My thirteen summers at Camp Deerwoode remain among the fondest memories of my life. Unforgettable characters like Hank Lewis, Battle Brown, Jim Hill, the Pickett Boys, Sheephead Ed Daniels, Pat Scanlon, Allen Marroy, Cooper Taylor and of course, Bill Mayes, The Man or just T.M.
Bill Mayes played a pivotal role in my life and the lives of the other Deerwoode boys, many of whom I have kept in touch with over the years. This is particularly true for the dozens of young men who were extremely fortunate to have served in the Deerwoode JC program. It was simply the very best life preparatory program for teenage boys one could imagine.
Bill’s larger than life leadership by example was (and still is to this day) as powerful as any force of nature. His clearly defined world of black and white gave a generation of Deerwoode boys a simple playbook for life which still is the measuring stick by which all true Deerwoode men judge their successes and failures.
When faced with a difficult decison or circumstance, President Reagan used to try to do what John Wayne would do. We Deerwoode men, try to do what Bill would do. When we succeed it is in large part due to lessons we learned at Deerwoode. When we fail, it is because we did not give a bonafide 100% Camp Deerwoode effort — and we know it. Of course, the Deerwoode way is turn any setback into a success the old fashioned way. By hard work — Camp Deerwoode style.
One night when I was a JC, a sheep in Bill’s flock was killed by a dog. Bill cut the dead sheep’s head off and put it next to my pillow on my bed which awakened me. When I woke up feeling a wet sensation on my shoulder (which was sheep blood), the sheep’s head rolled off of my bunk and hit the floor with a thud. When I looked down, I mistook the sheep’s head for a human head for a second. Bill and Gene Spivey took great delight in the entire scene.
Spivey and I then played the same trick on first-year JC (or peon) Tom “Sonar” McDonald, who was practically blind — and was truly scared to death by the previously unidentifiable sheep’s head after he put on his coke-bottle thick glasses. We then put the sheep head in Counselor Dave Lister’s bed in Cabin two. Lister was not amused and chased Spivey and me all the way back to the JC cabin. It was a wild night!
Wild Ride? Pat Scanlan (6’8”, 260 lbs), a Deerwoode original, trying a new Wild Ride sled for Bill one summer in the late ‘70’s and catching about four feet of air after hitting the small ridge in front of the old Sycamore tree where the new tennis courts would later be. Scanlan was a bigger than life character who on this occasion demonstrated that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, as he crashed with a heart-stopping thud, which made Bill think that “it (Deerwoode) was over”. Scanlan laughed harder than anybody and shook it off, much to TM’s relief!
Dining Hall? Jeff “Sarge” Kepcke, in one of his last acts in his one short week as the Head Cook, chases Spivey, his assistant cook, out of the front door of the dining hall ten minutes before lunch with a broom shouting over his shoulder to me “Adams, watch my fries!”, as Radford and I watched in disbelief. As I recall, Bill was on the Cherokee trip when Sarge’s kitchen spiraled out of control. He and Spivey were relieved of their duties that night and I was given my first shot as Head Cook three days earlier than scheduled.
Best story of fellow counselor? Spivey and I putting a real sheep’s head in Dave Lister’s bed one night in Cabin 2 and being chased all the way back to the JC cabin by Lister. [see above]
Fellow camper? As JC’s the Garcia Brothers blow up the trash pit behind the wood shop using too much gasoline on the trash fire, just before the explosion, Ted Fitzgerald and I hear “Ay Caramba!!, then Kaboom!!!” Luckily, David and Jesus were OK.
Sight – watching the leaders in the Deerwoode Decathlon mile run emerge from the fog enveloping the big field early in the morning with Flatt & Scruggs playing loudly on the Deerwoode JC’s stereo.
Sound – Taps at Campfire
Touch – hitting the cold water at 7:00 am teaching lifesaving to the JC peons every summer.
Smell – cooking hundreds of burgers and dogs as a JC at Deerwoode cookouts
Taste – pinto beans and onions on the leftover table — a Bill Mayes special!
Fear – JC program constructive criticism sessions as a peon. “Is this the night they fire me?”
Embarrassment – taking a bow in the dining hall after cooking soupy grits as head cook one time, which did spare me the fine I would have otherwise paid. It also led to a take-off on Butterbeans as campfire that week – “Adams Soupy Grits”! Triumph – nighttime basketball games in the PC gym – a short court that was easy get up and down Guilly! As for the Vanilla Freckle Thunder, I was no slam dunk artist, but I was a good rebounder, which Daryl Dawkins was not. McGuire got it right 30 years ago, I was “White Wes” (Unseld), much more blue collar on the basketball court than Chocolate Thunder ever was.