Saga of the Elizabethton Tarheels
The day after school ended, I made a decision: I
would not waste my summer at the country club. Summers before it had been
swimming at the club, tennis at the club, golf at the club and so on, ad
nauseam. Living on the beach, I did spend a lot of time there and had
learned to sail while in grade school. I was given my own sailboat when I
graduated from middle school, and spend a lot of time sailing. I loved the
beach -- especially walking along it in late afternoon to early evening --
and I was in heaven sailing.
I knew that to try to get out of the
end-of-school dance and later the end-of-summer dance would require more
effort than enduring them, so I didn't object to those, but when Mother gave
me my summer schedule, I balked. After a couple battles, I finally came up
with the idea of summer camp. Mother immediately started checking out the
"right camps" and I saw where that was headed. After a search
around and talking with Fr. DeBruhl, the new
rector of St. Paul's, I found a work camp in the North Carolina mountains.
There would be the usual camp activities -- ropes confidence course,
campfires, etc.--and, in addition, campers would work five days a week
constructing a camp for under-privileged city kids.
Mother pitched a hissy fit -- "You don't know
what kind of people will be there!" she objected over and over. I finally
managed to catch
Father over the weekend and explained how I
thought it would be good
experience and, in a very subtle way, suggested
it would likely provide
some good "solid family" material for the next
campaign. You would
have thought it was his idea.
When I told the Clan what I was up to, John said
he thought it was a good idea and asked about his doing the same. We had
pretty much planned all the things we would be doing together when he found
out the camp was full. He was still interested in getting away from the club
for the summer and, even though he was Presbyterian, I
suggested he talk to Fr. DeBruhl. Seems Fr.
DeBruhl had done field work in Atlanta in a settlement house kind of setup
and arranged for John to work there in an inner-city project tutoring young
We were both due at our summer places the week
after July Fourth. Fourth of July was always a big day at the club, but
Susan suggested we do our own. She suggested we spend the day on a small
island where there would be no crowd. Justin and I had the sails up and
headed for the island by 8:30 and John took his inboard and set out around
John was not known as Quiet John without reason,
but you would never know it if you only saw him behind the wheel of his
boat. Once behind the wheel, he became a speed demon. No-one would ever have
claimed Adam and Bobbie were quiet, so it was assumed that when we were at
the beach, they would be with John. Reserved Susan lost all
reserve when John got out of the "no wake" area
and shoved the throttle forward. Justin, who could be pretty rambunctious,
had never liked the motor boat. "Too loud and too fast," was his comment, so
he sailed with me.
As much as I loved being with Justin and talking
with him anytime, we both were usually silent when we were sailing, yet I
never felt we were closer than when we sailed.
Anyway, when we arrived at the island, we
unloaded the coolers and put up a shelter. A day on the beach without a
shelter, even with sunscreen, and I'd be cooked. For a blond I tanned--NOT.
I slathered on sunscreen -- Justin made sure my
back was covered--and we all swam from John's boat. We had all grown up in
the water and swam like fish. Adam was showing out, diving from the boat
when he missed a step and scraped his legs pretty good. I'm sure the water
stung and he did lay on the beach for a while, but was soon back in the
I left the water before the others and started
getting the food ready. It was a job to get it out without getting it full
of sand, but I managed fairly well. When everything was nearly ready, I gave
a wave and the Clan gathered. After all the activity -- and being teenagers
-- no-one lacked an appetite.
When we had cleaned up from our picnic, Adam and
Bobbie took a blanket and a beach umbrella and wandered to the other side of
the island. Susan and John swam out to his boat and started racing around at
top speed. I lay on a blanket under the shelter and Justin sat beside me.
"You know I'm going to miss you this summer," he
said after we had not spoken after the others left. "I'm glad I'm working.
It'll make the time pass faster."
"I'll miss you too, Justin, very much."
We were both silent again, each with his own
"You have to promise me one thing, Justin. You
have to promise you'll go by and see Clarisa. You know she will be really
disappointed if you don't."
Justin's face was suddenly covered with one of
his heart-stopping smiles. "You don't have to worry about that! She's using
the carrot and stick approach," he laughed. "She promised to feed me if I
come by and, to use that lady's exact words, 'Cut 'em off if I don't.'"
"Ouch," I laughed in return. "Anyway, I'll only
be gone four weeks, back the first week in August. The time will fly by."
"I wish," was his reply.
It was one of those moments which I was having
these days, a moment in which I almost told Justin how much I loved him.
Fortunately, he stopped me with, "Gad, someone would think we were queer for
each other." It hurt like hell, but it prevented my losing the one kind of
love Justin could and did offer me.
