Relationships

Here's to Bunk 10

Ah, summer camp, where rivalries spread like viruses among us little weasels and cruelty flowed like bug juice

Here's to Bunk 10, they're true blue/They are drunkards through and through/They are drunkards, so they say/They tried to get to Heaven, but they went the other way/So drink, chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug ...

Summer camp was in many ways like the Camelot depicted in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." That is, a silly place, full of silly songs and cheers, and silly children with big ears, spindly legs and major orthodontics.

But then there was the other, nastier aspect of summer camping, the "Lord Of The Flies"-style antics that invariably occur when placing two or three hundred entitled, hyperactive kids in squalid, early 20th-century wooden bunkhouses monitored by late teens masquerading as responsible adults.

This aspect of the summer camp experience was characterized by constant, intensive competition, mostly of the athletic variety, but it carried over into every facet of camp life. Rivalries spread like viruses among the bunks and cruelty flowed like bug juice. To wit, kids with no genital hair were roundly denigrated as "Mertzes," a reference to the bald neighbor Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy."

RELATED: The Swim of Things

Bunk 10, of which I was a member, had a thing up its collective ass for Bunk 14, which was overseen by a hulking surfer-boy counselor we nicknamed "The Groot." The kids in Bunk 14 were little weasels, just like us, but for reasons I can no longer recall, over the course of the summer, the hard feelings had slowly metastasized from derision to something akin to loathing.

And so it was, in the wee hours of the morning, late August, circa 1960, that Bunk 10 launched a surprise guerilla attack on Bunk 14. We 12 or 13 pint-sized commandos, dressed all in black, snuck past our own sleeping giant of a counselor (affectionately nicknamed "Pigbrain") and went skulking across the campground and up the steps to the enemy's lair. Most of us carried loaded water balloons in each hand. I carried a stepladder, as I was tasked with unscrewing the single lightbulb on the ceiling.

The balloon bearers ever so silently took their assigned stations, at the bedside of each camper. Two armed guerilla fighters stood over the body of the Groot. Our explosives expert unloaded the cherry bombs from his backpack and placed them in the center of the floor. Another conspirator stood watch by the door, holding a combination lock.

RELATED: In the Sky With Diamonds

Once I finished my job, and put the stepladder under my arm, all hell broke loose. The cherry bombs went off with a mighty roar, and the residents of Bunk 14, jolted out of their deep slumbers, were instantaneously pelted with water bombs in the face. Before anyone knew what hit him, we were out the door, which was then locked from the outside.

We hightailed it back to Bunk 10, leaving behind the sounds of mass chaos. Screaming, crying children, left soaking in their beds (doubly so for the bed-wetters), trapped inside their bunk, in complete darkness and confusion. Above the din, I heard the Groot banging on the door, calling down the wrath of God upon the raiders. By the time the rest of the camp had awakened and realized what had occurred, those raiders were safely tucked back into their little beds. Pigbrain somehow managed to remain asleep through the whole thing, but he was not a bad sort and would not have ratted us out in any case.

The next morning, before breakfast, as expected, Bunk 10 was grilled and re-grilled by the head counselor and the owners of the camp, who viewed this escapade not as a prank but an affront to their reputations. However, having left behind no forensic evidence or eyewitnesses, we had what you would call plausible deniability. The Groot and his crew knew very well who were to blame, but the end of summer was fast approaching and there was little time for Bunk 14 to mount a successful retaliation. And, besides, we were well prepared for any counterattack.

The great Bridgeton-Naples raid, all these years later, remains a perfect hit-and-run operation, flawlessly conceived and executed by an intrepid band of 12-year-old weasels.

Here's to Bunk 10.

   
Comments