A camp story
"Here, pass this," someone handed me a clipboard with a white piece of paper on it. The Lake Village girl counselors were planning a theme for opening campfire that night. While all the counselors were gathered at the staff meeting it was the perfect opportunity to spread the word before everyone dispersed to their cabins for check-in. Every girl counselor would dress up like a Barbie. Surfer Barbie, Cowgirl Barbie, Fashion Barbie, Teacher Barbie, Miss America Barbie, Cheerleader Barbie, and Mom Barbie were all on this sheet. I glanced at the list before passing it on. I was a River Village counselor. I would not be dressing up like a Barbie tonight.
For decades all of camp happened in what we now refer to as River Village. But because of the need to accommodate more campers as our waiting lists grew out of control camp expanded. Plans were laid and new cabins were built. In 2004 Lake Village opened for the summer and became the home for the oldest kids in camp. Named for their proximity to specific bodies of water, River and Lake Village can both function individually--they have their own dining halls, cabins, chapel, climbing wall, multi-purpose building, equestrian barn, storm shelter, trading post, swimming area and flagpole--but are still just part of Camp Tecumseh. The Villages come together for campfires at the beginning and end of the week and share in chapel several mornings. Most interaction happens in passing, shouting "Hi" to other cabins as you pass through main field on the way to the pool or clinics. Since 2004 their has been a friendly competition between the two villages.
At dinner a few hours later, Lily stopped by my cabin's table on the way back from the salad bar. "You know how Lake Village girls are being Barbies tonight?" she asked. "Well we're going to go as Women of the River," she looked around the table making eye contact with all of the brand-new campers. "Counselors and campers are going to look like we just came out of the River. It'll be awesome. Look as opposite of Barbies as you can."
Lake Village cabins are newer and the older kids are stereotyped as being super cool and mature River Village cabins are more rugged and our younger kids are noticeably more crazy and hyper. Tonight's campfire of Barbies v. Women of the River would be a perfect illustration of the differences between the Villages.
Back at the cabin we got dressed in black, brown, and green clothes. As soon as our girls were outfitted we went outside to find sticks i.e. hair accessories. While the girls found twigs to stick in their messy ponytails I turned on the hose to make a mud puddle. We all scooped up the mud and smeared it on our cheeks, arms, and legs. Some girls were tentative and just put war stripes on their cheeks. One camper was so excited she dunked her face in the mud. We were ready.
The parade of River Women marched to opening campfire, a swarm of dirt and earth tones. We repeated the Women of the River cheer over and over and over until all of the new campers learned the words and joined in. The cheer had been created a few weeks earlier by Lily and McSoley to be as loud, deep, and ungirly as possible with lots of grunting, stomping, and a double chin at the end. When you do this cheer you have to scream from your gut and make your voice as deep as possible.
The Lake Village counselors didn't know what was coming. The Barbies were milling around the center of the campfire ring talking about Barbie things and acting like Barbies. Then River Women invaded. We led our muddy campers to the benches and told them to keep cheering as the counselors circled around the campfire, a cyclone of River epicness.
The Barbies attempted to overpower us by doing the Lake Lady cheer in reply but their high-pitched enthusiastic cheer could not drown out our rumbling sound. We stomped and jumped and screamed and grunted and cheered and clapped until campfire began. I think the trees continued to echo back our guttural cry for the next three songs. Our voices were raspy from screaming and our skin itchy from dry mud but we could not have been prouder to be from River Village.