I knew the camp would be primitive, but I had no
idea just what primitive meant! The bath house was a platform made from wood
slats and blue tarp on poles around the edge. "Showers" were buckets hanging
above the slat floor with a rope attached to the lip. To shower, you dipped
water out of the creek, lowered the overhead bucket, filled it, hoisted it
back in place, and stood under it. You pulled
the rope attached to the lip of the bucket to
pour water over yourself, soaped up, then poured the rest of the water over
yourself to rinse off. That's the way it was supposed to work. Of course, it
took several days to learn how to keep from pouring the whole bucket over
yourself as soon you pulled the rope.
The toilet was a trench with two poles running
from one end to the other. You flushed by covering what you left behind with
dirt from the pile resulting from digging the trench. Every week, a group
had the job of digging a new trench and moving the "seat."
We slept in tents -- which we erected the as
soon as we arrived -- four campers assigned to each. The common area was a
floor covered with canvas -- no walls. It was used for all our gatherings
including meals -- which were prepared in a military surplus field kitchen
by our "professional chefs" -- who rotated every day
according to the duty roster. Fortunately, I
could peel potatoes and did not have to cook, or we would probably have had
a medical emergency.
To say the work part of camp was an experience
is an understatement. While I had never thought I had no mechanical ability
or was unable to work with my hands, I certainly had no skills, zilch, when
it came to construction. Within three days, I had blistered hands, a black
fingernail from a mislick with a hammer, and had been
told if I got within half a mile of an electric
saw, I would be downed with a two by four before I could do major damage.
As the days passed, all that changed. My hands
toughened up and I was well on my way to great calluses. I could drive a
nail without putting a dent in the timber and I was even allowed to use the
The cabins we are building were pretty
primitive, but solid. It took us a week to finish the first one and then we
did at least two a week for the next three weeks. The last week, another
group of campers arrived and with them to fetch and carry, we finished the
eighth and final cabin two days before camp ended.
I don't suppose you can have a senior high
summer camp without some hanky-panky going on. The first afternoon in camp
we were told the rules. The camp director had said, "I would be a fool to
think that rules will not be broken, even when they are as few and simple as
ours. We have four: No drugs, no alcohol, no sex and you gotta
respect people and property. That's all. Drugs,
alcohol, or disrespect of people and property gets you a ticket home the day
of the offense. No exceptions. The same thing goes for sex, but you'd have
to be pretty stupid to have sex with campers or counselors watching. So,
A couple of kids were sent home the first day of
camp when they were dumb enough to smoke dope outside the dining hall where
the "perfume" was obvious to all. I suspected their getting caught was
intentional since a fellow who knew them said they had been sent by the
parents as punishment for smoking weed. There was alcohol
around, but no-one got drunk and no-one was open
There certainly was sex or at least a lot of
bragging about "getting some." According to Walter, a fellow in my tent, he
was "getting plenty" from Martha. "Man, I can't fuck her enough. Three, four
times a day and she's still putting out for Seabury over in tent four."
One afternoon during a break, Martha walked up
to Walter and said, "Hear you and Seabury been fucking me. Came as a real
surprise since I don't remember it, but then given the size of your cocks, I
guess it could have happened without my knowing it." She was roundly
applauded and Walter and Seabury set new records for quietness for the rest
of the camp.
I had an opportunity to lose my virginity to
another man and was really tempted. A really cute fellow in the tent next to
mine asked me at supper one night if I could meet him later. "I'd like to
talk to you," he said. "I'll meet you at Eagle Rock." Eagle Rock was a
landmark for the camp and we all knew where it was. "Say around eleven?"
I agreed, pretty sure what he was interested in
"talking" about. I was very careful to make sure my watch alarm was set,
hoping no-one would hear it, but knowing there was no way I would be awake
at 11:00 without it. I actually was, and turned off the alarm before it went
off. I got up, walked toward the toilet and, just before I reached it,
turned and headed for the trail to Eagle Rock. As I walked in the moonlight,
I was hard one minute, and wondering what the hell I was doing meeting a boy
in the middle of the night the next, with limp willie between my legs. I had
been telling myself we were both men, but Andrew was not only a year older,
but much more physically mature.
He was waiting for me just off the trail. I
would have walked past him had he not hissed at me. When I joined him, he
grabbed my hand and pulled me deeper in to the underbrush. I was very
surprised to find a blanket spread on the ground. He pulled me onto the
blanket and immediately covered my mouth with his, his tongue pushing its
way between my lips.
