So for the summer of 2002, I was the assistant director of a youth camp in Dillon, Montana. It wasn’t a paid position, but I did get free room and board. In fact, the only paid position in the camp was the director’s, and only then because he was a missionary who had raised the support he needed for his family to live and eat and such.
So how does a camp get by without paying anyone to work there? Well, all of the positions were staffed by volunteers. Usually, a church would contact the camp and ask the director if he needed anything. The answer would always be yes, and the church would set up a mission trip during the summer to fill the specified need. The camp liked adult mission trips for building projects, college mission trips for senior high camp week, and high school mission trips for kids’ camp week. It was always a win-win situation.
My job that summer was to work with each of the incoming groups, divide up their teams into specific jobs (kitchen, activities, counselors, etc.), and make sure that everyone followed the camp rules.
The groups that came out for the work projects were wonderful. The college group that staffed senior high week was from Michigan near where I grew up and was attending college, and it was through them that I ended up meeting my wife. The high school group that staffed the kids’ camp week was fun, but they needed more discipline than the kids did. This is a story about them.
Like I said, one of my jobs was to make sure that everyone followed the camp rules. One of the main rules was that everyone stayed in their dorms (think “large cabins”) after lights-out. I would sit in the shadows near the chapel and keep and eye on the each of the dorms to make sure that no one was sneaking out. Usually, I sat there until around 1am, watching for movement, looking at the stars, petting the camp’s cat that had many more toes than normal cats should have.
But one night, I didn’t stay out late enough. The girls in the high school group decided to go “penny tapping” around 1:30am. For those unfamiliar with the practice, the goal is to annoy sleeping people by tapping on their windows with pennies. The target of the group was that week’s camp speaker.
The morning after this, the speaker talked to me about what the girls did. I talked to the girls about what they did. They told me it was great fun, that I was a cool guy, and wouldn’t I like to join them tonight when they did it again? I told them that it was my job to make sure that everyone followed the camp rules and that they were out past lights-out. They said that I wasn’t being much fun.
So I made a deal with them.
I said that they shouldn’t be out after lights-out, but if they could be back in their dorm by 12:30am, that I wouldn’t do anything. I explained that I didn’t want to stay up later than that, that I had to get up early in the morning still, and that I liked what little sleep I got. They asked me what I thought about them going out just after midnight. I told them that it was still after lights-out and that it was still against the rules but if they could be back in their dorms by 12:30am, I wouldn’t do anything. Also, I believe I winked.
The girls all agreed that I was still cool and that they would go out earlier than the night before and they were glad that I wouldn’t do anything about it.
And other than tell the camp director about their plans, I didn’t.
Three things happened that night.
The high school group’s leader was taken out to go night-hunting by some of our local friends. This means that he was riding around in the back of a pickup truck with a gun while someone else shined a super-powerful flashlight around in search of reflected eyes that could be shot. Good, clean Montana fun.
The camp director and his wife had recently purchased some paintball equipment for the camp and were excited to test it out.
And I just sat in my spot by the chapel, watching the stars.
Well, when the girls came out to do their prank, one of the other girls in the dorm locked the door behind them (per the director’s instructions). After a little while of penny tapping, the girls returned to their dorm and discovered the locked doors. They didn’t want to wake up all the girls inside the dorm, so they knocked softly. That was when the camp director and his wife, who had taken up positions on the soccer field, started shooting at them with paint balls. The girls started to scream. At the scream, as if on cue, the locals drove into view, their super-powerful flashlight scanning the area exactly like a police car’s might. Combined with the shooting of the paint balls and being locked out of their dorm, the girls really started to freak out.
This went on for about five minutes, and then it was 12:30am.
I walked down to the girls’ dorm where the girls were huddled outside the door and asked why they were out later than we agreed they should be. I explained calmly that they would need to be punished in the morning. I knocked on the door of the girls dorm. It opened. The girls went in. I went to bed.
The next day, the girls involved cleaned all of the paintball marks off the dorm. They cleaned the chapel, the mess hall, and the bathrooms too.
It was great.