Tall Timber Tales|
Summer Camp Emergency
December 30, 2005
It is the very last day, on the very last hour of Tall Timber summer camp in the quiet summer tourist town of Mohegan Lake. It is the early 60s, and for the past two months I had spent nearly all of my time teaching arts and crafts, and directing the camp’s theatrical presentations.|
The campers of Tall Timber would soon return to being the full-time responsibility of their parents. While I have enjoyed the teaching, refereeing, caring for, coaching, and being a confidant to children, I look forward, with relief, to the quiet of non-counselorhood.
The financial compensation for the summer will be a meager salary, plus a few small cash tips. At 17, I long-identified myself as a photographer, and my wages would soon all go toward a better camera to assist me in producing my art.
Uncle Mel just finished distributing the end-of-season presents to all the camp kids. And everyone is in a pleasant, though restless and unfocused, mood.
Most camps give out awards of excellence in various categories. It was Uncle Mel’s idea to prevent the potential jealousies and feelings of inferiority by giving a toy or memento to everyone. The presents were sometimes cheesy, a fact often remarked upon by the youthful counselors, but the kids usually like them well enough.
I hear something hit the ground. As I turn around, someone says, “He was walking on the benches.” The benches are simple, long pieces of plank wood, attached at right angles to a short piece of wood, that are not anchored into the ground. Thirty feet from me, one of the ten-year-olds is splayed on the dirt with his forearm bent at a peculiar angle.
As I run over, I yell for Uncle Mel. Mel was not just the camp director, he had medical knowledge, and a full range of experience with child care. He was the one you called for in an emergency.
In the car, I hold the child in my arms. When I can get a word in between his screaming, I tell him not to worry, we are going to the doctor. He is not placated.
As Mel races through the country roads, he tells me that the kid has a “greenstick” fracture, which was better than breaking the skin. It needs to be reset, which I know will be more than unpleasant for the child.
He also tells me he is angry at the kid’s counselor for the apparent lack of supervision on the benches. Uncle Mel often stressed safety, especially around the pool. As he frequently put it, “What would you say to a parent if you had to carry to them their drowned child?”
The doctor is of the old school — he has seen it all, which is comforting, as he knows right away what to do. I hope that his red face is merely from high blood pressure, and not from recent drinking.
My arms are around the kid, securing his shoulder and upper arm, as the doctor pulls the kid’s lower arm. The kid howls in agony, and, to get the doctor to stop, promptly kicks him in the leg.
This time, while I hold the child, Mel holds his feet. The doc pulls on the arm. Another round of screaming, and it occurs to me that it is highly fortunate that the parents are not here with us. I am crying to see this child suffer and I start to shake.
Still the bones are not set properly, and the doc braces for yet one more hearty yank. Again, a huge scream, and the kid yells at the doctor that he is “a very bad man.”
When we got back, camp is over. I get my tips, and an unforgettable lesson in child rearing. The kid shows off his cast, racing around the very same benches that had caused his tumble.
Return to: Demian’s Family Album