With our 20th wedding anniversary coming up, I decided to write about our love story. Please join me in the upcoming days as I tell A Summer Camp Love Story.
Need to catch up? Part 1--Our Love Story Starts with: A List; Part 2--A Girl on the Boys' Side, and a Boy on the Girls' Side; Part 3--A Dance...with a Promise; Part 4--Questions, Goodies, and Boat Rides; Part 5--One Fateful Boat Ride; Part 6--Waiting on our First Date to Happen; Part 7--Who's Sammy Lane?; Part 8--Okay, I'm Sure Now; Part 9--There was a lot of smiling, and honesty, and heart pounding... ..........
Need to catch up? Part 1--Our Love Story Starts with: A List; Part 2--A Girl on the Boys' Side, and a Boy on the Girls' Side; Part 3--A Dance...with a Promise; Part 4--Questions, Goodies, and Boat Rides; Part 5--One Fateful Boat Ride; Part 6--Waiting on our First Date to Happen; Part 7--Who's Sammy Lane?; Part 8--Okay, I'm Sure Now; Part 9--There was a lot of smiling, and honesty, and heart pounding...
I bet you read the title and thought, "Huh? I thought this was a love story."
And this is where I would answer you, "Oh honey. Stick around. This is the redneck part of our love story!"
I like to tell my Ozark friends, in my best hillbilly voice, "Dave and I fell in love SKUNK HUNTIN'" And that's "huntin'" without the "g" at the end!
You see, that particular summer, there was a skunk problem around camp. Staff and campers kept seeing skunks. And smelling them occasionally.
A respectable summer camp just cannot have skunks wandering around. Don't skunks carry rabies? Or leprosy? Or maybe they just carry STINK.
Our camp director found out (the hard way) that you cannot trap a skunk. Well, I mean you can...but then what do you do with it? Nope, the game warden told us the most humane thing to do in a summer camp situation is to shoot the skunk.
Shoot a bunch of skunks? Yes, preferably at night. When no one's around. And each one with the first shot. You know--so campers don't start writing letters home about the gunshots they're hearing at night.
Gunshots are probably not good for publicity.
Neither are skunks.
So, the camp director pulled Dave into his office and asked Dave, master hunter and gun-toting man that he was, to help "take care" of the skunks. And with a matchmaking gleam in his eye, Brawner told Dave he probably needed someone to help...hold the flashlight, perhaps. He told Dave to take me along, in a camp truck (aka, old beat-up hundred-year-old truck with doors that didn't always close the first time), and drive around the bottom area of camp by the lake, to see if we couldn't find some skunks. He told us to wait until after Taps--lights out bedtime--to start.
With the director's blessing, Dave loaded up his gun, and handed me the biggest flashlight I'd ever seen: The foot-long Mag Light.
This is also where I introduce another main character into our love story. Reader, I'd like for you to meet Otis. Otis was the night watchman at our camp for years and years. He's still living, and has only retired from camp in the last couple of years. Oh, but for 20 or 30 years, Otis was a nighttime fixture at our camp--many times arriving a couple of hours early for duty, just so he could talk to many of the staff and campers during the evening activity. Otis loved camp, and he loved the staff and campers. And I bet if you asked any of the people from those 20 or 30 years at K-1 Kanakuk about Otis, you'd see that the feeling was mutual.
One of my favorite things about Otis is his stories. He's lived a long and interesting life, and is happy to tell about it, if you ask. Even sometimes, when you don't ask. The stories are even better--because he always tells them in the 3rd person. Seems like he always starts one of his old stories like this, "Ole Otis, well...he helped build that Table Rock Dam, he sure did. Back then, 'hit was nothing but farmland..."
Oh, but back to the story. If ever you meet Otis, you ask him, and I'm sure he'll tell you..."Oh, I was there 'at summer when dat Dave and MurKay was huntin' skunks, I sure was. Whoo, you'uhnses wouldn't believe how many skunks there was. But, ole Otis, he was thar when they got to courtin'..."
And he was there. Dave and I always knew when we'd see headlights slowly bumping across the football field through the dark--we knew Otis was coming to check on us...or to let us know of a skunk sighting. Or, most likely, he was lonesome for company, and wanted to chat for a spell.
Often, Dave would drive us to where Otis had last spotted a skunk, and sure enough, we'd see that fluffy black tail. I would point the flashlight through the driver window, and Dave would jump out of the truck, aim, and shoot.
And doggone it, Dave hit the skunk every single time. Always between the eyes--so it wouldn't spray when shot, he explained. Well, usually it didn't spray...
Dave and I kept a tally of all the skunks we killed over a couple of weeks. We called that tally sheet: "Team Dave and Mary Kay." I think we got to 14 or 15 skunk kills.
Can we pause for a moment, and ponder the fact that I just wrote "14 or 15 skunk kills" in my LOVE STORY. Like I said--this is the redneck portion of my story.
What I have not told you about yet, is how every night for about 2 weeks, I rarely got more than about 5 hours of sleep. But, a girl sure can survive on love in times like that.
Dave and I might have been heading toward love with those first dates, the roses, and the kiss. But, truly, we fell in love while skunk hunting. Like any kind of hunting, most of our time was spent doing the hunting part--in our case driving around, or sitting in the truck, waiting. During those long hours, Dave and I just talked and talked. I told Dave everything. It seemed I couldn't keep any secrets or thoughts--embarrassing or not--from him.
We talked about our childhoods, our friendships. We talked about what we wanted in life, what was important. And it wasn't long before we were talking about marriage.
Yes, I know. It was a whirlwind romance. Remember, I only worked 2 months that summer. But, in those 2 months we knew. We knew we had found "the one."
And like young couples in love, we almost always held hands in that old truck. Or, I'd scoot next to Dave and put my head on his shoulder. But, don't you worry. Ole' Otis was never far away, with his latest skunk sighting, or latest story to tell in those lonely night hours.
Come to think of it...I wonder if our camp director asked Otis to keep an eye out for the skunk huntin' couple? Because, sure enough, ole' Otis, he was never far away...
To be continued...
(Am I running anybody off yet with my crazy 10-part love story? And I'm barely to the end of our 2 months at camp. I hope to take a couple of days' break from the story, and pick it back up again soon. Thanks for your encouraging comments so far! This story has been SO FUN for me to tell. I apologize that I cannot seem to tell a quick story to save my life...)