Return to Memories

Tim Stuart


Favorite Memory of Deerwoode? So many stories… One of the wildest was my second year as a JC in 1975 — we had already moved into the PC building. The details are fuzzy, but here goes…Bill had Hank and Tom announce that there had been an escape from the local jail and for the campers and counselors to keep vigilant for any strangers lurking around camp. They did this for several days, casually, as part of the regular announcements. One afternoon, then, during rest period, the “escapee” made his appearance. Bill dressed up JC Allen Samford in jeans, a flannel shirt with a bandanna, boots, and work gloves, and an old man over-the-head rubber mask (and a hat, maybe) The “convict” ran down the cabin row towards the dining hall, occasionally crossing the cabin porches, to appropriate yelling and words of caution from the “adults”.

 Now, there was a guy named Washburn who was our food service supplier. Mr. Washburn drove a light green sedan equipped with an external PA system. He was also the owner of an official deputy sheriff’s “smoky bear” style hat (I think he “found” it on a hat rack in a restaurant). So immediately after the convict had run by, here comes Washburn flying down the road, kicking up gravel and dust while making siren sounds on his PA.

 By this time, Allen started running back down the road and, just past the big gym, turned and headed across the field to the river. “Sheriff” Washburn cut doughnuts in front of the dining hall to get turned around and headed out into the field as well, still blaring the siren sounds. We watched from a distance as the convict was “subdued” (can’t remember how—maybe a shovel across the head) It was hysterical as we watched the long arms of the law pop the “unconscious” convict into his trunk and drive out with ol’ Allen’s legs hanging out the back.

To nobody’s surprise, there were several mattresses outside cabins getting aired out over the next few days and a few irate parents who called the camp to find out what the hell was going on after receiving letters from their sons.

NATURE MAN – Best memory of Nature Class? I remember keeping one eye on Mr. Green Jeans, an evil rooster that Bill marked with green spray paint. Dang thing would drive his spurs into your back and flog you if you forgot where he was.  I also remember he was pretty tasty at the end of camp one year.

Dubious Run-in With The Man? It was near the end of my last year as a camper (1973) and I was in cabin 13, over the craft shop. Gib Wilson and I had just submitted our names to be considered for the JC program, at the insistence of our counselor. We decided to sneak out after lights out one night to raise a little ruckus (out of character for either of us, but whatever…) At the time, I could do a piercing werewolf howl that sounded just like the movies, so we started down at cabin 1 — Gib raked a stick across the back wall while I howled, and we scrambled to the upper path to hide. Kruegar Ragland, the counselor, emerged from the cabin spitting nails and searching with his flashlight beam. When he went back in, we hit a couple more cabins down the line and sat down on the upper path just below the JC cabin 16, to catch our breath and enjoy the quiet for a moment. Suddenly, there was a beam in our face—we hadn’t heard Bill walk right up to us on the path. “Good evening, boys”, he said, as the path went dark again. He then proceeded to have a very calm conversation with us, which was actually more unnerving than getting read the riot act. Gib and I thought we had blown it, but we were selected as JCs for the following year, moving into cabin 16. (I still have the rafter crossbeam with my name written on it with toothpaste—removed somehow before demolition).

Hank Lewis Story? It was 1975. We JC’s were asleep in the upstairs of the PC gym. Early one morning, we were awakened by this god-awful bellowing coming from the tennis court beside us. It seemed that Bullet, an enormous longhorn bull, had escaped his pen and his horns had become entangled in the tennis net. We all scrambled to get dressed and someone ran up to the Big House to get Bill. We weren’t sure what to do—that bull weighed at least a ton. Somehow, we freed it from the net and tried to herd it back toward the nature area. About that time, Hank was up and heading for the Big TeePee (the large bathhouse) for his morning constitutional, when he heard all the commotion. We had directed the bull down the road when Hank decided to strut a bit and come down the hill to get involved. Without warning, the dang bull detoured up to the lower path in front of cabin row, and straight at Hank Lewis, who then started to run, only to get butted down the hill, almost into the road. Of course, being Hank, he was seemingly unfazed by the whole ordeal, dusted himself off and went on his way. We chuckled quietly all the way to the Nature area, along with Bill, who had arrived by this time to take charge.

