Camp brings out the adventurer

July 06, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

Before I left home for a week as a camp counselor at a ranch in central Tennessee, there were some things I was sure I would not do.

Other counselors would see how fast they could mount a saddleless horse.

They could get caught up in the frog races.

They could even chase a pig.

I would be a calm observer, on hand in case one of the children needed a responsible adult.

That presumption was proven wrong a few hours after we stepped off the bus.

Perhaps I had a change of heart when a stranger asked if I was a summer staff worker. Someone thinks I look like a college student? My spirits soared. Maybe that's what made me feel a little younger, a tad more adventurous.

Seeing the children's utter joy as they participated in the various competitions was pretty convincing, as well.

I remember how much fun it was as a child when our club leaders would play with us.


So from the first day, I played right along with the kids.

We had some book learning - each morning we had Bible training and American heritage classes, and each evening we had church services - but most of the activities involved the outdoors.

During our first pool time, I resolved to get wet just up to my shoulders. Who wants to redo hair and makeup midmorning?

Then one of the campers asked if I could swim well enough to go off the diving board. I told her I could but that I didn't want to get my hair wet.

"Why not? The rest of your body's wet," she proclaimed.

I had to admit that she was right, so I followed her up to the board and smiled as the girls cheered my attempts at a cannonball.

At camp, I quickly found out that my ponytail holders were more useful than my curling iron.

Each afternoon we had Super Sports and Destination Exhilarations. (An adult's interpretation: Activities designed to make kids so tired they won't argue about a 10 p.m. lights-out rule.)

When counselors were asked Monday afternoon if they'd like to play battle ball, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Someone had to stand in back and make sure the little ones didn't get hurt.

Before long, though, I was going all out for my team and cheering like I was in school again.

Monday evening we went on a cookout, riding horses along a mountain trail to a clearing where we had burgers cooked over an open fire.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about mounting the horse. After a cowboy assured me I would not hurt the animal by sitting on him, I climbed aboard. It wasn't hard to get up, and the ride was really a lot of fun.

Once a cowboy rode up beside me and suggested that I hold the reins a little lower.

"Oh, I'm hurting him, aren't I?"

He smiled and shook his head. "No, you're not hurting him. You're just sending mixed signals."

By pulling up on his reins, I was telling him to stop, but by gently pressing my knees into his side, I was telling him to go. Once I got that concept, the next day's trail ride was a cinch.

Tuesday evening we hunted for frogs to enter in Wednesday's frog race. (Disclaimer: All the animals mentioned in this story were treated humanely. They had breaks between events and were kept fully hydrated. In other words, they were treated better than the counselors.)

I cheered so loudly for my campers' frogs that I could barely talk the next day. The frog race was so exciting, I couldn't help myself.

The real challenge came later in the week during the rodeo. My son had warned me that counselors would be given the opportunity to compete for the fastest time in mounting a horse.

The week before we left for camp, I assured him I wouldn't be participating in that event.

But when we got to the rodeo, I was caught up in the excitement and volunteered.

With the help of a clown who allowed us to use his back as a step-stool, I earned the second-fastest time: 2.72 seconds.

My confidence soared, so much so that when counselor volunteers were sought to chase a pig, my arm took on a life of its own, waving back and forth in a "pick me" fashion.

The five women on our team quickly formed a strategy. We would surround the pig and calmly talk him into a cradled position in our arms.

The whistle blew, the pig was let loose, and I dove for his hindquarters. My hands landed in a strategic place. One of my team members caught his front and another teammate scooped him up in her arms.

Our time won us blue ribbons. The experience earned me a high-five from my 12-year-old.

"Way to go, Mom! You got dirty!"

I could feel the admiration of the other kids, too, as I looked down at my sawdust-covered legs.

I'm ready to go back, now that I've learned a trick or two. Next time, I get to be in front of the pig.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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