My eight year old son, Eddie, was just finishing the fourth grade and wanted to go to Camp Daniel Boone for two weeks that summer, As I recall, I am not sure whether he wanted to go or if I had encouraged him to go, probably a little bit of both. We packed all of his gear in his duffle bag and I enclosed a list of everything that he was taking. I showed him the list and told him that I expected him to bring home everything that he took. I pinned the list inside of his duffle. Everything he packed was clearly identified with a name tag. We drove him to Camp which was not far from Lexington, Kentucky where we lived. We walked to his cabin with him and met his counselor which seemed like a very nice young man, a University of Kentucky College student, and the other campers that were in his cabin. I felt a little apprehensive leaving my little boy there as he didn’t know anyone and wondered if this might be a mistake. His friend had chickened out at the last moment. Eddie told me he would be fine. He was my out-going, fun-loving child that was extremely friendly so I figured he would be okay. I felt tears welling in my eyes as we drove away. My husband gave me a pat on the knee reassuring me that Eddie would live through the two weeks and have a great time. It was then that he decided to interject that his little brother had gone to camp when he was just about Eddie’s age and after two days, called home and wanted someone to come get him. He had argued with his Dad about making him sweat it out, but his Dad won out and he had gone to pick him up. Well, now, that little story just added more worry into my already worried filled brain.
During that two weeks, we received one letter from him at Camp saying that everything was okay and telling his Dad that he had his shoelaces on tight. My husband said, “No news was probably good news that he was having a good time.” But that did not keep me from worrying.
Finally , the two weeks were over and it was time to pick up our son. When we arrived, he look like he had taken a mud bath. His clothes and shoes were caked with mud as was every body part that we could see. The counselor told us it had rained most of the time and it was almost impossible for the kids to avoid the mud.
Eddie said, “Mom, I have everything in the duffle that I came with. I checked the list.” I was beaming with pride. Before we were out of the camp grounds, he began to tell us about his adventures at camp. Every night they had Bug Juice for dinner and they would have to sing a rousing chorus of John, Jacob Jingle Himmer Smith before they could eat. He went into a burst of songs that practically took out our ear drums. He told us how they recited, I’m being eaten by a boa constrictor and went through the entire schtick. I asked him how Horse Back Riding was. “We cleaned the stables every day and if they were clean enough, we would get to ride the horses.” he said. “I never got to ride a horse. Mom, Grandma Speedy and MaMa each sent me $5.00 to spend at the Canteen, but I was saving it to get a new G.I. Joe when I got home. The Counselors said that if we had any money left over, we had to give it to the Peace Corps. What is the Peace Corps anyway? They made me give my money to them.”
I reminded him that it was a good thing to do to give your money to a needy cause. In my mind, I was madder than hops that they had coerced my son to give his money to an organization that he didn’t know anything about. How dare them.
After arriving home and sending Eddie in to take a shower and put on clean clothes, I took the duffle into the laundry room and dumped out the contents. Everything was caked with mud. As I began to pull out clothes, I noticed that the khaki shorts were about two sizes too small, and the jeans were a size 14, way to large for my son. I continued on and looked at the name tags on each item, names of kids I had never heard of. I picked up his knife and there boldly printed in marker was Tommy Little, a child who obviously had a duplicate knife like Eddie’s. I looked at the list still pinned to the duffle but now had muddy finger prints on it as Eddie had checked off every item. I realized that he had brought home everything on the list…but just not his. He had four pair of brand new underwear (two sizes too big) belonging to Harry Jordan. I guess Harry had seen no reason to change his underwear for at least four days. There were three pairs of muddy underwear belonging to Bobby Brown. (I assumed that Bobby had at least changed his.) The more I looked, the more I realized that practically nothing that he came home with actually belonged to my son. He had managed to bring home his four favorite tee shirts. I had to chuckle because he was so pleased with himself that he followed my instructions. After all, I guess I didn’t specify that they should be his. I wonder what little Billy’s mother thought when he came home with jeans that were way too small, or Fred’s mother when he came home with shorts that were two sizes too big. At least Harry’s mother would be proud that he changed his underwear.I hope they got as big of a laugh out of it as my husband and I did. Most of the clothing was ruined anyway by the mud, so it didn’t matter, but it made a great family story to tell years later. I was still delighted that he came home with every thing that he left with, even if it didn’t belong to him.
The next time I would send my son off to Camp would be in the summer of 1977 where he attended Beast Summer Camp (as the Cadets called it) at the United Air Force Academy as a freshman. I think he thought Camp Daniel Boone was a breeze compared to that. I thought maybe his experience at a little YMCA Camp in Kentucky had given him a glimpse of what was yet to come. When Ed graduated from the Academy, he pulled out the expertly folded underwear in his drawer and threw them in the trash. I asked him why he had done that. “Well, Mom, after I finally got no demerits for not having it folded right, I just left it in the drawer. “You mean, this has been in your drawer since your freshman year? For four years?” He nodded. “What did you do for underwear?”
“Oh, I put it in the dirty clothes bin during inspections. You didn’t have to have that folded,” he said proudly. My husband looked over at me with a big grin as if to say, “That’s my boy!”