A personal narrative about summer camp. I need feedback for extra credit. Please help!
A place of incredible significance to me is Camp Horseshoe, the summer camp I’ve gone to for 5 years and counting. Horseshoe is a Boy Scout camp, comprised of the larger half of the Horseshoe scout reservation, an area of land in the “horseshoe” bend of Octoraro river on the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, given to Chester County Council nearly a century ago. Behind the gravel parking lot, nearly parallel with the last section of the camp road, is a large grey rock blocking cars from an unassuming dirt path, usually more mud than dirt. Passing first by MacIlvane Lodge, then the Nature lodge.
Finally, the path reaches the entry to Roberts, one of the campsites within camp. My troop, troop 222, has stayed at Roberts during the fourth week of camp for decades. Within Roberts, there are seven regular “adirondaks”, open-air three-walled cabins with four bunks, four cabinets, a basic desk, and a roof sloping back towards the back wall. There are also two leader adirondaks, distinguished only by their location at the head of the camp near the gate, and a latrine roughly 50 yards behind the ring of adirondaks.
My first year at summer camp was difficult for me, a week riddled with homesickness and emotions running high. I had just finished fifth grade, which had been a hard school year for me, and was just eleven years old at the time. The first day of camp, I was eager for my parents to leave and to get my first summer-camp experience underway. I had a blast, but as I clambered into my top bunk, which I had yet to figure out a good way into, it hit me. It hit me like a wave crashing onto the shore. I tried to stave it off by playing cards with my bunkmates, which we quickly grew tired of. Then I tried to distract myself with reading, but the scoutmaster, Mr. Fresta, came around to all the guys to tell us it was lights out. Finally, with no more distractions to protect myself, it hit me. Homesickness. I had never really been away from home before, not truly. Within just a few minutes I was up, clambering out of my bunk, and nervously walking over to the adirondak for the adults.
“Mr. Fresta?” I peeped.
“What’s wrong?” he exasperatedly replied, before explaining that it would all be fine, we could talk more in the morning, I need to get to sleep. Back to bed I went. It didn’t last though, because in just a few minutes I was back up.
“Mr. Fresta?” I, again, was at the adult’s adirondak.
“Go back to bed, Knox”, he said, not getting up. Back to bed I went. After twenty minutes of tossing, turning, counting sheep, trying anything to sleep, I gave up.
“WHAT?” I don’t know what it was. It wasn’t Mr. Fresta, that much was certain. The low, grumbling reply that I was met with was certainly not human, but surely a bear or other creature seeking to do me harm. I raced back to bed, not looking back. I didn’t dare move, let alone get up again. Eventually, I drifted off, terrified of what I would later discover to be Mr. Yoder, a dad in the troop, who wouldn’t hurt a fly. The rest of the week had its challenges, but I didn’t have any trouble sleeping again.
My second year passed by almost without incident, although much harder. Second year campers can choose their own merit badges to take. This year, I decided to try to get as many of the “harder” badges as I could. My schedule was packed with Emergency Preparedness, Personal Fitness, and First Aid. P-Fit and E-Prep were no joke. My days devolved into running the half-mile Camp Road loop, sit-ups, push-ups, and more laps around the loop. In the breathless moments between, I was studying for the First Aid test the counselor warned was coming on Friday. I thought E-Prep wasn’t too bad, save for the extra laps I had to run, but I was mistaken. My counselor revealed the situational drill, a mock emergency, and that we would need to display our skills in teamwork, first aid, prompt response time, and crowd control. Early Friday morning, around 2:30 am, I was woken and told to get to the boat docks.
Eventually, we all arrived to the scene. It was supposed to be a bombing, with plenty of victims all around. An older boy tossed me a long wooden pole, and told me to go wrangle Wade, the Aquatics director. I, a five-foot-nothing featherweight of a 6th grader, was told to contain Wade, the 6’4”, absolutely massive fully grown man, who just-so-happened to be shrieking like a velociraptor. Alone. It went about as well as you can imagine, just running in circles, weaving through the crowd. Eventually, some older boys from my troop grabbed Wade and tied him up, strapped him to a headboard, which is meant to immobilize you if you break your back, and told me to help carry him back up the hill. That was easier said than done, even with the four of us. After what felt like an eternity of huffing and puffing, along with some taunting velociraptor-shrieks from Wade, we made it, tied Wade to a picnic bench, and ran back down to the docks. The rest of the drill, and the week, seemed almost dull in comparison.
The rest of my years at Horseshoe also had their share of stories, but none seemed as important, as wondrous, as those first two years. The what seems to be the best stories from the following years are not my own, but from observing the antics of the first and second year campers, as they go through the self-discovery that is inevitable when out of pushing your boundaries and venturing outside of your comfort zone. Horseshoe is hugely important to me, a constant through the years. As I rapidly approach my final, and undoubtedly best, year as a camper, I am filled with nostalgia, especially for the first two years of discovery and challenge.