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A baby raccoon hiding in the laundry drying on a clothes line.
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Small Talk: Welcome to Camp Wacky

Enjoy this column from the summer archives.

It’s been a swell summer here at Camp Wacky.

My husband is the head counselor, sports coordinator and activities director. Falling nicely into the category of “a case of arrested development,” he is an endless source of strange and amazing enterprises that lead him and my children on somewhat unorthodox adventures. I am the supply sergeant, clean-up crew and censor. Lest I be tagged the camp poop-out, I tend to keep my protests limited to anything that threatens life or limb.

Over the past few weeks, Counselor Dad has outfitted Camp Wacky with a tetherball, basketball hoop, dartboard, swing and portable volleyball net. They march off for nature hikes, bicycle rides and loosely structured games of tennis. These are almost always impromptu, starting in the early evening, as I am about to launch dinner or baths. The big event of the summer was the “driveway overnight.” I had a rare midweek night out with the girls. As I rolled up to my house, my parents’ pop-top VW camper (on temporary loan) was, indeed, popped, and a camp lantern was happily aglow inside. The whole van was sort of jiggling merrily. Beside it was the barbecue, still smoking, amid all the remnants of a glorious late-evening cookout. It was a front yard camp out. The three of them giggled and yakked for another full hour until I threatened them with a notice from the homeowners association.

The head counselor is happiest if the Camp Wacky nature program can be held right in our back yard. We are, I believe, the only family in our neighborhood with a raccoon feeding station. It might look like a small garden pond, but to a raccoon it looks like a late supper.

It all began when Counselor Dad smuggled eight bullfrog tadpoles back from his parents’ farm in Oregon. He decided to dig a small pond for them, with water hyacinths, mosquito fish and goldfish, as well. Eventually we realized the stock in the pond was disappearing. Dad thought it was natural selection. I suspected cats.

Undaunted, Dad spent much of the camp budget restocking the pond with fish and finally, a crayfish. The very next morning, there were crayfish shells scattered across the yard. Then as the Head Counselor arrived home from a business trip at 2 a.m., he stumbled upon a large raccoon circling the pond.

The head of the clean-up committee suggested we fill in the pond and go weed the garden, but Counselor Dad would have none of it. The pond was relocated, deepened, restocked, and filled with rocks for the critters to hide beneath. About every third night, the raccoon drops by to scatter water plants, fishing around for a snack. It’s hard to tell if it has caught anything, so the sport continues.

If Camp Wacky had T-shirts, theirs would say, “Adventure at any price.” Mine would say, “School starts Monday!”

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who is accustomed to playing the heavy. Contact her at [email protected].