Thanks for the structure and discipline in my life at a time when
I needed it. I can’t say how important an influence Bill Mayes, the Deerwoode
experience, and the counselors were in my life.
Biltmore…Farmers, Pioneers and Indians…Ketchup and Vinegar water…The French Broad…Mud Daubers…”The Cream Shall Rise”…your talley…Schrade…the lanyard…
The night of a large campout in Pisgah Forest with about 6 cabins, probably 50 kids. Creugar Ragland jumped up in the middle of a campfire and grabbed me and yelled, “Follow me!” We ran back into the woods where another counselor was screaming like a panther. Creuger whispered for me to take off my shirt. He promptly dumped a quart of ketchup on my chest and back and ran his fingers through it vertically leaving white and red stripes, threw me over his shoulder and said, “Scream!”… I did. He carried me back into the light of the campfire circle and laid me out for all the boys to see as I moaned and groaned a bit. I didn’t know that so many young boys could hold onto one person, Mr. Hicks, at the same time. I think a couple must have wet their pants and several were in tears before I absolutely had to get up and tell them it was a prank. A wild night in Pisgah Forest with the panthers…
First Memory of Deerwoode? Fat Gordon Sprott showing the film in my living room. It was the year Bill cut the deal to buy the camp from him. Bill took over those duties the next year. I couldn’t imagine anything more fun than going away to summer camp, swimming, hiking, canoeing, shooting, etc… I was always an independent sort. I signed up for six weeks my first summer, and never looked back. My first memory that really involved the camp was getting off the prop plane with a somewhat upset stomach. Meeting 30 to 50 other kids coming in on various flights from all over the southeast and gathering up the monstrously heavy trunks and schlepping them to the cattle truck, loading on the old Blue Bus, Blue Bird brand as I recall, for the drive to camp, and then having all the tree branches slapping the bus as we drove down the cliffside road into camp with the whole field opening up before us. Wow. What an experience. This was going to be fun.
Favorite Memory of Deerwoode? The lawyer Bob “Boom Boom” Bradshaw losing his one case where he dove into barbed wire during some commando operation. The details of the original event are all fuzzy at this point, but the argument and court case lives on. As I recall when I attended a reunion a few years ago it was back up for retrial.
Greatest Achievement at Deerwoode? Making JC, if one counts a singular event. But the course of repeat camper with all the goals, awards and achievements that entails, JC, and then Counselor.
Memory of Deerwoode You’ve Tried to Forget, not related to TM (The Man)? Backing the little white truck into a tree branch and denting the camper on it, and having Bill ask if I knew anything about it. Whoops forgot to report it. Got charged $25 for that one which was monster fine that far back. Bill banged it out with a hammer and went on with life.
Greatest Failure at Deerwoode? In my third year and planned final year as a counselor before going into my Senior year in college, sleeping through the bell and missing the start of period two swimming. Next thing I knew there was a kid at the cabin door asking if I was coming up to teach swimming. Bill had sent him down. I was assistant to Tom Radford that year and was teaching Life Saving at the lake before the wake up bell. I was off first period in order to assist Tom. Nothing was shaking as we were in the last week of camp. This was probably Tuesday before Saturday pickup. Needless to say there was court. Bill asked what punishment I thought I deserved. Being honest I said you’ve fired counselors for less, and I deserve the same. It did, however, come to light that the kids were all sitting around waiting for my arrival. No one was misbehaving or approaching the water. Yes, I ran the waterfront with an Iron Fist in the safety area. I think it was the kids, and the fact that there were only four days of camp left, that saved me from being fired. In this case, the court of judge, jury, and executioner in one, The Man, gave mercy I didn’t deserve. It was a good lesson. To paraphrase a proverb, A little sleep, a little slumber, and little folding of the hands, and The Man will come upon like a bandit, and judgment like an armed man.
Best memory of either the Rifle Range or Archery?
Personal: My first perfect round at the skeet range.
Most entertaining: Splitting arrows on the target in some archery competition. You should have heard the stories about who was the best shot after that. Ceaseless. They are probably still being told.
NATURE MAN – Best memory of Nature Class? That smelly guy we had for a couple of years. He must have been rolling around in the sheep dung. Bill finally had to have a conversation with him about bathing.
2. Sniffer bucking unsuspecting newbies.
3. Riding Bullet (the bull). Bill had raised him from a calf and used to wrestle him. You could back into his snout, and he’d lift you up and just toss you away. And at one point there was some film of me bare back. Bullet outgrew his ability to play with humans safely. I don’t what happened to him. Steaks? Bill?
Best memory of the Craft Shop? The miniature Jennie Bottle Liz made and the mantle piece decoration (glued on some bark with a bit of moss) when I had enquired if she had every tried to make one that small. Still have one or two of the old Deerwood post around.
Most notable/memorable Cabin Inspection story? Cabin 1 (or maybe 2) almost winning the inspection one year I was the counselor.
BLADE DUTY? Give up your best story? Run to the river and midnight to bring Hank back a Sycamore leaf. What the hell is does a Sycamore leaf look like. I sure don’t want to make this run more than once. This was some kind of punishment for cabin misbehavior in the early years before the blade and the lanyard became the staple forms of discipline. All I can remember is about 10 steps into the high grass and my sneakers were already filled to overflowing with water from the dew. Running to the fog in the pitch black….
