It is well-known by this point that Boxwell Reservation had a working farm. The farm ran from 1960 to approximately 1976 and engaged in cattle, hogs, tobacco, and various row crops. But, what is not always well understood is that generally most of the staff did not work on the farm. Maintaining the farm was primarily the job of the rangers.
Still, connection with the farm came in mysterious ways. As Stahlman staff member George Burrus explained such a situation earlier this year, “You were not allowed to go anywhere near the farm. The only interaction that I had with the farm was I had a trot line to catch fish out off of the Stahlman, down stream from the waterfront, and I needed something to bait my trout line with. Farmer Bush gave me a gallon tin can of cow testicles. I caught more catfish on cow testicles than anything else. and they stayed on the hook, too.”
There you have it: fishing with cow testicles from Boxwell’s farm. You can’t make this stuff up.
We have no photo of this momentous day, so instead, here’s a photo of Stahlman Friday Night Campfire area in 1971. To the right of the campfire area would be right about the area where Burrus was doing his fishing.
Have you ever wondered where Boxwell junk goes? By “junk,” we mean those pieces of equipment that are broken or no longer usable or simply undesirable.
Over the years, various approaches to “junk” have been used. There have been auctions and what amount to yard sales. Alternatively, some equipment–cars mostly–have literally been buried behind the compound. And sometimes material is given to local farmers.
Seen here is a farm on Woods’ Ferry, located directly adjacent to what is today Percy Dempsey Camporee Area. From the mid-1970s to early 1990s, the farm was owned by a man named Clarence and rented by Assistant Ranger Farmer Bush. It was private property. Nevertheless, if there was broken down, un-repairable equipment, usually something large like a water heater or oven, it was often taken here and deposited. What happened after that is open for speculation…
Camp Boxwell at Linton and the Narrows of the Harpeth operated a little differently than summer camp does today. These differences included the Scout-directed Camp Council, the staff composed of adult volunteers, and even meals that required Scouts to bring their own mess kits.
These differences were true in program too. Camp Boxwell–and most other youth summer camp programs in the 1920s and 1930s–focused on instruction in the morning and activity in the afternoon. In other words, merit badges and Scout skillwere all done from about 9 a.m. until noon. The afternoon was primarily recreational activities, such as baseball, volleyball, and more. The afternoon activities were focused on team-building and group interaction. Teaching group cooperation and working together was believed to build better citizens.
Seen here is one such summer activity at Linton’s Boxwell. Tug-of-war was a popular activity in these years and a great example of the team-building spirit camp was supposed to instill.
“Scouts to revive Tug-of-War at Camp Boxwell,” Nashville Banner, June 20, 1926, pg. 22.
If you were a staff member in the 1960s and early 1970s, you may remember buses being used as at Boxwell as a tool for the staff to go out together for staff night out. From the mid-70s to the early 2000s, the only buses seen on the reservation were the buses a troop may have used to come to camp. And then things got complicated…
In 1985, COPE opened in Camp Light, but because of the nature of its program, its numbers were manageable. COPE was joined by a single tarp shotgun program by 1991. In 1995, the re-opening of the Boat Harbor complicated schedules, but again, numbers were manageable. Critical mass was finally reached in 2003. The introduction of the pool meant much larger numbers of Scouts had to be transported across the reservation at one time. As CubWorld grew–and Cubs became more and more wary of the waterfront–the pool became more popular, meaning even more transportation. Add in The NRA Light Rifle Program at Parnell’s Rifle Range and one of Boxwell’s great assets–its enormous size–now became something of a liability. How do you transport Scouts around the reservation to take advantage of all these great programs (and the more that were to come)?
You bus them. For about 20 years now, mass transportation–a shuttle, then a school bus–has been used to ferry Scouts from one end of the reservation to the other. Seen here is the “Boxwell Bus” (a Wilson County Public Schools bus on loan) making a stop at Camp Light’s High Adventure Area. Scouts for the pool, shotgun, and COPE exit here. Other stops are made daily at Stahlman, Craig, and Parnell and almost daily (and on Saturdays) at CubWorld.
From its beginnings in 1921, Boxwell was a segregated summer camp. Before Middle Tennessee Council issued its own non-discrimination statement in December 1964, African Americans scouts stayed at their own separate camps, which we’ve discussed before. To our knowledge, African American Scouts stayed at Camp Burton (various locations), Camp Tagatay (Ft. Campbell), and even at the Narrows of the Harpeth.
The first integrated summer at Boxwell Reservation was 1965. But even then, “integration” meant simply using the camp. Camp Parnell hosted a week of exclusively black troops at the end of the summer, which was effectively a segregated week. By 1967, an African American had joined the Parnell Staff. By 1968, full integration was finally achieved with black troops attending any week during the summer.
Seen here in 1970 is Joe Tomasso with several African American Scouts on the porch wall of Parnell Dining Hall. By this point, not only had Boxwell fully integrated, but so had many troops that attended summer camp.