Apparently there was a common goal at summer camp

“It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.”

– Dave Barry

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Kids everywhere are going off to summer camp right now. For my kids, 35 years ago, it was Camp Huwani. The East Texas boys and girl’s summer mecca in Shelby County that opened in 1965 still welcomes young campers today.

A few years before Camp Huwani opened its cabins, I was making summer camping memories at Boy Scout Camp Glover, just across the Red River in Southern Oklahoma. The facility remains today as a Boy Scout camp known as Camp Frederick H. Dierks (Camp Dierks).

A handful of fading black-and-white photographs discovered last week awakened some of those long slumbering memories of summer camp and highlights that make wet tents and bad food seem like it yesterday’s fun.

Rainstorms were always a factor at Camp Glover. Still, nights spent with water dripping on my bedroll pale in comparison to those of the wildlife, the food, and the journey to get there. Transportation during the days of Mount Pleasant Coach Sam Parker’s Boy Scout Troop 201 more closely resembled a military maneuver. World War II was not that many years in the nation’s rear-view mirror and most of us in scouting about 1960 used either military issue gear our fathers returned home with or items purchased at the Army Surplus store out on Highway 67. True to fashion, I carried a weeks’ worth of clothes and everything else in dad’s Army issue olive drab duffel bag still bearing “Aldridge, Leon D,” and his military ID number stenciled on it. With that bag over my shoulder and his Army issue web belt with canteen and folding shovel securely around my waist, I boarded the back of the canvas-topped open-air troop transport truck from the local National Guard unit for the two-hour non-stop ride north.

A network of dirt roads connected isolated and wooded campsites at Camp Glover to other areas referenced by military speak: the PX (basic supplies store) and the “mess hall” (dining hall) for hungry hikers.

Aside from young scouts, the camp was also filled with wild hogs that needed no invitation to invade campsites seeking food. They were particularly bold at night, and a herd of the pudgy porkers rumbling through and wreaking havoc on a bunch of sleeping city kids was common fare.

Helping guide young Boy Scouts through a week of summer adventure every year was a volunteer adult leader. One of those brave souls was MPHS teacher James Criscoe. While Mr. Criscoe had as much fun as we did, it was apparent from the get-go that experienced “roughing it” camper was not on his resume. Upon arrival, we showed him how set up the tents. Then later, with the aid of a camping knife, we helped him convert the dress slacks he had packed into summer camp shorts. After supper and back at camp that first night, he also joined in the festivities of hog calling. Never mind that hog calling was neither a necessary nor desired skill at Camp Glover. It was just fun to stand on a picnic table and holler, “Woo-pig-sooie,” at the top of your lungs.

With or without invitation, the 3:00 a.m. thunder coming down the mountainside woke us up before the wave of wildlife rampaged the camp knocking down tents and leaving no cot unturned. By the time we got camp rebuilt, the sun was coming up one side of the hill, and the aroma of breakfast was wafting up the other side from the mess hall.

Nowhere in the travel brochure do I recall anything about exquisite cuisine at Camp Glover. In fact, there was no travel brochure either. A Boy Scouts of America permission slip and $15 of my summer yard mowing money was all that was required to cover the week’s stay.

Maybe it was just the first time many of us had ever encountered powdered milk, powdered eggs, beans, and biscuits that could have passed for World War II issue, but the food seemed … well, awful. Reinforcing those memories of the food was a song session every day before lunch. Still in my mind are melodic strains of “Today is Monday, Monday beans … today is Tuesday, Tuesday soup!”

It made no difference to the hogs what day it was though, or what was on the menu. Rain or shine, they seldom missed a night rooting around under cots and in duffel bags searching for cake, cookies, or any other secretly stashed survival treats.

Now that I think about it, maybe the pigs’ goal at summer camp was no different than that of the campers: searching for something better to eat than mess hall food.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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