In my junior year of college I decided to move out to an apartment. This was a fantastic plan, the rent was just about the same as my room cost on campus, and the food equaled out as well. Everything was going along great until I noticed the flaw in my plan. Summer. My grants and student loans did not cover room and board in the summer. I had absolutely no money to pay rent. I looked for a job for several months unsuccessfully at the end of spring. Finally my mom, who works for a Methodist church, told me they were looking for counselors at a camp Tanako in Hot Springs.

While I was not sold on the idea of being a camp counselor for the summer, Hot Springs was perfect. It would be easy to run back to the apartment in Arkadelphia when needed, plus I spent a lot of time there anyway. Out of any other options I took the job and off to camp I went. Ugly green staff shirt and all.

It turns out the experience as a staff member is considerably more fun than that of a kid, although drastically different. All the staff bonded well, we worked hard together and when the kids were gone probably played a little harder than we should. Things were good, I was having fun, had the money to pay rent, but the biggest benefit from working at camp was still to come.

The summer was wrapping up and we were on the last few weeks of camps and we were preparing for a weekend camp. We often had volunteers come in to assist with the camps, and this was one of them. After one of the events were walking out of the building and I noticed what I thought was a younger volunteer walking alone. I decided to be friendly and visit with her while we walked. When I tried to start a conversation she completely blew me off. So I ignored her and went on with the rest of the weekend. Besides, she had a god awful haircut.

We finished up that camp and held a week camp immediately after that. We had the weekend off before another week camp so I went back to Arkadelphia to check on the apartment, pay rent and go ahead and buy books so I could get the cheap used ones before everyone came back. On Monday we greeted the new kids and I noticed the young volunteer with the ugly haircut was back. I decided I was going to make her talk to me this time. I am stubborn what can I say?

We had a big group play event and I saw her walk by and tried to get her attention. She again ignored me so I picked up a fun noodle and threw it at her. I was aiming to go in front of her for the record, but it managed to hit her in the head. She came over and we talked for a bit. The next day we had outdoor activities, and I tended to work the archery range. Surprisingly she was there first thing that morning.

We talked for a bit while I made sure the kids did not murder each other with arrows. I noticed that while her haircut could use some improving she was actually kind of cute and was fun to talk to. Plus she was actually my age instead of younger like I thought. This pattern continued for a couple of days. She would show up and I would ignore the kids with deadly weapons to talk to her. Then I woke up one morning unable to open my eyes. I had caught pink eye from one of the kids. I went to the program director and he told me to either get it treated or go home, I couldn’t stay around the kids with it.

The problem was that there were only a couple of days left and I actually started to like this girl with the bad haircut. So I went into Hot Springs and tried to find a doctor real quick. I found some small clinic that I managed to score some eye drops from. The doctor told me that I would still be contagious for 4-5 days. I did the only natural thing when I got back to camp, I told the director the doctor told me that I was good to go. I had to see a girl.

That girl with the bad haircut finally let her hair grow out and kept answering my calls. In early spring of my senior year she had come over to visit and we decided to take a drive back to Hot Springs and swing by Tanako. Little did she know that I had a ring sitting in my pocket. We drove up and parked next to the chapel, and I think she started to figure out that I was up to something more than a drop in. She asked me what I was doing and when I wouldn’t tell her she refused to get out of the car. We argued back and forth for 5-10 minutes and finally I got her out of the car. After a dragging her off the hood I got her to the chapel to pull out a ring and got her to agree.

This weekend baby momma and I are going back to the place where it all started. Our good friend @diane1230 is the program director now at Tanako. A lot has changed over the years (thankfully her haircut), but I still have my girl that I picked up at camp.

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  • Pat

    That is so sweet! I actually went to Tanako in the late 70s. I don’t remember much about it other than I smoked cigs with some cool girls. I bet I even have a photo somewhere. I’ll have to try and dig that up.

    • Anonymous

      Awesome, would love to see it. The old camp photos are great.

  • http://twitter.com/erniebufflo Sarah

    Love it! I was a camper at Tanako for one summer as a kid, and my husband and I met when we were both counselors at Ferncliff Camp. He also took me back to camp to propose, and the pastor who is the camp’s director performed our wedding. We’re lifetwins, minus the baby part!

    • admin

      We intended to have a mutual pastor friend marry us that was also a volunteer at the camp session we hooked up at. He unfortunately joined the military as a Chaplin and wasn’t able to do it. For even more irony Brandie works in the UAMS NICU, which I know your husband is doing something with peds right?

    • Anonymous

      We intended to have a mutual pastor friend marry us that was also a volunteer at the camp session we hooked up at. He unfortunately joined the military as a Chaplin and wasn’t able to do it. For even more irony Brandie works in the UAMS NICU, which I know your husband is doing something with peds right?

      • http://twitter.com/erniebufflo Sarah

        Yep, my hubs is a pediatrician, currently in a fellowship to further specialize as a peds ER doc. More life twins!

  • http://twitter.com/kellimarks Kelli Marks

    That is terribly sweet! Can you give Brad some lessons? While he’s great with just being awesome day to day, he’s not much for the sweeping gestures of romance.

    • Anonymous

      I am hardly the one to give lessons. I screw up more than I get right, I just make sure I only write about the good stuff.

  • Diane1230

    Glad to be a part of the story. See you tomorrow!

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