Dubious Run-in With The Man? Driving the old pink JC car across the swim lake dam with a load of pre or post camp cleanup helpers (campers) on board. Bill just about had a spasm on the spot. No court. No fine. Just a one sentence safety lecture. Didn’t try that one again.
Favorite River Trip Memory? Mud Daubers. Get The Man to tell you story about the boys that had the car wreck and his encounter with them after being mud daubed (most likely by Hank and associates).
The second favorite is a counselor who lost his canoe. One of the fine thousand dollar wooden one. Got tumped over. The canoe got pushed under water upright according to the story (no air pocket). He got distracted with the counterattack, and the canoe was not to be found. I don’t remember who it was, and I don’t know if he got fired, but man was Bill steamed.
Favorite Dance or Spaz Day Memory with Illahee, Keystone, etc.? Shotgun primers in the campfire and folks catching schrapnel. Another close call. Damn liability insurance must have cost a fortune. No wonder everyone in the business thought Bill was crazy for letting us do all the wild stuff we did.
Open Question: All Day Trip? Ghosttown? Five Day Trip? Hank Lewis Story? Jim Hicks Story? Tug o War? Renegades? Farmers Pioneers Indians? Wild Ride? Swimming Lake? Dining Hall? Canteen? Treasure Chest? Crazy Jack? Cabin 13? All Camp Capture The Flag? PC? Best story of fellow counselor? Fellow camper? And finally…Camp Fire. Holy Cow! The list in almost endless:
Hank forgetting to put the Illahee dance on the calendar.
The year the convict escaped from the local prison and ran across the field during lunch time … His dying fall, and then the Sheriff driving out into the field to pick up the body. Throwing the body in the trunk of his car with the legs hanging out and driving back up to the camp road. Bill probably lost a camper or two that year from the letters that went home. There was ah, err, some explaining to do to some parents who called. How in the world did Liz put up with all that? Liz, enquiring minds want to know.
When we were still doing overnights at Pisgah Forest, we had a panther scare. Kruger Ragland jumped up and yelled what’s that at some twigs breaking in the woods near the campfire we were at. I was a JC on the trip. Mr. Hicks was there. And a couple of other counselors.
Being the subject of one of Derry Cochran’s sermons one Sunday. Man was I surprised. Bill almost fired four counselors who had been on the water-skiing trip. They had taken a neighborhood kid in and allowed him to participate in our activities (think tort liability and insurance issues) including eating hot dog with us, etc. The mother had then tried to sell some of the counselors handmade quilts. So, they had left the campsite with me in charge of four cabins of kids for about a half to one hour. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly. I was interviewed by the judge for the facts in the case. I don’t recall the final judgment but firing four counselors mid-season would have gutted the program. Nor sure Bill had too many choices on that one. I’d sure like the hear the other side of that story now.
My most shocking discovery was finding out how rigged the Tuscarora/Cherokee contest was during a session. Hank and later Tom used to just make up the scores for catching counselors on the hunts to even things out so that it would seem like a hot contest to the kids the last few days of camp.
Sight – Greatest visual memory? A cow giving birth tens steps across the barbed wire fence from the dining hall exactly at the time we were all queuing up for lunch.
Site – Best or top of mind spatial or physical location memory? Has to be the swim lake in general because I spent so many years there and
Sound – Most impressive sound memory? The wake up bell coupled with the morning fog.
Touch – Physical recollection? Wet sneakers in the dewy field, and the squish squish sound they made as we ran through the fields.
Smell – Try to conger one beyond the unique smell of Deerwoode?
Gunpower. Reloading shot gun shells in the hot stale air in the room in the corner of the big gym.
Taste? Getting a drink of cold water from the pump flooding the swim lake.
Fear – What scared you most? Impetigo. Two of my cabin 1 or 2 campers got it. I would have had 100% returnees if it hadn’t been for that. Unfortunately, they got about a week before camp was over, and the open sores had healed, but were still scabbed over, and were covered in a bright purple heavy salve when the parents came to pick them up. Nurse Patty was of the war path. We were having strip inspections up and down the cabin line every night for the rest of the session. Scared me to death.
Triumph? As a camper… challenging a cabin mate who was quite a bit larger than me who was from some troubled youth program in Texas to duke it out. I was tired of his hyperbole, BS about his new boots stopping him from slipping down the swim lake dam, and the relentless lip he was hassling me with. I finally had enough. He wanted a baseball bat to take me on. I said shut up or put and let got outside the cabin and have it out now. Well he backed down and that was the end of that. I was a small but tough customer. He would have probably eventually beaten me, but I was going to bloody him before I went down. The fight never happened. I think Bill invited him not to return.
As an alumnus. I’m not sure it’s really a triumph as much as a triumphal return. I came back to camp for a week or maybe two the two years I was in school getting my masters. It was always the last week or two of camp. I was an old hand, knew all the rules. Bill even said I was the breath of fresh energy and supercharge they needed to close out the summer. It was great. I stayed with some of you in the JC quarters in the small (new PC) gym. Watched court sessions. But I had no responsibilities. I went to the classes and Tuscarora/Cherokee contests I wanted to go to and was this crazy wild man full of energy on the canoe and other special events that the kids didn’t know quite what to do with. Bonus points in the counselor hunts for catching me. All great fun. Sure was a great break from the work a day world I had been in. Ya’ll have fun at this year’s reunion.