Happy Campers III (Part 1)

HappyCampers3[First of a two-part post]

When you have a ticket to paradise, you’d damn well better make sure you catch your ride.

Me? I blew it.

I didn’t get on the bus, so I had to get on the bus.

Sunday, July 30, 1978, I was up early to pack. Steve would give me a ride to Crystal Free Church where I’d catch a school bus up to Camp Shamineau in Motley. Well, that was the plan.

He picked me up at 1 p.m., but we couldn’t remember where the church was, so we stopped by Lisa Tepley’s house to get directions. Lisa wasn’t home, but her sister Marna set us in the right direction.

By the time we’d gotten there, the bus had already left.

Crestfallen, I called home from Lisa’s again. Mom was adamant—she refused to drive the 250-mile round trip to Motley. So she suggested I come home for dinner and Brian would take me to the Greyhound station, where I’d take a later bus to camp.

My Greyhound rolled into Motley around 9 p.m., and I got off the bus with a camp staffer named Darrell, who called us a ride into camp. When I threw my bags down outside the canteen, Deann “came wandering up and hugged me (an embarrassing moment)” before I was assigned to the Ottawa cabin and rejoined old buddies there.

At least I’d made it—back at last among those happy campers.


Then there was the dream of that golden-haired brunette. And, possibly, a connection 30 years later.

Thing was, I knew she wasn’t Deann. The diary seems to indicate I tried to tell that to her right from the start: “…the biggest thing is Deann and I did a lot of talking; a lot of those pre-Now dreams came true in two days (with five more to go!).” You see, Deann and I had history: smashmouth time together the previous year at camp. She was cute but, to me she was no Lisa Tepley. I was flattered by her attention, so, truth be told, like any male, I exploited that.LanaSham78

Among the old faces in the cabin: counselor Jim Wannabow, Dean, Wade, Chip, Derrick, and the new guy, Bob Nelson, a tall, angular kid from Minnetonka, who I hung out with after camp. As for the girls, early in the week I got talking to Lana (pictured at right) and her friend Marie, as well as Cecilia, Jeanne and her friend Debbie.

Everyone’s colas were diluted at the canteen in Tuesday’s rains. It cleared up in time for goofiness mid-week. On Wednesday the girls were waiting down by the dining hall for the boys’ cabins to come down for breakfast. Everyone was surprised to see the guys marching “down the hill, backwards and single file, ‘left, right, left, right…’” I spent that day talking with Lana, Marie, Deann, Denise, Eileen, her sister Mary, Sonya and Trudi. While Ottawa, my cabin, played Mohian in football up at the playing field, I was down in the dining hall basement playing piano. A couple girls showed up, and it’s likely then that Debbie first caught my eye. She was cute, brunette—could she be the one I’d come all the way to meet?


There’s no time to lose, I heard her say,
catch your dreams before they slip away

Fast-forward—almost 30 years to the day.

It’s Monday, Aug. 4, 2008. Mom had passed away two months before. The journal reads: “Dad sent me an email today after I sent him a pix of AJ [my girlfriend at the time] and I” off to attend a local arts fundraiser. His email read: “Hi Mike, got the picture and if I was your age I would be camping on [AJ’s] door step and Mike, I read in her eyes, she is at peace with sole,,,what a great looking lady,smart and donot let her get away!!!Love Dad.

AJ and I had spent the previous weekend together. Then, in a telling statement recorded afterward in my journal: “We had a long talk after she started crying, worrying about her autumn and where she’s going in her life, but I attributed it to hormonal flow and was just there to listen. She’s never freaked me out, even when she’s emotional, which I consider beautiful and honest.”

Buried deep in the 1978 diary, there’s a statement that corresponds eerily to the 2008 journal.

On Aug. 4, 2008, I was having lunch at one of my St. Paul hangouts, the Muddy Pig, when the Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” came over the speakers. The intuitive pull of the golden-haired brunette popped into my head. AJ had similar features as the Mystery Girl.

Were the decades somehow compressing? And had I been lying to myself about things that just weren’t true for all those years?

~ by completelyinthedark on May 24, 2013.

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