Delightfully Busy

As we’ve clicked along this week, it’s been wonderfully busy, I’d say delightfully busy with adventure trips, activities here in camp, and a full dose of costume, song-fueled silliness. Take all the crafts for example. Camp is like a multimedia arts studio run by kids because at any minute of everyday you’re bound to see t-shirts being tied and dyed, sparkly beads strung on wire for jewelry, and soft yarns woven into mats on a floor loom or carefully knitted into a hat. In the two pottery studios today, the wheels were spinning and coils of cool, brown clay were being stacked neatly to make bowls. Watercolor paintings, hand-dipped candles, and highly decorated collage memory boxes are some of the other items being created.

There are four scheduled activity periods each day, allowing our girls to balance the creativity of arts and crafts with more physical pursuits too. Today both the Alpine climbing tower and the zip line course had groups of girls scrambling. As some climbed up 50 feet using ropes, logs and stone-like handholds, others zipped down about 1000 feet of steel cable and over 3 different suspension bridges in the woods. In the gym, there was a game of volleyball on one end, while on the other, the gymnastics girls worked on the balance beam. Just down the hill from the gym at the riflery range, other girls were firing away, and according to the instructors, shooting really well with several bullseyes announced at lunch. Likewise for archery— we heard that 3 girls this morning each shot a bullseye with their bow and arrows.

Child Nature Explorer

Several trips headed out of camp today as well. For hikes, Clyde led a group of Middlers on a high-altitude hike near the Shining Rock Wilderness area, topping out at over 6000 feet on Black Balsam and Tennent mountains. The weather was perfect making the views from that height absolutely gorgeous! Meanwhile, a small group of Junior campers traveled to the Dupont State Forest to visit Bridle Veil Falls, an amazing portion of the Little River that flows over 120′ or so of gently sloping rock. It has multiple pools and cascading falls, all brightly exposed to the sun. With the great weather we had today, it was magical. After lunch, the paddling staff and a group of Senior girls loaded up a trailer of canoes and floated a section of the French Broad River not far from camp. Again, the excellent, dry sunny weather made the trip both relaxing and fun as the group followed the meandering tree-lined banks of the river through the valley.

Our evening program tonight happened in the gym where we all dressed up for an all-camp game of “Family Feud,” or for us, “Cabin Feud.” First, to give the event a true Rockbrook feel, we added costumes inviting everyone to dress up with the theme “When I Grow Up” in mind. In costume, answer the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Of course there were several doctors in the house, but also a few clowns, farmers, and hippies. Two campers dressed as their own counselors— the epitome of admiration! Like the famous TV game show, in our “Cabin Feud,” two groups squared off by providing answers to questions like: Name a fruit that you ordinarily can’t buy just one; Name something that makes you itch; Name a popular trip at Rockbrook; or Name places on your body that often get sunburned, for example.  Each question has multiple answers, of course, so when teams answered correctly they were awarded points with the highest tally winning in the end. Part of the excitement came from the girls shouting their outrageous answers to the questions, and from the audience’s reactions, but with a giant cookie cake trophy at stake for the winning cabins (one for each age group), everyone was fired up! It was a night of good camp fun. Sure it was silly and loud, wacky and pretty outrageous, but that’s exactly how we like it.

Camper Staff Twins

Buzzing with Activity

girl weaving on loom

Stopping into the Curosty cabin, the home of the many fiber arts activities at Rockbrook, is always fascinating. First, it feels like you are stepping back in time because the cabin itself is from the late 19th century with it’s stone fireplace, thick hewn logs, pine floor, simple pane windows, and covered back porch. It’s also buzzing with activity, as girls sit at the center table weaving with strips of cloth, all kinds of threads, colorful yarns, flexible cane and other grassy fibers. Under the direction of master weaver Nancy MacDonald, the girls have been spending loads of time working the tabletop and floor looms, just as young weavers have done in the Curosty cabin throughout Rockbrook’s history. Lately, I’ve seen the girls finish some amazing belts, placemats, potholders, and purses. One particularly cool project has been the many rocking chair seat pads the girls have been weaving from old t-shirt materials. Now all the red rocking chairs on the lodge porches (probably 15 chairs in all) have colorful padded seats. They make a great addition, especially since they were woven by the campers.

