At Pinecrest, campers learn all about zone defense

The writer, the 13-year-old daughter of Dixon and Linda Cartwright of Big Sandy, Texas, is a member of THE JOURNAL'S staff.

By Jamie Cartwright

FREDERICKTOWN, Mo.-It all started quite some time ago at church. My best friend, Nicole Fisk, and I had talked a lot about going to camp, but that one Sabbath I actually went up to my dad and said something like, "Can I go to Pinecrest church camp in Missouri? They're giving out applications today."

I was so certain that my father would say, "No, too expensive," or, "No, we can't drive you up there."

But he didn't. He said, yes, I could at least go get the form to sign up. Yippee! (Later I figured out my dad just really wanted me to write an article for his newspaper all about my little adventure, but at least I'll be a published author, my greatest dream!)

Nicole and I quickly got our applications, which I examined over and over, and during the next few days I asked my parents if I could actually fill it out and send it in.

Another yes, eventually. So I signed my name, my town, my health, my minister, my E-mail address, my phone number, my street address, my parents' names, any former camps, my credit-card number, my computer manufacturer, my lawyer's phone and address, my banking-account number, my-Okay, maybe not quite all that, but it sure felt like it.

Boy, were Nicole and I excited! Imagine, going to a really real church summer camp, something neither of us had done before. We both sent in out forms and waited and waited in anticipation. Would the great Pinecrest Camp (which is a United Church of God camp) accept two 13-year-old girls who hadn't any experience in this kind of thing?

I was to find out some days later when Nicole called me up, sounding strange.

"Jamie, have you checked your mail yet?" she asked, her voice deadly calm and making me wonder.

"No, why?"

"Go check it."

We're actually going

So I did, and (trumpets blaring) the camp had replied! I tore open the letter and was ecstatic when I read that, yes, I had been accepted to Pinecrest! (Later I found out that Nicole had too, and we both were ecstatic together.)

For days, when my friend and I were talking on the phone or at each other's house, one of us would suddenly pipe up, "I can't believe we're actually going to camp!" And the other would say, "I know!" Then the conversation would continue.

Finally all arrangements were worked out that the Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Woodring, who had this big car, were to drive both of us to camp together! Yippee!

Then the day arrived. In the evening Mom and Dad drove Nicole and me over to see some people, Mr. and Mrs. Morris Foster and their kids, who were incredibly nice at letting two hyper teenagers stay at their house in Gladewater till about 3 in the morning, when the Woodrings would come and pick us up, along with the Fosters' son.

We went to bed in their beautiful house pretty late, but we couldn't sleep, literally! We talked and talked and talked and giggled and told stupid jokes and laughed silently and had great fun, every so often sneaking into the bathroom to see what time the clock said.

The truth is, as I said before, we didn't go to sleep. About three times we said to each other, "We have got to get some rest," and we would roll over for about half an hour, never saying anything, trying to keep our eyes closed.

Nope, didn't work. Around 3:30, when it was time to get up, I would start thinking of camp and my mind would get all weird and suddenly I thought we were going to see a tiger at Pinecrest (no kidding!), and that was the equivalent of dreaming while still half awake. I think Nicole did the same thing.

Finally we were smooshed up happily in the Woodrings' big car, which is like a van but not really, but since I can't remember the name I'll call it a car. There were eight people all together in that big car, Nicole and I in the very back. Occasionally we'd try to sleep, but it was hard, and all and all I think I got only one or two hours' rest, maybe more if I dozed and can't remember.

There we were

About lunchtime we arrived at camp in eastern Missouri! This was Tuesday, June 24. (The camp lasted until July 2.) We carried our luggage to the gym, where some people with big sheets of paper told us what dorm we were to be in. I got 4-G, and Nicole got 5. We were hoping 4 and 5 were close to each other, but they weren't, but, oh well, we were happy!

As I turned around to pick my bags back up, I heard a voice say, "Hey, you're in my dorm! I'm your counselor, Miss Greider."

I looked up and this nice lady gave me a hug, and I knew right then and there I had made the right choice about coming to Pinecrest. Anyway, next to Miss Karie Greider was another girl and she said, "Hi, Jamie! Remember me? I'm in your dorm."

I stared at this girl a while. Yes, of course, I knew her. I just couldn't remember her name or how I knew her.

