Somebody asked me last week why I wanted to open a summer camp.  I have been thinking about that for several days now.  Today I want to open – and operate – a summer camp because that was the one constant in my life as a kid growing up in Texas in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

School subjects and classmates changed.  I went to summer camp and my camp friends and I found a transition to the next grade.  We moved from one house to another . . . and the same raggedy  weatherproofed canvas wall tents were at summer camp under the post oaks and junipers at the foot of Big Split Mountain.  We bought newer furniture and softer mattresses;  those same rusty Army-surplus cots with the 90-pound canvas-duck concrete-filled mattresses were there to sleep on at summer camp.  My mom got adventurous with new recipes in the kitchen, and the girls I dated (hot stuff in 1959) wanted me to take them to nice restaurants . . . and the same two grandmothers who had been cooking at summer camp since before General Pershing went to France still put pork chops and mashed potatoes and cornbread on the table in small mountains.  And my mother never whipped up a gallon of purple bug juice in her life.  But it was always on the table at summer camp.

I started shaving when I went away to the University of Texas, and Navy ROTC sent me cruising on a destroyer (USS Forrest B. Royal, DD872) to Norway, England, Belgium, and France.  I saw the Atlantic Ocean way up close.  I saw different faces and different girls, and I heard different languages and different musics.  I came back to Texas and took a job as the office manager at summer camp where I had been a camper.  And the air was sweeter.  And the bunk was more comfortable.  And the food was more fulfilling.  And the language sang in my ears.

I went from a summer of loading 55-pound-projectiles into the breech of a naval deck gun that fired over twenty miles to a handful of .22LR bullets in a bolt-action rifle with iron sights on a hundred-yard range.  And the archery butts.  (Lord, how we snickered and elbowed each other at that.)  And the canoe dock on the Brazos.  And the unchanging Texas hills and trees that used to be the bottom of a sixty-five-million-year-old ocean.  And the turkey vultures riding the thermals all the way to the far horizon.

Summer camp taught me how to share the task.  And how to share the credit.  It taught me how to lead by example and to do without being asked.  It taught me how to be a conscious  individual in a group.

I want to open WindWalkerCamp so I can  share that experience.  I started summer camp driving my own kids and their friends all over Texas and from Cape Canaveral to Mount Rushmore.  Like Shakespeare’s witches . . . “in thunder, lightning, and in rain.”  There were lots of clear days, too.  I can’t believe how much I want to share that same experience with their kids . . . and with their friends’ kids.  They’re getting old enough.

I want to show them how to rustle up a skillet of camper stew.  (I remember once asking my mom once why she never cooked that for us at home.  I also remember the expression on her face at my question.  What I don’t really remember is whether she ever actually answered . . .)  I want to show them how to build a campfire and how to shoot a rifle and use a bow and arrows.  And turn a screwdriver and a wrench.  And swing a hammer and an axe.

I want to give them the time and the place to find their own around-the-fire songs and traditions.  And bunkhouse scary stories after lights-out.  And favorite hideouts in the walnut and oak and juniper where they can see the dry waterfall that rolls and tumbles after a two-inch rain.  And smell the sassafras and the sage.

And shared values . . . truth, trustworthiness, friendship, your word, appreciation of the wild world around us. The peace of a clear-to-cloudy sky.  The songs of the stars.

Today that’s why I want to open WindWalkerCamp. I’ll have other reasons tomorrow.  They’ll look a lot like these.

Thanks for reading.  Stay outdoors, my friends.

Uncle Pat

What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.