Girl Rifle shooter

Down at the rifle range the campers are burning through the ammunition and pounding through their targets. At camp we shoot short .22 caliber rimfire bullets in bolt-action, single-shot rifles. We have many different sized guns, each with a unique name. Just for fun, there’s Guidenstern, Annie Oakley, Draco Malfoy, Big Daddy, Bad Momma, and Spell. With their paper targets hung 25 meters (about 27 yards) away, the girls shoot in a prone position trying to be both accurate and precise with all 5 of their bullets. Ear and eye protection is a must as they shoot. A bullseye is worth 10 points, and I’ve been told that we are consistently seeing girls with scores near and above 30. That’s really good! It may be especially hard to beat the Rockbrook Riflery team this session.

Gaga Ball playing kid

Playing gaga ball takes a different form of concentration than what weaving or shooting a gun requires. Gaga ball is a type of dodgeball where the goal is to leap out of the way (dodge!) as a soft ball is being hit about inside an octagonal-shaped court. Any number of kids can play —we’ve started games with easily 20 girls in the court—, but if the ball hits your foot or leg then you are out, and play continues until only one person is left. The best players concentrate on hitting the ball fast and low toward the walls of the court while at the same time being quick enough to jump out of the way if the ball bounces wildly toward them. The girls play gaga ball as part of the sports and games activity, but there’s usually a pickup game happening during the free swim or twilight periods as well. Gaga is fast-paced and exciting to both watch and play. It’s no wonder there are girls this session that are obsessed with playing it!

This last photo is of a special activity we offered this afternoon as part of our “Winter Wonderland” theme of the day. We decorated the dining hall with ice and snow props, sang winter songs during the meals, and saw lots of winter costumes like several counselors dressed as “ice princesses,” an Olaf snowman, and even a polar bear. This project was to make artificial snow using corn starch, shaving cream, and glitter. Blending all three of these ingredients by hand in a bowl makes a thick, white material that the girls could then roll into balls, and make a snowman. It was a fun, messy project.  Can you tell?!

messy hands snaow making

Keen to Get Started

Rockbrook Kids Arrive

Welcome (back) to Rockbrook! As we opened the second session and first July mini session today, it was clear again that arriving at camp is a pivotal moment for everyone— the campers, staff members, and yes the parents too. It’s certainly a day charged with eagerness and excitement… to the point of squealing in some cases, and quite understandably some jitters here and there, but it also marks the start of something we know is going to be great. It was wonderful to see the girls quickly settle in, meeting their pen pals for the first time, or reconnecting with their camp friends from last summer with huge hugs. A few parents mentioned that they were a little surprised, but also proud, to see how easily their daughter said goodbye and ran off with friends, literally leaving them in the dust! Friendly people everywhere, hikes, games and the first of many conversations already underway, it was a delightful opening day.

One of the magical parts of life at Rockbrook is the opportunity to explore. There are simply countless wonders to discover— old crooked trees, massive boulders and tiny flowering plants clinging to the side of a creek. There are log cabins, activity buildings hidden in the woods, a tunnel, a cave, several waterfalls, and a rock face promising a view of the distant mountains. In addition to the lake, there’s a creek to play in, a gaga ball pit, lodge porches with red rocking chairs, and forest paths that lead off in several different directions. And our daily schedule at camp provides several blocks of time for the girls to do this exploring. This is why we began immediately with tours of camp. Each cabin group and their counselors took a brief walk around camp identifying landmarks (Where’s “Hiker’s Rock?”) and explaining where the activities take place. Oriented to the physical layout of camp, let the exploration begin!

lifeguard Swim Test

Right after lunch, as the heat of the day set in, we opened the lake to have all the campers demonstrate their swimming ability and cool off at the same time. We have a swim tag system that helps our team of lifeguards know which girls are strong swimmers and which should be restricted to the shallow area of our lake or be required to wear a PFD when in the water. To receive their tag, all the girls first perform a “swim demo” for the guards, a swim out about 50 feet in the deep part of the lake, back another 50 feet using some kind of backstroke, and finally treading water for a full minute.

