If the scene you see here look a little foreign to you, it is probably because this is not scene you would ever see at a modern Scout camp. At the first Boxwell at Linton, however, this was a common sight. In fact, it happened three times a day!
When Scouts came to camp in the 1920s, they had to bring a mess kit with them. And while there was a cook who prepared all the meals, the Scouts chose from among their own to serve (like a monitor) and then everyone was responsible for cleanign their own kit.
The caption on this photo read, “Washing dishes after the noon meal. After the boys wash their plates in the river they are required to scaled the plates in boiling water. Sanitation is stressed.” This was summer camp in the 1920s!
“Boy Scouts having a great time at Camp Boxwell,” Nashville Banner, July 2, 1929, pg. 13.
Snakes are part of the experience of life at a summer camp. Some years more are seen than others. But no amount of snakes you’ve seen at Old Hickory Boxwell compares to snakes at the Narrows.
Snakes were all over the property and rattlesnakes were apparently quite common. One of the regular adult instructors was a reverend from Tracy City by the name of Alonzo C. Adamz (ca. 1895-1952). The man loved snakes. He conducted regular “snake hikes” to find the reptiles and was known to catch rattlers bare handed. He would collect venom for anti-venom, which would then be kept in one of the kitchen’s coolers.
Rattlesnakes were common enough that in 1938, in Camp Promotional materials Camp DIrector James Gribble promised “snake dinners” that summer. Cook Walter Whittaker was terrified of snakes, but he dutifully cooked the animals to that anyone who wanted a bite could try it. Summer camp was a different experience at the Narrows.
Seen here is a young Scout with a snake he captured, though not a rattler. In later years, a snake like this would be kept in the Con-Yard, perhaps for a Critter Crawl competition later in the week. At the Narrows, hanging out with a snake was just part of every day life. The photo was from The Bugle the Council’s newsletter.
Boxwell’s history is full of fascinating characters. Some are great leaders who left indelible impressions upon us. Others are those figures who weren’t “official” leaders in title, but were such charismatic figures, you were better for having known them. And then there were some, some who were so unique, so irascible, they almost defy description. Farmer Bush was one of these people.
Farmer Bush–and that was his real name, “Farmer”–joined the ranger staff in or about 1967. Bush had previously been a tenant farmer in Laguardo, working the farm of a Mr. Odom. Odom’s farm was the large field on the left on the big hill just before arriving at Tyree Access area. His son was killed in Vietnam around 1966 and Bush received compensation from the government for the loss. The bridge at Laguardo is named for his son. Bush and his wife used this money to buy and build a small ranch style home over on Purnell Road. His house was the home right at the mythical “back entrance” to Boxwell, today on the backside of CubWorld. He was an old school, country farmer. He couldn’t read or write, and he didn’t like signing things or the government.
Because of his background at Odom’s farm, Bush was initially hired to help with the farm. Repairing fences, doing work on the various crop experiments, and looking after the cattle was his primary responsibility, but of course, the farm went away at the end of 1975. Farmer’s responsibilities changed.
The back entrance was important for Farmer because he used it to enter the Reservation to come to work. With the farm shuttered, during summer camp at least, most people saw Farmer in his pick up truck when he came to the dining halls after the meals to pick up the slop cans. His truck was instantly recognizable as it had a siren and Bush was not hesitant to use it. Regardless, he would pick up the slop and take it back to his small farm where he would feed his pigs with it. Thus, it was important that no paper trash or silverware ended up the slop cans!
When he started Farmer Bush was also a big beer drinker and a smoker. If you find an old rusted Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can off in the woods at Boxwell, it was probably Farmer Bush’s. He rolled his own cigarettes too, likely from tobacco grown on the reservation. In the early 1970s, once after a car accident and again later after a regular doctor’s visit, the physician told Farmer he had to quit drinking and then that he had to quit smoking. He quit both cold turkey. He gave away all of his beer and his beer refrigerator; he threw out all his cigarettes. Just like that. He was still irascible, but he was a kind hearted son-of-a-gun once he got to know you and trust you.
Farmer loved collecting guns and knives. He would periodically fire his gun off around camp. Kerry Parker tells this story of one day when Reservation Director Bruce Atkins drove into compound and found Farmer sitting at the shop, waiting for his afternoon marching orders. Atkins yelled, “‘Farmer! I’m going to fire the hell out of you if you don’t get up and get to work!’ Farmer hollers back at him, says, ‘Hell, I was looking for a job when I found this one.’ And he took his gun out of his pocket and he shot it up in the air four or five times! Just straight up in the air!” Atkins took it as a joke and drove off.
Farmer stayed on the Boxwell Ranger staff for almost 30 years. He worked for Bobby Smith, Norman Patterson, and Willie Claud. He retired in the early 1990s, about 1993 or 1994. He passed away Monday, March 20, 1995 of a heart attack at age 84. For those who knew him, Farmer Bush was someone you would never, ever forget.
Seen here is Farmer Bush with his cow Susie and several piglets. Note the 1973 red staff hat introduced by Ed Human.
As we do from time to time, we have updated the banner image on the main site to let you know we are still alive and active. This quarter’s photo is the Boat Harbor at sunset, taken September 2020 by Ed Mason. Below is the original.