One morning when you were ten, you and your friend, Sumner, were bundled into the old station wagon and carted off to spend a week at Billy Bry’s Ranch Camp. The word ‘ranch’ was used somewhat loosely; you figured that the owner wanted to impart an aura of mystique. But this ranch consisted of old plowhorses shuffling around in a dirt ring, and was located 680 miles away from any real Double R.
You and Sumner shrugged and hopped on some horses. It seems like either one or both of you fell off of your trusty steeds at some point, and one or both of you was aboard a horse that upped and ‘ran away with you.’ In retrospect, how can you blame ol’ Applesauce for wanting to head for the hills and get the heck outta Dodge? Or at least, break into a lopsided gallop into some weedy field outside of town.
The head counselor was named ‘Fescue’ and had a red buzz-cut. The fact that he did not have all of his teeth at the tender age of nineteen did not inhibit him from baring them in a grin every now and then. At night, he and the other ‘counselors’ played Black Jack. When you got sick of being thrown off of horses and bronco bustin,’ you milled around in a mosquito swarm, finally finding a feeble hose. There was no pool and nothing much to do. Mr. Bry rarely made an appearance, and you supposed that he managed this ranch from a distance–from his own ranch house–sucking down a Schlitz or two with cowboy boots parked on his TV tray.
Finally the week ended and you and Sumner were granted leave. The vote was unanimous; next summer, Girl Scout Camp it would be. Your mother said that she knew immediately that ranch camp was not your cup of tea when you jumped into the car crying. And what was the name of that disease you could get from going barefoot around horses?
Little did you all realize that during the following summer, you and Sumner would soon be pressed into manual labor. The head counselor’s name was ‘Cricket,’ and she wore one of those Australian outback hats. She climbed up into a tree to issue us our orders:
“We’re going to make a gravel path from the camp down to the lake!” she chirped. You and Sumner shrugged and supposed this was so that you could earn your ‘gravel path badge.’ The bags of gravel weren’t too heavy, the problem was that Cricket deemed it necessary to dole out ‘salt tablets’ to replenish the sweat that your twelve-year old selves would lose during the manual labor. End result: everyone got sick, ended up in the latrine and left the prison camp, with nary a gravel path badge. You’ve been sorely tempted to travel back to Lake Lure and see if the path was ever completed, but can’t quite bring yourself.
The next summer, you and Sumner opted to try a sailing camp. Time to break out of the old mold and go for something new and refreshing. Camp Seafarer was absolutely wonderful. Not only was the camp supervised, but it was supervised well, by staff. You returned several more years and your mothers sighed with relief. But back then, all they had was word of mouth to go by, no internet with CampAdvisor reviews.
But you do still wonder how Mr. Bry managed to get his name out there; perhaps he had the same pr folks as Jim and Tammy Fay. Bless their lil hearts.