You might think this sort of “swim demo” (AKA “test”) is scary or at least a little nerve-racking, and for some girls it is, especially when you consider the chilly temperature of our stream-fed lake. There are a few things that happen, though, that make this time at the lake more fun and festive than worrisome or distressing. First, it’s an incredibly supportive setting with all the lifeguards cheering the girls on, all the Directors likewise being encouraging. There’s camaraderie in the fact that everyone comes down together to “jump in the lake.” Add to that the congratulations afterwards no matter what color tag is earned. With everyone at the lake, colorful towels strewn about, it’s a lively atmosphere. We even pump out some laid back Reggae music to inspire the girls to take it easy and relax. Even for those girls who opted to not do their “swim demo” (and thereby chose not to participate in any of the water-related activities at camp), the afternoon was lighthearted and fun.

Camp lifeguard Skit

To explain the activity options available this session, to orient the girls to what happens during their 4 scheduled activity periods, we held an assembly and watched the counselors present skits and songs about what they have planned. The adventure staff (rock climbers, kayakers, zip line leaders, and hiking guides) presented some of their cool, colorful gear and explained how to sign up for these special trips. The lifeguards sang a song about the “Mermaid Club,” the fun lake toys, water slide, and free swim games available. All of the craft instructors showed off the amazing weaving, jewelry, sewing, ceramics, painting and paper projects that the girls can make. Later tonight, after dinner, all the campers will select their first set of activities, and now knowing the options, they can decide more enthusiastically.

We’ve got an excellent group of counselors and skilled staff members ready to unfold elaborate, multifaceted plans for creativity, adventure, and loads of silly fun. And we’ve got a completely packed camp of girls keen to get started. So let’s do it!

Camp Assembly kids

Camp Wizardry

Professor McGonagall at camp
Moaning Myrtle at camp

“Welcome to the Wizarding World of Rockbrook!” That proclamation launched our special event this afternoon for the whole camp. Instead of our regular afternoon activities, Rockbrook became immersed in all things Harry Potter. It began at lunch when Chase and Hunter, already dressed in ceremonial robes, announced the proceedings and presented everyone with a personal letter, signed by Prof. McGonagall, inviting them to attend the “Rockbrook School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” under the direction of “Headmaster, Sarah Carter, D.Wiz., X.J.(sorc.), S. Of Mag.Q.” Written in calligraphy, the letters looked amazing. Next the Sorting Hat appeared to sort all the campers into one of the four Hogwarts “Houses,” Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin. These groups would then attend “classes” (special activities) in the afternoon.

During rest hour in their cabins, the girls worked on their best wizarding costumes— sporting colorful hats, robes, round glasses, scarves, sashes, boarding school ties, and make up. The counselors dressed up as well. We had Professor McGonigall, Hermione, Moaning Myrtle, Professors Snape and Umbridge, and of course Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter.

Suddenly, around 3pm, the whole camp was filled with music from the Harry Potter movies, and everyone set off to their different activity stations. One class/station was potion making. This had the girls mixing all sorts of powders and liquids in small glass jars. Some combinations, like baking soda and vinegar, foamed while others turned different colors, thickened, or bubbled like soap. It was somewhat messy, as a potions class should be, but most of the girls ended up with colorful concoctions worth keeping.

Another class everyone attended was wand making. Here the girls used hot glue to build up twisting patterns and alternating layers on wooden dowels and sticks. Adding some brown paint then made the wands look like they were carved with intricate handles and unique shapes. It didn’t take long for the girls to be carrying the wands and casting spells throughout the camp.

