle Truck pulling in from Lake Glenville full of puked on sleeping bags and wet campers.

Taste – What’s the best dining hall memory?  Biscuits and gravy, red beans and onions or steaks on Cabin Inspection Award night.

Embarrassment  –  This one was tough.  Probably getting the hell beat out of me in a boxing tournament by the nurses’ son-Danny Cornell. The rest of the morning all I heard from everybody was ”Bill is looking for you”.

Greatest triumphs at Camp -Talking to TM about this and he’s noticed some of our stories get more embellished and fanciful…and more valiant, as we get older.  I questioned, “Is that wrong?”  He pretty much said,  “Let it fly.  There’s still a fine system in place!”   As a JC in the Decathlon, I sank 12 out of 12 in basketball shooting.  Only one to tie me was the infamous Greg Keith from Charlotte who was the hot dog of the Bill’s beloved Basketball Program.  Radford shook his head for days. Yes, I was a co winner of an decathlon event!!!!!!!.