After my Bully Bobby experience at Schneider Elementary School, my parents sent me to YMCA camp in the mountains above Greenville for two weeks during the summer. It was my first time away from home and the first time away from my Schneider School/Forest Hills playmates. I welcomed the opportunity to go to camp.
When I checked into Cabin 19, Clemson football player Fred Cone introduced himself, “I’m your counselor. Just call me Number 31! You, boy, are assigned to Cot #3. Make it up ASAP!” Then, he silenced my readied complaint with, “Boy, when I move in a cabin, the bugs move out! If you complain, you move out! Got it!?”
My cabinmate, Cot #5, who had been at the camp for two weeks already, whispered to me after the lights went off that night, “Number 31 has a girlfriend in Hendersonville and could care less about campers. We never see much of him. That’s usually good. But! We do have roaches!...and spiders and rats and bats!”
True to Cot #5’s warning, roaches were already swarming my Cot #3. I prayed not to be attacked by the roaches, the rats, or the bats and to fall asleep quickly. It worked because the next thing I knew the wakeup bugle sounded.
Since all campers had to have jobs, I chose to be a waiter in the dining hall. That meant I had all the food I wanted, but...I was competing with roaches that had already claimed any leftover food. The kitchen workers, who had long given up on controlling these insects, offered me this advice, “Dem bugs was here fo’ we and will be here long after we done gone. Best you understand that.”
I understood perfectly. But, when I began to be faced down by lean and hungry roaches while working in the dining hall, I complained to Fred Cone/ Number 31. He laughed, “Roaches don’t bite, Squirt! If you get bitten, just call for Number 31, OK!” And he walked away like the All- American football player he was.
I did get attacked, nobody cared, least of all Number 31, and right then I decided not to go to Clemson. Ever!
Continued Next Week