Harry Potter Wand Kid
Camp Harry Potter Girl
Summer Camp Wizard Girl

The “Common Room” was another stop. There, the counselors were serving “Butter Beer” (cream soda) and “Broomstick” snacks (pretzels). Each group wrote a song or chant. Girls were face painting (a lightning bolt shaped scar, perhaps) and applying temporary tattoos. Meanwhile, another group played Quidditch down on the sports field. Akin to soccer, this game had girls racing around trying to throw a ball into the opposing team’s goal (hoops suspended on the soccer goal posts). A “golden snitch” ran through the games now and them. “Bludgers” threw water balloons at players and “Keepers” did their best to protect the goals during the play.

At one point toward the end of the afternoon, two counselors enacted a duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort. It included the two characters flying by on a zip line, wands drawn. (Don’t worry, Harry defeated Voldemort in the end). Finally for dinenr, the staff rearranged the dining hall into long tables, added decorations like floating (suspended by fishing line) lights, to mimic the “Great Hall” in Hogwarts. The feast included roasted chicken, mashed red potatoes and gravy with grilled vegetables, and brownies for dessert. It truly was a delicious feast.

Like so many of the special events at camp, this afternoon got us all moving, acting a little silly in costumes, and simply enjoying each others company in a creative way… Some of the good things at camp!

Harry Potter Campers

Loud and Lively

Teenager girls chores
Fresh baked muffins

The “Hi-Ups” are our 16-year-old, 10th graders at camp. They live together in a special two-story cabin “high above” (hence their name) the camp in the woods behind the dining hall. This cabin, in addition to having a bright front porch with a clear view of the final zip line in our Zip Course, is rumored to have secret amenities these oldest campers enjoy. For example, according to some junior campers, the Hi-Ups have a flat screen TV and a Jacuzzi in their cabin… Wink, wink 😉 The Hi-Ups are essentially in charge of the dining hall. They arrive before each meal to set all the tables. They serve the large bowls and platters of food, fill drink pitchers, distributing what each table (cabin of girls) needs for every meal. Then, when everyone is done eating and the announcements have wrapped up, the real work begins— cleaning the dining hall. That means racking up the dishes for the CIT dishwashers, wiping down tables, sweeping the floor, and emptying all the trash cans. You can imagine, with almost 280 people eating, this is quite a chore. It helps to have many Hi-Ups, like the group of 15 this session, but in any case there is work to be done. And this group is doing that work superbly. With a little Taylor Swift playing in the background, they are cheerfully tackling these chores 3 times a day. You’d be proud if you saw them.

Another Hi-Up responsibility is distributing the muffins during our morning “muffin break.” The kitchen crew bakes up a surprise flavor of muffin each morning in time to give everyone a warm, soft, usually quite sweet, treat between the 1st and 2nd activity periods (around 10:45). The Hi-Ups grab the trays of muffins, and hand them out to the other campers trough a screened window slid open on the end of the dining hall porch. Today we enjoyed pumpkin muffins, and the day before that classic chocolate chip. When you write your girls at camp (sent an email lately?), ask them what their favorite muffin flavor is so far. I bet the word “chocolate” will be in their answer!

Girl Loading a Gun
Camp Quilting Project

The second day of activities moved everyone about the camp today being creative, active and adventurous along the way. In pottery, a few girls were trying their hand on the potter’s wheel while others were pressing lace into slabs of clay to make decorative tiles. The jewelry making activity was introducing beads and multi-strand friendship bracelets, while in Curosty, tabletop and floor looms clicked away. A group of juniors sat in the sun by the creek weaving baskets just as other girls worked on watercolors with the counselors teaching painting in Hobby Nook. We heard the pop of .22 caliber rifles from below at the riflery range and the “thunk” of arrows finding their targets at the archery activity area. Girls were learning back flips in Gymnastics, and cross-court volleys in tennis, playing ga-ga ball and later a huge game of kickball on the landsports field. Climbers were “on belay” climbing the Alpine Tower and Castle Rock high above camp, while 2 groups of girls made their way through the RBC Zip Line course (which has 3 zips through the woods and 3 different bridges connecting start and end points). The kayakers and canoers were busy learning strokes on the lake, as other girls practiced their cannonballs off the diving board.