Camper? It was my turn to have TeePee duty one year as a JC. I walk into the Little TeePee to clean it, and there is little Baron Pickett calmly peeing up the wall. I glanced out the door when I heard someone approaching and, as it happened, Bill was coming down the path. I told him what was going on, and he called him out. “Baron!” he said sternly. “What in the world are you doing?” The fearless Baron replied with his gravelly voice, “I saw a spider on the wall.” After a pause, Bill asked him, “Well, didja get him?” Baron answered with a grin, “Yeah, I got him good!”


Sound: There are 2 that come to mind 1) I was a camper in cabin 13 for a couple of years, and one of those years Hank Lewis was one of our counselors. Hank used to place square blocks of 2X4 under the legs at the head of his bed. (Of course, that was probably the least of his eccentricities). One night, a bunch of us decided to ooch the blocks out to where they were barely under the legs, and then scrambled into our bunks. It was already lights out and quiet as we pretended to sleep. We could hear him getting into the sack, but the blocks held, at least until he turned over, then WHAM—one block gave way. There was a loud, “Got oh mighty dawg!” and his damn searchlight popped on—you know, one of those beams that was so bright it would sear your flesh. He lit us all up, but we were mostly under our blankets and playing as possum as we could. After a minute or so, he moved just enough that the other block went, which prompted another chorus of “Got oh mighty dawg!” and I thought we were going to pee ourselves. I don’t really remember any retaliation at all, and we counted ourselves lucky to have pulled it off.

2) Near the end of my Deerwoode career, I became Assistant Program Director (Kinda like “Assistant to the Regional Manager”). On the counselor’s nights off, I had OD with Bill and Tom. We would sit near the top of the steps below the big teepee and just jaw—or they would jaw and I would be enjoying the rarified air of just being included from time to time. The best sound in the world at that time was the muted sound of the top popping on that first can of Busch (It was always Busch). Amazing times. As a matter of fact, one of those times led to one of my favorite sights:

Sight: Bill, Tom, and I had already had a few cold ones on one of those Saturday nights. That evening, there was a group of Illahee campers and counselors who had asked permission to camp out on Deerwoode property while on an extended canoe trip. We could see their campfire way across the field. Bill said something and slipped away down the road ( I got the feeling that he and Tom had already been scheming). About 5 minutes later we heard the bloodcurdling scream of the panther from the direction of the river and a very faint scream. Two or three minutes later the panther was much closer to that campfire (Never knew how Bill could move so fast in the dark) and the faint screams were a little less faint. Tom and I were laughing our butts off, but jumped into the Datsun and headed across the field as fast as we dared. The sight of wide-eyed, shivering campers and counselors—some of whom were bundled in blankets and all a-twitter, was absolutely priceless. Tom and I were straight-faced and seriously concerned for their well-being. As we got out of the truck, some of the girls latched onto our arms and it was really hard to keep it together. Eventually, we were able to clue in the counselor in charge as to what was going on, and she played along beautifully. I think we had them bang sticks on the bottoms of their canoes to scare away the panther…

Touch: Getting our final certification for life-saving as a JC and being forced to use a cross-chest carry to bring in barrel-chested and muscular Krueger Ragland. He didn’t make it easy— He would flip and thrash and nearly drown us. When it was my turn to haul him in, he flipped around one time and I was thinking, “He’s going to drown me!” I then had an epiphany — with my left arm firmly across his chest, my left hand was nestled in his armpit. So, I grabbed a fist-full of his underarm hair and tugged. The more he thrashed, the harder I tugged. He screamed a lot, but he was much more cooperative by then and I passed the test.

Smell: The sawdust up at the shop—still a favorite

Taste: Watermelon—still a flashback in every bite. I can still see ol’ Hank slicing up those melons just as fast as he could with a huge curved knife that always looked to me like a scimitar. “Back off, boys, or you’ll lose your tally!”

Fear: The dances, at least at the beginning of the night (when the sun was still out). I always felt so awkward around girls, although as it got darker, I became braver and would sometimes do okay. Didn’t do much better as a counselor. As I recall, the preferred venue was Kahdalea—they were just a tad friendlier than the others.

Embarrassment: I was never an outstanding athlete—certainly not compared to a lot of my Deerwoode brethren. I did learn the fundamentals of many sports while at Deerwoode and tried my best, but just didn’t have the physical gifts to really excel at any one sport.

Triumph: I did discover that I had a knack for rope jumping, and achieved the 85th percentile with 225 in one minute. Did that as a young counselor, so didn’t count for any awards — just my personal satisfaction. Never knew where that came from…