It turned out that I had met her at a church dance one time in Fort Worth and that her name was Jessi (short for Jessica Wann), and, boy, was it nice to see her again! I hardly ever forget a face, just the name that goes with it.

My dorm was wonderful. It was in a large building with three other dorms, except 5-G (how ironic), which was the only girls' dorm that wasn't in the building. However, I soon found out where 5 was and moseyed on down there to see Nicole.

She wasn't there. She was at lunch, one of her dormmates informed me, so I went to lunch too.

Many people I talked to who had gone to other camps said that Pinecrest had the most wonderful food, and I heartily agree with them.

Making new friends

After lunch Nicole and I decided that we would like to go swimming, and did so. We met two other girls at the pool, Savanna Isbell and Angela Barbeau. Savanna was in my dorm and Angela in Nicole's, so I was happy. There's no greater feeling than the "Oh, boy, I've got a new friend" feeling. Later, as we swam on, we met Jessica Fergen (not to be confused with Jessi), and I got that feeling all over again.

The next day wasn't so good. While my dorm was playing volleyball, I got sun sick. This has happened to me before, and, even though I hate volleyball, it was still a big letdown. I went to the infirmary and took a big nap, had lunch, started feeling bad again, went back to the nurse and took another long nap, ate a late supper, stayed up just a little bit and then went to bed and slept like a log.

And then I had the canoe trip to look forward to the next day.

Canoeing wasn't so bad

I prayed that it would rain. Canoes just weren't my style. I had always watched people go out on them in a lake near my town and had always just known that I would tip if I ever tried one myself.

However, though the next day was a bit cloudy, it didn't rain or thunder, so I simply had no choice. I listened to the review of instructions carefully and watched other people get a chance to take the canoe out on a lake at camp. But I didn't get that chance and became even more worried.

It took roughly 45 minutes for the huge vans loaded with our dorm and a boys' dorm to get to the river we were to boat down. I tried to look on the bright side. Surely canoeing couldn't be that hard. Gulp.

We arrived at the river, smeared ourselves with sunscreen and made sure everybody had a life jacket on, then we had to practice floating on the river in case our canoes tipped.

Three people at a time waded into the cold stream, then lay back and kept their feet up! (I'm sorry, but that was emphasized so much.) It was really fun, though we didn't go far.

My favorite part was when I floated between two rocks and nearly dunked under with the swiftness of it all, and people screamed at me to keep my feet up.

I'm glad they did, though. See, in a strong-flowing river there are two currents, one on bottom, one on top, one fast, one slow, and, if your feet are down in one current and your upper body up in the other, you're going to do somersaults and probably drown or at least get all frustrated. So I learned to keep my feet up.

The canoeing started. I was the bowman, the one who sat in the front of the canoe, and a nice guy (and an excellent boater, good for my inexperienced sake) named Mr. Mike Blackwell was the sternman, the guy in back.

My job was to yell out about any objects that could get in our way or run into us, like people, logs, overhanging branches and rocks and stuff. Mr. Blackwell's job was to tell me where to put my oar, on the right or left side, and to paddle hard or softly and stuff like that.

Moon over Missouri

I was nervous, and right before we shoved off some batty-brained kid in his own canoe (not a part of the camp, mind you) floated along, looked at us on shore, turned around, bent over and pulled his shorts down and mooned us! I almost screamed! I covered my eyes and took a peek, and he mooned us again! Argh!

My only hope is that someday he'll do that to some evil gang bully and learn a valuable lesson.

Then we took off. I didn't capsize the boat, and that was a good sign. Mr. Blackwell and I were the head canoe, which made me feel kind of proud, and we took off at a good speed.

At first I tried hard to be the perfect bowman, shouting out about objects in the water that were miles away (okay, so I'm building it up slightly), but soon I relaxed and enjoyed myself.

Oh, it was so fun, so peaceful! In some places were small rapids that were exciting, and in others the river was so calm it looked like glass. This particular stream-I think it was called the Black River-was so clear you could look down almost any time, even in deep water, and see the bottom.

That that was the highlight of the camp, for sure. Many times I could spot a small spring running into the river and turtles and fish swimming about.

Finally we stopped for lunch, and before we ate many of us waded or swam in the river. It was fun, trying to go against the current and, oh, the rocks! The shore was mostly made out of rocks so beautiful!