Rafting crazy Rapid
Super Costume at Summer Camp

Meanwhile, 64 campers took rafting trips today down the Nantahala River in Swain County. We offer these trips to all the Middler and Senior campers (Junior campers are too small according to our Forest Service permit) and generally about 95% of them sign up. The trip is that fun! The first group of 5 rafts spent the night camping at our nearby RBC outpost, waking up and arriving at the river to meet our veteran guides at the river’s put-in. The weather was a little misty starting out, so we suited up all the girls in blue spray jackets for extra warmth. After smashing through the rapids “Patton’s Run,” “Pyramid Rock,” and “Delbar’s Rock,” the sun poked out and it felt great. The Nantahala is a nice beginner’s whitewater river providing a balance between easy, calm sections and rapids that build as you go. In this way, the whole trip alternates between singing camp songs while floating along and screaming your head off through the bumps and spray of the larger rapids. The sun stayed out for the afternoon trip, and we were all back at camp in time for dinner.

For a special dinner too, because tonight was Birthday Night! And even better, it was Super Hero Birthday Night! So out came the costumes… Batman, superman, spiderman (their female versions of course). We saw Captain America, Wonder Woman, Dumbledore from Harry Potter, and many, many spontaneous, highly imaginative, super girls. All over the dining hall, as everyone sat according to their birth month, there were exclamations of “Pow!” “Bam!” and “Whamo!” Mixing the cabins and age groups like this was a fun way to both celebrate everyone’s birthday and enjoy 12 different homemade birthday cakes that the Hi-Ups decorated earlier today. We must have sung “Happy Birthday” or shouted it out 30 or more times! Still, it was a silly, loud and lively, meal made even more fun by all the great girls being together and enjoying it.

Tennis Camp Girls

Hands in the Real World

Paging through the Rockbrook photo gallery, it’s quickly obvious that our girls are extraordinarily crafty. In the Curosty Cabin, one end of the dining hall (“Hodge Podge”), Hobby Nook Cabin, the two pottery studios and several of the porches around camp, we’re being creative and making things. It might be with fibers or clay, and it might require a brush or a loom, but dozens of girls have arts and crafts projects in the works.

Camp Bracelet Girl
Kid Weaving Loom Camp
Camp Shirt Painting

Throughout every day, in other words, Rockbrook girls are working with their hands. They’re twisting (friendship bracelets), braiding (basket reeds), tying (and dying t-shirts), painting (still life compositions), rolling (coils of clay), gluing (paper collages), sewing (stuffed animals), and weaving (loom fabrics). Here, take a look:

This is great stuff for several reasons. Working creatively with different materials like this encourages kids to experiment, try unusual combinations, and “see what happens.” There’s a joyful attitude toward the process and the end result. Also, though, I think there’s a benefit from simply working with real stuff, as opposed to what modern life ordinarily requires from us, namely a daily experience built upon abstract constructions and virtual representations (think about all those screens!). Perhaps, as we’ve lost our “manual competence” (recalling Matthew Crawford’s argument), we’ve also diminished a basic satisfaction of being human, the feeling of making something useful and beautiful. If so, then camp is a welcome return, making all the arts and crafts at Rockbrook concrete opportunities for girls to be creative while recalling the deep pleasures of interacting with the real world.

Summer Camp Kayaker Girl
Girl Gaga Game

This photo shows a few girls playing Ga-ga Ball in our octagonal Ga-ga pit located near the gym. If you haven’t heard of it, this game is all the rage. It’s essentially a form of dodgeball (sometimes called “Israeli Dodgeball”) where players hit a small ball with their hands instead of catching & throwing it. Any number of girls can play, and the goal is to hit other players in the leg without being hit yourself. It’s fast paced, as the ball flies around the pit bouncing off the walls, girls jump wildly out of the way, and players who are hit hop out of the pit. Like other forms of dodgeball, the game continues until one player remains. At that point, of course, everyone hops right back in the pit to start another game. During free times at camp, before lunch and dinner, for example, you can count on a crowd down at the Ga-ga pit.

