"I'm a Red Red Raider
A health crusader
March on boys and girls
Half the counsellors at Red Raider Camp lived in the local area. The other half lived on site. I found myself sleeping in a big red cabin in a clearing in the woods with just one other counsellor - Chris from Poland near Youngstown. He was the specialist art counsellor and he was pursuing an arts education degree at Kent State University. Our cabin could have accommodated six others but happily there was just me and him. It was very peaceful there with a toilet block and hot showers just a few yards away.
That first Saturday night we drove out to a local bar - Skip and Ray's - in Chris's Ford Mustang. We downed a couple of pitchers of draught beer and when I crawled into bed back in the red cabin I believe I muttered, "God, I'm pissed!" A few days later Chris said he had stayed awake for a while that night wondering what had made me so angry ("pissed"), not realising that in Britain "pissed" simply means drunk. When we are angry or annoyed we say "pissed off".
On the Monday morning the campers arrived in big yellow school busses. The weather was lovely and warm as it seemed to be throughout that summer. Former US marine Roman and his wife Rosie got all the kids lined up in front of the outdoor stage above which a star spangled banner hung limply in the summer stillness.
He made a few logistical announcements and welcomed everyone back to camp. Then, much to my amazement, all assembled counsellors and campers put hands on hearts and uttered in unison The American Pledge of Allegiance:-
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for
which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
It all seemed very alien to me and again I wondered what the hell I was doing there. Such habitual declarations of national commitment are almost non-existent in Great Britain. It had been years since "God Save the Queen" marked the end of BBC television broadcasting each night.
With my co-counsellor Randy, we gathered The Wynadottes together and led them to their base in the woods. There were a lot of excited little boys - mostly happy to be at summer camp though one or two of them were quiet and anxious. Our base was an open-fronted wooden shelter with pegs where the boys could hang their coats and bags. When no specialist activities were timetabled we would always come back here.
In the weeks that followed I watched the boys swimming and horse-riding. They learnt to play tennis and went canoeing. Back at camp in our free time, we tidied up the clearing in front of our shelter and brought in logs that would act as little stools. We built a tree house together with a ladder we bound with strips of bark. And we went off deep into the woods to play hide and seek. Behind the camp's buildings and lake there were many acres of natural woodland - hardly explored since Native Americans padded there in moccasins long ago.
|Summer of 1977 - with The Arapahos|
I found myself relaxing into the job and enjoying the rhythm of those summer days. It was great fun and at the end of every day the kids went home. However after a month or so, Roman told me that it was The Wyandottes' turn to camp out overnight in the back woods. We would take tents there and food for a cook out. It would be a great learning experience for the boys.
We set up our camp about a mile from Red Raider deep in the woods by a little stream and all was going well. Evening was approaching and Randy and I were in the middle of making corned beef hash over the campfire. The boys had been give a little free time and I could hear a few of them laughing and yelling down in the hollow where the little stream ran.
Then there was a sudden quietness followed by shouts of alarm. I sped down to the hollow and discovered that one of the identical twins in the group had been hit by a stone right in the middle of his forehead. A little stream of blood was gushing out like a jet of water from a tap. It was shocking. I pulled my handkerchief from my pocket and pressed it over the wound to staunch the bleeding.
Understandably the boy, Chris, felt very faint. We didn't have a first aid box and in my panic I knew we had to get the lad back to the main camp as quickly as we could. Of course in those days nobody had mobile phones (American: cell phones) so it was impossible to call for help. I got two big straight branches and we tied coats and towels to them to make a stretcher. Then, leaving Randy in charge of the camp and the corned beef hash I carried little Chris back to the main camp buildings with John who was our assigned teenage helper and a couple of volunteer Wynadottes.
My arms have never ached so much but we managed to stumble back to the camp telephone with our makeshift stretcher and our injured warrior. I phoned his parents and they sped out to camp to pick their son up. There was no blame, no legal recrimination. The parents were grateful about the way we had acted and accepted it had just been an unfortunate accident. Little Chris recovered and was back in camp the following week sporting a couple of stitches. This made it easier to tell him apart from his identical sibling.
Next instalment - "Leisure" in which I write about things that happened in my free time - when not in my counsellor role