By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist
June 10, 2014
Camp Notaclotamongus in Imperial just wrapped up Saturday and I think I’ve finally fully recovered from my counseling duties. I’m always tired, my body aches and it’s not uncommon for me to arrive home with some sort of sinus infection — but even if it were twice as taxing it wouldn’t deter me at all because it is important.
Loyal readers know I have Hemophilia A, and that I spent many years attending a similar camp in Lawson before aging out and deciding quickly to become a counselor. Three summers ago I was extended an invitation to volunteer at the Gateway Hemophilia Association’s summer camp, Camp Notaclotamongus.
We’ve got medical professionals on premises all week so that the campers, normally limited by a society that doesn’t fully understand their condition, can experience a normal summer camp knowing their medicine will be administered quickly if that becomes necessary. It’s always good to be with your own kind, to be able to shoot the breeze with people who understand what you’re going through. I valued that as a camper, and I felt obligated to give back as soon as I could.
Near the end of the week the campers are allowed to vote on a theme — last summer’s ballot came with exciting and easy options like “pirates” and “wild west” but the campers ultimately decided to go with “sports.” Throughout my young life, my relationship with sports was tumultuous, but we could make any theme work, given time.
I had known for weeks I needed to buy or make some sort of referee shirt — I found an old white shirt and applied some Gorilla Tape. I had anticipated the tape would eventually peel a little bit but I didn’t anticipate how quickly it would happen or just how much the newly exposed ends would stick to my hair.
I’ve discovered a few things over the past few years at Notaclotamongus, and one of them is that I am very, very bad at working a canoe. This past week I even managed to overcorrect on a turn in the corner of the lake and tip one over. Normally I’m not much of a lake sort of guy — fish go to the bathroom in it, after all, but on that day I got to meet it on a personal level. I apologized profusely to the camper who was sharing the vessel and made the long, shameful walk back toward the dock. I was soaked head to toe and the bottom half of my clothes had a new grey tint. Upon removing my shoes, I realized that even my socks had turned grey thanks to the accumulated muck at the bottom of the lake — even the shoes couldn’t prevent that. This event was later mocked in one of the Friday night “Sports Skits.”
One evening the campers, split into two teams, were tasked with inventing a new sport. My team ultimately decided on a volleyball/soccer hybrid that used incorrectly oriented lacrosse nets. The ball could only be advanced by “bumping” or “setting” it and the goal system was very similar to soccer, except the goalie was forced to utilize a foam pool noodle.
The name, decided in a strictly democratic manner and not influenced in any way by the adult counselors, was “Everyday Noodling.” One counselor attempted to move away from that name by simply calling it “ENG” but there’s no fun in that. Eventually they moved up to traditional soccer goals and spent the rest of the evening noodling, everyday.
When it came time for fishing, I was washed over with a sense of disappointment. I had five campers in my cabin, all of them either 14 or 15. They were willing to fish, but three of them were unwilling to put their own worm on their own hook. I knew from experience a camper would do a lot to see the sideshow spectacle of worm consumption so I made one of them a deal: I removed one of the long nightcrawlers from the cup and split it in half with my nail. I told him that if he hooked one half then I would eat the other one. He did, and so did I. Here’s a tip: swallow the worm whole and it doesn’t taste like much. This event also made it into the skit, minus the context.
There were highs and lows, and snacks and shows. I think one day we might see Everyday Noodling in the Olympics, albeit with a few serious rule changes. There were campers who successfully infused their factor for the first time in their lives and one who insisted on using the cabin dryer as his personal clothes hamper.
It’s just another year at camp — next year is “medieval times” so I guess I better start working on my cheesy renaissance fair accent. Verily! Doth!