17 May 2017

Flotsam

Me outside Bob Dylan's old house in Hibbing MN
Thanks to readers who have read and been entertained by my recent lengthy posts about working on an American summer camp. That made the writing effort worthwhile.

I tried to slot in and connect my most significant memories from the summers of 1976 and 1977 but there were other "moments" I omitted and as I put this interconnected sequence of posts to bed, I just want to pause for a while and detail five  of them. Then I will feel a certain contentment, knowing that  they have been captured like butterflies and pinned to this blog forever...

1)  The Amish Red Raider Camp was situated just west of Burton which lies in the heart of Amish country. At first it was an unexpected shock to see families or single farmers travelling along the road in horses and traps dressed in their very old-fashioned apparel. When my group of campers were timetabled for canoeing we drove them out to an Amish farm near Burton and used a lake there. Rather slightly, I got to know the Amish matriarch who at first just watched us from a verandah and from two hundred years back. She didn't even speak like an American. One day she made a jug of lemonade and poured me  a glass. It was like talking to someone from the eighteenth century - as if I'd travelled back in time.

2) The Fat Man. In Minneapolis, I went early to the Minnesota State Fair, so early in the day in fact that when I went into the tent to observe The Fattest Man in the World he was still having his lunch - several hamburgers and a massive bowl of  french fries. He was huge and blubbery. There was just me and him. He kept on eating and we didn't exchange a word. It was a very strange meeting. He didn't seem to be relishing his food, just masticating like a grazing bull.

3) White Water. One evening another counsellor called Jeff suggested it would be great fun to take a bunch of canoes to the Chagrin River near Chagrin Falls. I felt some trepidation but went along with the idea anyway. Jeff assured me it would be perfectly safe and besides we would be wearing lifebelts and helmets. Anyway, six canoes were duly launched even though the river was higher than expected. I swear that within two minutes all six canoes had been overturned by the white water and I found myself clinging to a rock, desperate to survive. Fortunately we all got out alive and hauled the battered canoes back to the trailer from a weir lower down the river.

4) A Special Visitor. In Minneapolis I met one of Richard's old school friends - a beautiful  divorced woman called Barbara. She said she was taking a few months off work and would be travelling around Europe that very autumn. I gave her my contact details, never expecting she would turn up at my university in Scotland but that October she appeared unannounced and quickly we fell into each other's arms - both of us with burdens of  pain that needed healing. She stayed for two sublime weeks.

5) The Jumper. To make a bit of extra money, I volunteered to be a "jumper" on one of the big yellow camp busses. This meant that every morning and evening I would accompany Steve the bus driver on a set route round Shaker Heights, picking the campers up or putting them down safely when camp was over for the day. One morning Holly, one of our little girls, wasn't outside her picket fence so I went up the path to her family's great mansion and rang the doorbell.

A black maid or housekeeper came to the door in her uniform and apologised that Holly wasn't yet ready. She asked me to wait inside for a while. Holly's father was reading "The Wall Street Journal in a wingbacked chair. I was standing behind him but he didn't acknowledge my presence - just kept on reading the financial  news. When Holly came skipping downstairs he didn't look up at her either, just muttered "Have a nice day baby" before turning another page.
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And so that's that. My Red Raider summers. When I search the internet, I find very little indeed to prove that Red Raider Camp once existed, east of Cleveland in Geauga County, north of the long, straight road that heads east to Newbury and Burton. But I swear that I didn't make all of this up. It was not a dream though it sometimes seemed that way even as those magical days unfolded. Besides, in my heart I have always been and will surely remain a red raider...
Me playing guitar on the deck at the Mehus family cabin, Rainy Lake MN

27 comments:

  1. Wonderful memories! It's strange that there's not much online about that camp. Maybe you'll start a movement -- a Red Raider Reunion Drive!

    I guess the Chagrin River (great name) must have been running really fast. I went to a canoe camp a couple of summers in a row when I was in high school, and we didn't turn over much if at all. But we were on the Suwannee, which is a slow, coffee-colored southern river.

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    1. I don't know much about canoeing. I trusted Jeff that day which was a daft mistake. Seeing the white water we should never have gone in the river.

      By the way, although I have kept in touch with Chris - exchange visits etc. - I wouldn't want a full scale camp reunion. Some things are best left in the past but these posts about Red Raider Camp will now appear in Google and who knows I might be contacted as a result.

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  2. So you weren't quite finished with your summer memories after all!
    I wonder what Holly is doing now and does she have father issues?

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    1. No I wasn't quite finished Kylie. I gathered some flotsam. Holly is probably having cocktails by the pool while her husband of twenty years reads "The Wall Street Journal" in a wing-backed chair.

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  3. Not for a millionth of a second did I think you'd made any of this up.

    They are wonderful memories to have...thank you for sharing. :)

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    1. Thank you Lee. A thumbs up from you is a badge of honour.

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  4. Fascinating stuff, Mr Pud.

    Poor Holly. I'm happier with my poor in material things, but much loved childhood really. And you are probably right, except she may well be on her 2nd or 3rd husband by now. One can but hope not.

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    1. Sh was a charming, happy little girl. One would never have guessed that she came from such a wealthy background with such a remote father.

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  5. I ve really enjoyed these memories YP

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  6. So you had two love affairs with American women! I'm sure the combination of the guitar playing and the cute British accent was irresistible to the ladies!

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    1. Good job you only know me through the written word Jennifer!

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  7. Wonderful memories YP., thanks for sharing them and giving us a tiny insight into America in the 70's.

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    1. I am glad that I took you there CG.

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  8. Enjoyed reading about your flotsam Mr Pudding.

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    1. Good. I left the jetsam by our wheelie bin Sue.

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  9. Thank you for the postscript to your American summers, YP. You packed a lot into that time.

    I have fond memories of the seventies - high school, university, and first full-time job, plus meeting my husband. And disco. Let us never forget disco.

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    1. Oh yeah baby, let's never forget disco! Let's go!
      Night fever, night fever
      We know how to do it
      Gimme that night fever, night fever
      We know how to show it

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  10. Over the years the farmer and I went round a few Amish villages - there is something quite attractive about their way of life - but it is very restricting and I believe that these days many young people desert.

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    1. I took my wife and kids to Amish country in 2003 and when we were in a small grocery store in Lancaster an Amish carriage pulled up outside. A woman got out with her daughter in their austere apparel... but I think you are right - The Amish way of life is being gradually eroded away.

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  11. You had some great fun but most important you had some experience that remained with you the rest of your life. My summer job...working maintenance on the railroad!

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    1. Maintaining the railroad? No wonder you have muscles like Popeye the Sailorman Red!

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    2. Yes, for a dollar an hour!

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    3. You should make a blogpost about this Red.

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  12. These are some terrific and poignant memories and I'm sure most of those kids remember you. Sometimes, I wonder what has happened to the kids I was a counselor to also in the late seventies just out of high school...

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    1. It's weird to think that those kids are now approaching fifty.

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    2. Indeed! By the way, I answered your geography quiz though probably not in the manner you envisioned. Have a good day!

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.