It started in my senior year of high school. Graduation was approaching, which meant that open houses would be starting soon. I decided that as graduation gifts for my friends I would give t-shirts with a picture of my face and the words “I love Josh Mosey” proudly displayed. I wouldn’t want any of them to forget me after all.
Well, my friend Julie spent the summer after graduation working at Clark Canyon Bible Camp in Dillon, Montana (great camp, by the way). Since it was a great shirt for every occasion, she brought it and wore it regularly. When another camp staffer started borrowing the t-shirt, the camp nurse took note. But when my friend Kristy, who also got the t-shirt as a graduation gift, came out to visit Julie, bringing along her own t-shirt, the camp nurse thought that a trend was emerging.
One night, the camp nurse cornered Julie and expressed her frustrations with pop t-shirt trends and companies using impressionable children to express inane messages. “Like this,” she said, pointing at the t-shirt with my face on it. “This is exactly what I’m talking about. You probably don’t even know who this Josh Mosey is, much less what he stands for. That’s why I home school my kids. So they don’t have to be exposed to stuff like this.”
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One year after Julie went out to Clark Canyon, I went myself. I was pursuing a degree in Recreation from Western Michigan University and I needed an internship in order to graduate. So I contacted the camp director, Dale, told him who I was (a friend of Julie’s and the guy from the t-shirt) and he invited me to come out and be the assistant director for the summer. He had never for had an assistant director and said that it sounded like fun.
I packed up my newly fixed 1980’s Chevy Blazer and drove three or four days across the country. I learned a fresh hatred for the length of Nebraska, but I got to Clark Canyon in more or less one piece a few weeks before kids would start showing up for camp.
Now, the camp provided me with free room and board, but they couldn’t pay me any money. So, I did what any sensible man might do, in addition to my full-time responsibilities at camp, I got two other jobs. Once a week, I was employed by the state of Montana in a program that helped kids who had one or more parents in jail. And a few nights a week, I was a short-order cook at the greasy dive about a half hour from the camp (a half hour drive is practically next door in Montana, where the nearest Wal-Mart was six hours away).
I was working in the restaurant the night that the carnival rolled into Dillon, but I heard all about it the next day. I had my guitar our and was fiddling with it while Dale and a fellow camp staffer told me about the rides, the rodeo, and the carnival workers.
Dale said, “We should write a song about the girls who work at the carnivals.”
“We should make it a love song,” I said.
So we took a few minutes and wrote the song, “She’s my Carny Girl,” an instant camp classic, with such lines as “She looks like a princess, but only from a distance / That’s why I try to keep her out of sight / The smell of her hair is like my underwear / After eating pork and beans all night.” You get the idea.
Now, Dale had connections. Within a few weeks of writing the song, we were strolling into the local radio station to record it in one of their sound booths. We got a couple of tapes of the song for our own amusement, but the radio station kept one for themselves.
And they played it every so often.
Now, I don’t know if they still play it (that was a decade ago), but I like to believe that they do. I like to believe that if I ever go back there, I will see people who have copied the shirt that bears my face listening to the song that I co-wrote.