Our head kayaking instructors, Leland and Andria, have been working with lots of girls at the lake preparing them for river trips. In addition to learning about the gear, the girls are practicing basic kayaking techniques like how to “wet exit” (escape the boat when it flips), and different paddle strokes to maneuver the boats. They are very excited to master these basics and were even more so to sign up for the trip to the Tuckaseegee River today or the Green River tomorrow. These girls can kayak!

Sliding Rock Kids
Dolly's Ice Cream

Later this afternoon, for our Cabin Day activity, all the Middlers and their counselors took a ride into the Pisgah Forest for a picnic up near the Blue Ridge Parkway. We brought hot dogs (and grilled veggie dogs), pasta salad, fruit and potato chips to eat for dinner, and afterwards spent a little time digesting by playing a huge game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” on the grassy field. This name game was even more fun tonight with a group this size (almost 90 campers and staff members).  Our next stop took us to Sliding Rock, where the girls had a blast zipping down the 60ft, natural water slide. As you might guess the water of Looking Glass Creek that forms the slide is a “refreshing” mountain temperature (i.e. really cold!), so part of the fun is belting out a scream to match the intensity of sitting down in that water. Just about everyone was daring enough to take the plunge, and some went down 6 or 7 times in all. Very exciting fun… but there was one more stop to top things off— Dolly’s Dairy Bar. With their combination “Camp Flavors” like “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” and traditional ice cream flavors, Dolly’s offers a sweet treat for everyone’s taste. The girls happily lined up to select their flavor and then, after that first yummy lick, enjoyed sitting and chatting with one another on the porch or at the tables nearby. When Rockbrook arrives at Dolly’s, like tonight with our big group, it becomes quite a party with the girls singing songs, laughing and posing for photos. Now dark outside and our hair still wet, but happy and excited, we loaded up the buses and headed back to camp finishing an excellent outing.

A World Cup Party

Mountain Top Camp Hikers

If you compare the highest mountains east of the Mississippi River, twelve of the top twenty are located in North Carolina, and one, Chestnut Bald (elev. 6040 ft.) is right here in Transylvania County. Many of these peaks are accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, a wonderful scenic drive that winds along the ridge lines of the southern Appalachian mountains in NC and VA through tunnels, over bridges, and by scenic overlooks for 469 miles. Today, Clyde loaded up a bus of Juniors and Middlers to reach the Parkway and hike a bit exploring one of the highest peaks nearby, Black Balsam Knob (elev. 6214 ft). As you can see from this photo, the weather for this trip was spectacular, sunny and mostly clear, making the long range views incredible. Stopping on one of the weathered-grey outcroppings of rock to point out a distant feature (like Shining Rock, for example), means being so high up, you literally look down on just about everything. With puffy clouds almost close enough to touch, it’s a little disorienting, but also the kind of thrill that makes for a memorable day out.

Girls playing gaga dodgeball
Indoor Girls Soccer

One of the activity options girls can select at Rockbrook is called “Sports and Games.” It includes field sports like soccer, softball, and kickball, and field games like tag, frisbee, and badminton. It can also be gym sports like basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, and hockey. Today the sports instructors Reesa and Adina organized an indoor soccer game in the gym, a fast-paced game where the ball can bounce off the side walls. Similarly, another game being played a lot lately (partly because we introduced it this summer) is Gaga or “Ga-Ga Ball.” It also is a ballgame played by strategically hitting a ball off the court’s (or pit’s) walls, only using your hands instead of your feet. In fact, just the opposite of soccer, in Gaga, if the ball hits your foot or leg, you are out. The goal is to hit the bouncy ball around the octagonal pit without letting it hit you. Hit the other players with the ball while avoiding being hit yourself. It’s really fun, and the girls are very much into it. Play continues until only one person who has avoided being hit is left.

