Can the mere thought of camp sustain you?

Can the mere thought of camp sustain you? Allow me to tell a story from my family history, and let you answer that question.

Back in about 1934, a little boy from Galveston was sent to the Texas Hill Country to his first summer camp experience. Did he love it! (that’s not a question, folks)! 

Decades later, he could name all of his counselors, his cabinmates, sing the songs, tell the tales of every experience.  He was hooked, and it was his intention to return every summer thereafter. 

He almost did.

World War II
Graduation photo Castle Heights Military Academy

Who knew that World War II would stand in his way? This boy’s wise father deduced that world events would eventually lead to the involvement of the United States in the war, and in an effort to give his son the best chance of survival, pushed him to finish high school early and attend a military boarding school—thus putting him in the position to become a military officer.

Capt. Si Ragsdale, with dog Monty-boy, in Vielsek, Baveria, after World War II had ended. Vielsek had been a German artillery post. Si had purchased Monty as a tiny puppy in Monteburg, Germany, trading him for about $50 worth of cigarettes, candy, and other special rations.

He was still a teenager when he became an Army Captain. He spent years on the brutal battlefields of Europe—Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and three other major battles. 

And throughout those days, the young man kept a notebook, recording his ideas for what he would do when he someday owned a summer camp. “Sgt. So-and-so will run my mess hall. Lt. This-and-such will be the head counselor.” And so he dreamed.

Camp At Last

It was a long time in the life of a young man before the dream of owning a camp came to pass. He was just beyond his 40th birthday. But in the meantime, he was program director of a camp all through college, worked year-round at a well established camp and another brand new one. And he did other things, but the dream stayed alive.

This man grew old, but never in spirit. For decades, in addition to owning an operating—commanding—his own camp, he would relish an annual week-long trail ride with friends. Two weeks before time, down would come the trunk, and stay right in the center of the room, while he gathered together the things he might need. He was “going to camp” again!

And when his legs would no longer carry him and on his death bed he lay, he saw visions of his next project: a camp in heaven. All of his friends would be there. He knew which songs they would sing, and who would run the mess hall, and who would be his head counselor.

I know these things for a fact, because the little boy who loved camp so much grew up to be my dad.

Can Camp Sustain You?

His dreams of camp sustained him throughout his lifetime, brought him joy and purpose to help and guide him through the hard times. His memories of the experiences camp had provided him the skills of confidence and leadership. At camp he made significant and lasting friendships. 

Over a span of eight decades, from boyhood through the war, through college and career, and even upon his deathbed, camp sustained Si Ragsdale. 

So could the mere thought of camp sustain you? I think we can safely answer our question with a resounding yes!

About the Author

Jane Ragsdale

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Jane Ragsdale (Mrs. Dick Howell) is the director of Heart O’ the Hills. She was a Heart camper and counselor, and served as program director from 1978-87. She has been one of the owners since 1976, and director since 1988.

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