Behind the scenes at “Camp Carver”

staff_lguthrieI’m not certain whether other farm kids felt the way I did growing up. We lived several miles “south of town” and, when I was young, it seemed like the most isolated place on earth. Daddy always said I was “sittin’ on G and waitin’ on O” wanting to catch the next ride to town.

When my school friends made plans to go to Camp Soaring Hawk for several fun-filled weeks, I was so envious. They were going to canoe, ride horses and all sorts of other “cool” things. It was understood that my summers would be spent at “Camp Carver” gathering eggs. My father was an egg farmer – now the term is “commercial egg producer.”

I have two older brothers and a little sister. We were each other’s playmates on the farm. Most of the antics occurred between my brother, Joe, and me. We are the two middle kids…aka, the black sheep. We pushed every limit we could – jumping off the growing pens to see who could go the farthest, racing each other down the long (and I mean loooong) rows in the chicken houses gathering eggs to see who could make it to the end of the aisle first. If you won, you got to take your eggs into the big cooler and wait until the other one finished. It was heaven in the cooler in July.

We played army in the cotton field (dirt clods made great grenades – it really is a wonder we didn’t “put somebody’s eye out”). Another favorite place was the barn…many wonderful pieces of equipment to play on unbeknownst to my folks.

Probably the “funnest” time we ever had was when we could get little sister, Leesa, to try to “play” with us. She is only 14 months younger than I am, and it was especially fun because she was so “girly.” She was also a tattletale. Needless to say, she was the target of many threats – “If you don’t jump off this roof (or tree), you’re a sissy.” I might have been the cause (inadvertently, of course) of her breaking her arm – twice.

One summer, Daddy gave me a little piece of ground to have an okra patch. Of course, he planted it, and I’m pretty sure he also weeded and watered it. But I harvested it. If you’ve never cut okra before, it can be a very itchy job. Throw in the heat of a Mississippi Delta summer and you’ve got all the makings of a nightmare. It was not in vain – that summer I bought a pony with my earnings! His name was Stormy, and he definitely lived up to it.

My oldest brother Jim had a garage band except they “jammed” in the gazebo that he and Daddy built. We were the little kids and not allowed inside to participate. Instead, we would hang out of the upstairs window and listen. I can still hear the echoes of “Joy to the World” – and not the Christmas carol. In our opinion, they were rock stars.

It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized Camp Carver was probably a lot more fun than any other camp around. And we got to do it all year long, not for just a few weeks out of the summer. In looking back, our house was much like an episode of the Waltons. When we were in high school (and even into college), our house was the place to hang out. All of our friends loved coming to the farm for the weekend. Some of them even gathered eggs!

There are many other episodes I can recall, such as killing snakes, learning to shoot a shotgun, picking up pecans, wading in the ditches after a big rain, riding with Daddy to Granny’s early every summer morning…all a part of a wonderful childhood with my father playing a very big role.

This past May, we lost Daddy. I can say he was truly my inspiration. He was loving, generous, kind, humble, a great sport, funny, athletic, and a wonderful friend and father. He was my hero, and I adored him. Daddy taught me so many wonderful life lessons and made sure that growing up “in the country” was a great experience and prepared me for the future. The most important things he taught me were to thank the Good Lord for something every day, do something nice for somebody else, do something you love and make sure you laugh every day. You get extra points if it’s at yourself.

– Lia Guthrie, Redwood Valley, Calif.

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