Girl Buddies Ready for Swimming
Girls working on loom weaving

The awesome weather held at camp too, making the lake a very popular place during the first Free Swim period before lunch. Free swim allows girls who aren’t signed up for swimming during their regular activity slots to come down and enjoy the lake, perhaps by showing off goofy jumps from the diving board, setting a record for the most trips down the water slide, or just floating on an inflated tube in the sun. At noon, which is when this free time happens, the sun is directly overhead making the whole waterfront warm and attractive (buffering nicely the chilly water of the lake!).

This block of free time before lunch also gives the campers a chance to spend time finishing a craft project they began during one of their classes. For example in Curosty, the fiber arts cabin, the looms seem to never rest. It takes time to weave a good piece of fabric, so campers are often slipping back in to complete what they started. Some very impressive work is coming off those looms.

Cake for World Cup
Kids dressed up for the World Cup

To celebrate the World Cup soccer tournament currently taking place in Brazil, we turned dinner tonight into a “World Cup Party.” Replica flags from different countries decorated the dining hall, and the girls came dressed “as their favorite county,” “futbol fan,” or really anything with an international flair. Instead of sitting in their regular cabin groups, the girls sat according to a table they selected at random when they arrived in the dining hall. Chase had a music playlist pumping out upbeat world music (e.g., “Waka Waka,” and “Wavin’ Flag”), and Rick served us an all-American meal of hamburgers with all the trimmings and watermelon on the side. But the highlight of the meal was the dozen or so cakes Katie baked for us, each decorated colorfully like a different country’s flag (e.g. Spain, Great Britain, and Italy, for example) using candy and icing. The girls had a grand time singing along with the music, dancing at times and sharing all of the cakes for dessert.

Ate a Bullet

Riflery range showing shooting positions

One of the many unique traditions of Rockbrook is the signatures in many of the cabins. Campers can sign their names along with the year and session on the inside, allowing them to leave behind a little bit of their legacy that they can return to years later. There are also a few special places besides cabins where signatures can be found. One of my favorite places at camp to read the signatures is the rifle range. The signatures on the range date back to the 1960’s (the original range was located where Nature Nook is now). As a riflery instructor, I have spent a lot of time at the range and have enjoyed reading the Riflery Woman of the Week plaques from the 60’s or the “We Creamed Keystone” or “Carolina was shot down today!” victory declarations from tournaments.

Jane Spell with Horse
Jane Spell

As a camper sitting on the student bench, one name really stuck out to me: “Jane Spell High-Up 77” is written in a light blue paint that seems to only have gotten brighter with age while other names have faded. I’ve always wondered what she used to write that with! Later as a riflery instructor, I read on the inside of the gun cabinet where Spell supposedly “ate a bullet 7-25-77.” I always associated Jane Spell with the rifle range and was excited to meet her one summer and later learn she and my mother went to camp together.

One of the most exciting parts of being a riflery instructor is getting to name the guns. The girls enjoy calling the guns by their names and returning each year to shoot their favorite gun. We have Annie Oakley and Drop Dead Fred for the classic Westerns, Draco Malfoy and Captain Jack Sparrow from recent big movies, Guildenstern from Shakespeare, and Big Daddy, Bad Momma, and Little Bertha too. Some old favorites who have since been retired are the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Oscar the Grouch, and Old Dirty Betty. I chose to name one of our new guns “Spell” in honor of Jane Spell, who has always been a part of the rifle range to me even before I met her. The gun reads “Spell” and then in a smaller print: “eating bullets since 1977.” This summer the campers were so excited to shoot the new gun. Every time we had a new group at the range, someone would ask, “Is Spell named for Jane Spell?” Their next question would then be: “Did she REALLY eat a bullet in ’77?” I wasn’t there in 1977, so I can’t for sure say if she did, but I do know Jane Spell became a Rockbrook legend when it was written in the cabinet!

—Leah Mayo