New Years’ Resolution
Camp stories are at the heart of the Boxwell experience. And, as you know, we’ve collected a few over the years! So, even though we know it requires a bit of reading (gasp!), we have a New Year’s Resolution: share more camp stories. At least once a month, we hope to provide you with some camp anecdotes. But like weight loss promises made on the first of January, we’ll see how long this lasts!
The stories this week are from Bill Murphy. Bill was a Parnell staff member from 1968 to 1972. He worked in the Parnell AY and then became part of the Commissioner system when it was implemented in 1971. The stories we share this week are a result of last year’s “Anecdotes Project.”
Some of Bill’s Favorite camp stories follow…
“In 1968 there was a staff tradition that anyone who overslept had pitchers of ice water thrown on him in his bunk after breakfast was over. I made the mistake of over sleeping and held the record of 38 pitchers of ice water being thrown on me. That record stood at long as I was on staff, I don’t know how many years it was the record. The worst part of over sleeping was not the ice water but reporting to Coach Jackson for your punishment, a week of breakfast duty in the mess hall in addition to all your other duties at camp. Needless to say I only over slept that one time.
“Each summer a few staff members stayed around to help close up camp for the winter. We pulled the floatable docks around to the Parnell cove and up on shore. There were tents left up that had to come down and be stored at the Compound. I stayed a couple of weeks after all the campers had left to help in 1971. Bobby Parker and I stayed in the two bedrooms upstairs at the OA Lodge. We also bailed hay and worked tobacco. Working tobacco is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. (If you want a sure way to stop smoking, go work tobacco one summer and get the ‘green’ tobacco juice in your nose, mouth, and all over every exposed part of your body.) Ranger Bobby Smith is the only man I’ve ever known that worked tobacco shirtless as that green sap was so sticky. We not only worked the Boy Scout tobacco base but we helped Farmer Bush at the end of one of the work days. The evening we were to cut Farmer Bush’s tobacco, Mrs. Bush cooked us a HUGE lunch. There was more food than 20 people could have eaten and there was only about 8 of us at the table.
“Farmer Bush was a character!! Farmer Bush stories were at a minimum R rated and most were X rated. One of the running jokes during mess hall announcements was “Public Speaking merit badge was going to taught at the Compound by Farmer Bush.” He was always armed and was constantly dealing in pocket knives. Farmer never confirmed he made moonshine but here is the story. A moonshine still blew up about a 100 yards behind Farmer Bush’s home but it was unclear who owned the land where the still sat. The sheriff came and talked to Farmer but no one was ever charged.
“Pumpkin Green was a skilled/experienced man. He had worked so many years at farming there was little, if anything, he didn’t know about farming. He also had acquired skills in handling the farm equipment. Backing a hay trailer is a fine art, as it doesn’t work like a boat trailer. It actually works opposite to how a backing a boat or 2 wheel trailer. I tried backing one of the hay trailers with a tractor many many times over the 5 summers I worked at Boxwell and never came close to being good at it. Pumpkin could not only back one hay trailer and put it anywhere it needed to go but he could do tandem trailers without batting an eye. He could also fell a tree with uncanny accuracy using a chainsaw. When we were clearing Camp Beanie Elam I saw his mastery at work. I always enjoyed working around Pumpkin as I felt there was so much to learn from him.
“The following happened every year I was at Boxwell and probably could continue today. When thunder storms come from the west you get to see an amazing lightning show (better than any laser show) by sitting out at the front of the Chapel. It could take hours for the storms to roll across the lake from Nashville. We would move a bench from inside the Chapel and place it against the westward facing wall. There we could sit with our backs against the rock wall and watch a heavenly light show. When the storm got close enough we would return the bench and try to beat the storm back to our tents.”