"Whoa, easy there, Boy," I said, pulling my
mouth from his. "Let's talk about this."
"Your cock's not interested in talking," he
laughed softly. I couldn't deny I was rock hard and before I knew it, Andrew
had pulled my shorts down, uncovering my cock which was standing tall and
pulsating with each heartbeat. I was still kinda stunned and when he took my
cock it his hand, I reached out and grabbed his through his boxers, which
was all he was wearing. "Way to go, Marc," he said and started stroking my
I pulled his cock from his boxers and started to
stroke it -- something I hadn't done to another since Adam, Justin, John and
I had occasionally stroked each other off. Justin! Suddenly the great
feeling I was getting from Andrew's stroking seemed like I was cheating on
Justin. I argued with myself that Justin and I would never be more than best
friends and at the same time that my virginity belonged to the man I loved,
even if he never claimed it. I had stopped stroking Andrew and, in fact, was
no longer touching his cock.
"Shit! What the fuck? I came here to fuck you or
at least get a blow job and you're not even finishing jerking me off. Some
prick tease you are!" Andrew was obviously pissed and, to tell the truth, I
couldn't blame him.
"Sorry," I said. "I'm just an asshole."
"That's all I wanted, Dickhead," he said, "your
asshole!" and slapped my rapidly softening cock. It hurt like hell, but I
Two days later, Andrew was no longer around.
Rumor had it he was caught fucking one of the staff, bareback, and had given
him a good case of crabs and the devil only knows what else. Sometimes
angels protect the stupid.
The last day of camp we were all asked to write
one sentence about our experience. "No other instructions, just write a
sentence. There are markers and newsprint...." everyone started laughing
because the first week, newsprint papered every tree around the common area
-- instructions, directions, duty lists, you name it, were placed on
newsprint and hung somewhere. As the group became more and more a group and
learned what it was doing, there was less and less newsprint. "Yeah, well,
write your sentence on the newsprint without your name and place it face
down on this table. They will be posted mid-afternoon and you're to read
each sentence and write the name of the person you think wrote it
I went for a walk in the woods, thinking back
over the four weeks I had been in camp. A lot had happened. The episode with
Andrew had continued to haunt me. Of course I realized I had escaped a
pretty unpleasant situation -- I could just imagine what Clarisa would have
said had she found out I had caught crabs, and make no mistake about it, she
would have found out. I didn't fear God knowing everything I did, but
Clarisa seemed as all-knowing and a lot less forgiving, especially of dumb
things. I had certainly picked up some skills, which I was not likely to put
to great use in the foreseeable future. I had learned how much doing
something for some kids who had little could mean to me who had everything.
I had known, but had it underscored, that men who try to be big cocksmen can
be real shits. That and a hundred things I learned. So what in one sentence?
All the time I was thinking back over the four weeks, I was also thinking
about Justin and that I would see him in less than twenty-four hours.
Finally, I took the marker and wrote, "It is all about loving."
I put my sheet on the table and, for some
reason, started walking toward Eagle Rock. I expected to see half the camp
there, but found myself alone -- or so I thought until I reached the top of
the rock. Sitting there, looking out over the valley, was Martha. I sat down
beside her and we sat in silence for some time. She finally turned to me and
said, "I know about Andrew. I know what you did was hard -- well, yeah, no
pun intended -- but you were right. I don't know who he is, but he is one
damn lucky guy and I hope he realizes that before it is too late for both of
you." She leaned over, kissed me on the mouth, gently, and said, "Yeah, he
is one damn lucky guy," got up and left. I sat on the rock for a long time,
thinking about what she had said, especially about hoping he
realized....what? That I loved him? That he loved me? I wasn't sure, but....
As I read the sentences, I was struck by two
things: first, by the fact that, had I not known otherwise, I might have
thought we had been to different camps; and second, I was surprised by how
often I was sure who had written the sentence. Seems most of the campers
must have felt the same way because there was amazing agreement among the
names written below each sentence. I was really surprised when I saw that,
almost without exception, my sentence had been properly identified.
The next morning we all gathered in the common
area with our bags, ready to leave for home. There was much hugging -- you
can't work, eat, and sleep with people for four weeks without coming to love
them -- some more than others, of course. We were given sheets with
everyone's home address and there were promises to write and to be back next
year, but camp is a lot like a summer romance. Martha did take my sheet,
circle her name and address and whisper, "Let me know."
Finally, the shuttle to the airport arrived, I
tossed my duffel aboard, kissed Martha and whispered, "I will." I was headed
home to what I did not know.
As always, special thanks to the Aussie and the
Tarheel for editing.