From the Archives, February 27, 2018

by Russell Parham

In 1971, I started my second year on the camp staff, assigned to Camp Murrey. After spending my first year washing pots and pans under the ‘guidance’ of Jerry Barnett who was the Stahlman kitchen director in 1970, I felt I deserved a break. I will wait for another opportunity to provide an expose on Mr. Charles Jerry Barnett.

In many ways, being assigned to Murrey was Club Med. Back then there were four staff members assigned to clean the kitchen plus a few other odd jobs. Camp Murrey was for the exclusive use of the families of the Scoutmasters who were with their troops in Stahlman or Parnell. In 1971 Johnny Smith, Greg Hughes, John Butler and myself set up our two 4 man tent staff site on the west side of the dining hall, out of sight of most of the other adults who resided in ‘the hole’. Johnny’s dad was an electrician so we had an ample supply of electrical outlets, plus lights and fans to plug into these outlets. And camp was good.

As with most groups, after awhile we started to grate on each other’s nerves. In addition to our 4 man tents, we each acquired one of the red metal chest-of-drawers that I am sure were screened from Fort Campbell. One week I noticed a rather strong odor in the drawer with my socks and underwear. After several days, the odor was so strong I decided to investigate the source. I eventually picked up a pair of socks and found a dead mouse stuffed inside. I immediately knew that the culprit was Greg Hughes, so after flipping his bed out the tent, with him in it of course, I proceeded to take a pad lock and affix it to his closed glasses. I did not think much more about this until several days later when I decided to call home. Well, I sure was glad I happened to call home instead of waiting till the weekend to talk to my parents. My mom let me know in no uncertain terms that I was to proceed immediately and remove the pad lock. (It seems that Greg just started wearing contact lens and should have worn his glasses at night – how was I suppose to know that!).

That was not my only adventure with Greg. On one fine afternoon, he was taking a much undeserved siesta. The fire extinguisher of choice in those days was the large tank of carbon dioxide. I proceeded to ‘borrow’ this fire extinguisher and inserted the funnel between the flaps of the tent near Greg’s bed. Since I could not see Greg, I pushed the funnel in to where I thought would be about a foot from his head. When I pressed the handle, all I heard was a loud scream and a big thump. My cohort in crime, Johnny Smith, later told me that I actually had the funnel directly beside Greg’s head. After Greg ‘returned to earth’ from his launch, I am sure he chased me around camp and most assuredly flipped my bed. I also learned that it pays to be on good terms with the ranger, since I believe that Bobby Smith fixed our ‘leaking’ fire extinguisher.

Since one of our tasks was to provide activities for the visiting families, the staff at Murrey believed that we deserved the use of a canoe. I never could understand why Richard Cannon, the Stahlman Waterfront Director, got so irritated when we would ‘borrow’ one his canoes late at night. Gosh, no one was using it and we were going to return it at the end of camp! For a while, it became a big challenge for us to ‘acquire’ a canoe, hide it so the Stahlman Waterfront could not find it and still use it during the day. Of course, it did not take long before the word came down from Mr. Ed Human, the Reservation Director, that Camp Murrey did not need a canoe.

There have always been big fish stories at camp, but I don’t recall any that top this one. One weekend, Johnny Smith and myself decided to stay at camp. During Saturday afternoon we were swimming in the Murrey waterfront area when one of the local boys drove by in his raft affixed with an outboard motor. After disturbing our peace and quiet by throwing wakes our way, he drove off. Shortly he returned and asked us if we wanted a fish. Not knowing any better we said yes, and he proceeded to throw out a 32 pound spoonbill catfish, which he had run over with his propeller. Well, we saw an opportunity and told the story that we had caught this fish using a trout line. I remember that John Butler even had his picture taken in the Dining Hall with this fish as his prize catch. We were the talk of camp. In fact, I distinctly recall one Sunday afternoon during troop check-in that a Scoutmaster asked how the fishing was. Mr. Ed Human happened to be there and proceeded to tell him that the fishing was great and that some staff caught a 32 pound spoonbill. It was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing!

Camp Murrey can do strange things to a young staffer. Especially when there are several attractive females in camp. John Butler was always one rock short of a full load and I recall one time he fell for this one girl who spurned him. For some reason that night, after she dumped him, we ended up at the Murrey waterfront and I got into the ‘borrowed’ canoe. John insisted that I return to shore and let him in, but I refused. He then proceeded to undress and attempted to swim out and catch me. I was always able to stay slightly ahead of him, but then he decided to find out how deep the water was in Spencer Creek as I canoed towards the Easter Seal Yes, in the middle of the night John Butler decides to dive to the bottom. Looking back on this, it was quite unnerving that he took 5 or 6 dives just to find the bottom. He eventually tired and of course we thought we saw a Coast Guard boat and headed back to shore. To John, this was just something to do.

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