Friday, April 25, 2008

Nebraska Youth Camp Remembered

Dan Ford and I share a common heritage. We both grew up in Nebraska. Like my dad, his father, Lem, was a minister of the gospel. Dan and I went to church camp together as kids and later were college classmates at both York College and Harding University. He is married to the beautiful Michelle, another former classmate of mine. This is an excerpt of an e-mail he sent in August, right after Dad suffered a stroke. I mentioned yesterday that Dad loved camp. This is Dan's recollection of an incident at Nebraska Youth Camp in Kearney. If you are a NYC alumnus, you can relate to his memories!

We will be prayerful for Roger. Your dad was a director along with Smith and Haun Kite and my dad at the camp for years. I remember a lie I told your dad. I was maybe 11 or 12. It supports the theory that kids lie for one of two reasons; either they are afraid of the consequences of telling the truth or they are four years old. We had completed the annual midnite hike at camp, all the guys wishing they could have walked with Celeste Napier. We had finished eating the ceremonial watermelon and headed to the cabin for lights out. I can't remember my counselor; I think it was Larry Crooks or Bo Brockman. Roger came by the dark cabin and stepped in to talk about news he had received. I know there was no phone at the camp: I believe a State Trooper had come by. Something about Roger's soft voice in the dark was a compelling motivator to tell what you knew. My guess is he had learned that trick at home. Roger talked about the Trooper saying a truck driver had called in reporting lots of kids crossing a bridge over the interstate and as he crossed under, some kid dropped a piece of gravel and broke his windshield. The quiet encouragement to speak up seemed to last forever, like 14 verses of JUST AS I AM. I don't know how many kids in that cabin dropped rocks off the bridge but I knew I did. The goal was to drop it onto the trailer of the semi. They don't teach physics to kids that age. I don't remember there being other kids dropping rocks and I suspected that was why Roger stopped by our cabin.... for a long time. It was good the lights were off- I could barely contain myself. Likely one of the staff at the end of the procession had observed the kid dropping rocks. If only everything was as durable as guilt. I have often thought how lucky I was that your dad was a psychologist. A less educated director would have drug me out and used another form of persuasion. That's not all I feel guilt about, but that's all I am telling you. There were many durable memories that year at camp.

That same nite, or that same nite another year, someone chucked a watermelon rind over the big camp fire and hit Deena Tandy right in the eye. That was before she was Deena Tandy, though, and Harold thoughtfully walked her back to the abandoned camp early to render aid. Harold was always thoughtful that way. And that was the year we dug up Carol (the camp ghost) for the first time. That is a tremendous story; it will have to wait. I don't want to mess up the warm fuzzy unloading 40 years of guilt. I have great memories of your dad's teaching. He came to Hastings for a week and preached a gospel meeting. I spent a couple weeks in the summer near him for several years. His leadership and oversight at that little college made it special. How is it God's plan for our aging includes such things? I don't have any words to make this seem ok. I will be prayerful for Roger and your family.


PS: She (Michelle) really is lovely

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