Somebody said they came from a cave, and I might as well believe that because the rocks, big and small, had wonderful crystals in the making, looking like those exhibits in museums. As a rock collector, I was heartbroken to leave so many beauties behind, but I did shove a few smaller stones into my pockets.

We shoved off again, canoed over that gorgeous river and stopped once more along the way to swing on this lovely rope swing out into the river. I did it about three times and thought it was great fun, though I kept losing my hat.

Finally, when my arms were aching and my shoulders were sore (I had thrown my sweat into paddling), we stopped at a little campground where we shared tents and ate outside and stuff. I guess it would have been all right, but the bathrooms were so disgusting I shan't even write about them!

The big vans the next morning took us back to Pinecrest, where we took showers and finally felt clean and comfortable, for life jackets can start hurting after 20-something miles.

When we got back we went to Christian-living class, which was relaxing and enjoyable.

In the Zone

All throughout camp, we were taught to be "in the Zone." The Zone was the acceptable behavior we all agreed to; any misbehavior was not in the Zone. Many talks were given about being in the Zone, and if anybody were rude you could chide him for not being zoney.

Eventually the auto-basics class got its named changed to the Auto Zone, which I thought was funny.

One of the dorms even got up during dinner and yelled, "In the Zone!" even though the dorm members looked a little embarrassed after they yelled.

On the Sabbath

The next day was Saturday, when we had about an hour-long song service in the dining hall and later went to church, where I sang special music with some other girls. It was a fun, peaceful day, though I don't believe I've ever done so much singing in one day.

The next day my dorm played speedaway, which I found to be an incredibly fun game, in spite of its likeness to soccer. Luckily, the day was partly cloudy, so I didn't get sun sick.

After that we took the challenge course, which is where my dorm was blinded after an amazing plane crash. We were National Geographic explorers on our way to the Himalayas to search for Bigfoot when we had the plane accident.

Friendly natives

Fortunately for us, some friendly mountain natives led us to safety, though we had to guess their language, which consisted of about six words, and the head native sounded suspiciously like Mr. Mark Welch, the Tulsa, Okla., minister. Maybe I was wrong. After all, I was blindfolded.

After that amusing and fun course, we took another Christian-living class, then all the camp participated in the Novelty Olympics, which were so crazy I'll give you only a hint about them, as follows:

Imagine being a fireman (hurriedly putting on clothes) and trying to keep a balloon in the air as you run around and your huge pants seem to keep falling down!

The next day 4-G went to swimming class, then participated in campus improvement, which is a fancy way of saying nailing signs up while swatting bugs, bugs, bugs and more bugs.

After that was sign-language class, then basketball (though I mostly played knockout, or whatever it's called).

By this time, after seven days at camp, I was covered with chigger bites everywhere, and of course I had poison ivy all over my ankle.

For flex time that evening, a time where we can choose an activity out of whatever's listed, I chose fishing and caught four, and some other people caught dirty socks and snapping turtles.

The last day

Finally came the last full day that I would spend at Pinecrest. It was sad kind of, though I guess I was ready to sleep in my nice, comfortable bed back in Texas, instead of a small bunk bed too close to that hard ceiling.

We played softball, though I nearly got heat sick and sat out and of course got stung by a bee. Ow.

Then there was swimming and auto basics (the Auto Zone), and I took my sign-language proficiency and passed! (A proficiency is a small test you take in a sport or other activity and do special work on it and get an award if you pass.)

After that I went paddleboating out on the lake with one of my good dorm friends, Joy LaBissoniere, and that was relaxing while we just talked about everything, though kind of uneventful till we tried to dock in and a snake scared everybody.

Then next morning we did the ropes course, though we didn't get to do the whole thing because the awards ceremony came up and the whole camp attended that to get everyone's proficiency certificate.

Then I begged somebody to open the gift shop, and as I ran back to the dorm to get my gift-shop money I spread the word about the shop being open, and suddenly all these girls were there buying, including me.

The trip back to Texas was going to be long, yet somehow it would be kind of nice.

Later I can look at my little stuffed-kitty camp reminder wearing the jammies that read, "Sweet Dreams at Pinecrest."

(Be watching soon for a report on Camp Champions, which is scheduled to take place in the Texas hill country Aug. 3-7.)

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