Hank Howls Against Wild Horses (part two)


hankshowlsfinalAt the end of the summer that I worked at Camp Thunderbird, I stayed an additional week, along with a few others, to earn some extra money.  We stowed away the boats and piers for the winter, cemented a dirt path, cut down a large patch of reeds on the lakefront and did all sorts of other jobs.  Then one day at lunch our boss, Moe, announced that everyone would spend the afternoon digging a new latrine, except for three people who would help ride the horses back to their winter quarters.  Table conversation quickly turned to speculation over who would get to ride the horses as digging a large hole was not that appealing for most.

After lunch Moe lead us to a patch of bare ground where a dozen shovels lay strewn about.  On a dirt road close by, the camp’s six horses were waiting with riding instructor, JT, and Moe’s assistant, Whip.

“All right”, Moe announced, “I need one more person to ride.”  Eleven eager hands shot up and started waving desperately trying to attract Moe’s attention.  I stood quietly in the background, leaning on a shovel.  Moe gazed at the eleven hopeful volunteers. He hesitated, and then said in a loud, clear voice.  ”I choose Org.”  (Every staff member had to have a nickname and mine was Org.  Don’t ask.)

Everyone turned back to look at me, the lucky recipient of Moe’s favor.  ”Moe, I didn’t volunteer to ride.  I want to stay here and dig the latrine.”

“I know you didn’t raise your hand.  That’s why I chose you.”  The others, starting to discern Moe’s strategy of having only one disappointed staffer instead of ten, started snickering.

The snickering turned into laughing as I pleaded my case.  ”Moe I don’t know anything about horses. I want to be a digger.  I know just how a shovel works.”

“You’ll be fine, Org.  Just follow J. T.’s instructions.  It’s only eight miles.”  Then he pointed toward the horses and kept pointing until I accepted my fate and dropped my shovel. The laughter increased in volume as I walked slowly past my cohorts, but Moe put an end to that by sternly instructing the laughers to grab a shovel and start digging.

Then things got worse.  When I asked JT which horse I was going to ride, (naturally I didn’t want the devious Daisy) he told me I would be riding one horse and trailing another.  I spluttered my best, “But, but, but.”  No pity was given.  Whip held out a stirrup for me, I climbed aboard and before I could check to see if I was on Daisy, JT handed me a rope with a horse on the end, and we were off.

We left Camp Thunderbird and guided the horses into a ditch that ran along side a gravel road.  The horse I was riding, unlike the treacherous Daisy, was content to follow her equine friends, and the horse I that was trailing on a rope was happy to walk right along with us.

Everything went smoothly until we came to the first crossroad.  My horse climbed out of the ditch went across the intersecting road and then down into the continuing ditch.  The problem was she sped up when she went back down into the ditch while the trailing horse was at the same time climbing slowly up to the crossroad.  The slack in the rope quickly played out, and I was pulled backward by the trailing horse.  This caused me to rock back til my head was on my horse’s rump and my feet were sticking straight up in the air.  When the trailer got across the road and started to speed up as she traveled back down into the ditch, I was released from my undignified pose.  Neither J T nor Whip saw what happened, and I saw no reason to enlighten them after the fact.  When we came to succeeding crossroads, I made sure that there was plenty of slack in the rope.

Thus, we traveled along with woods on the left and forests on the right, mile after mile.  Finally, we came in sight of our destination.  All we had to do was pass one small house, and we’d be at the gate to the farm.  Nothing could go wrong now. Unless, three loud, barking dogs came racing out from the undergrowth, and they did.  The combination of charging hounds and proximity to home sent all six horses into a gallop.  This was too much for me!  I dropped the rope to the trailing horse, cast the reins aside and latched on to the saddle horn with all my might.  After a few hundred yards the dogs turned back, and then we were at our destination and the horses came to a stop.  I jumped off my steed and have not ridden a horse since nor do I plan to.


Here are some books with summer camp tie-ins:

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation by Tommy Greenwald

Born at Midnight by C. C. Hunter

Holes by Louis Sachar

Hidden by Helen Frost

Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies by Andrea Beaty

Brain Camp by Susan Kim

Cabin Pressure: One Man’s Futile Attempt to Recapture His Youth as a Camp Counselor by Josh Wolk

Sleepaway Girls by Jen Calonita

Chiggers by Hope Larson

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements

Summer Ball by Mike Lupica

Werewolves Don’t Go to Summer Camp by Debbie Dadey

Charmed Forces By Melissa J. Morgan

Suddenly Last Summer by Melissa J. Morgan

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Dragonbreath 6: Revenge of the Horned Bunnies by Ursaua Vernon

Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs








Author: hank

I am married with two daughters and one grandchild. After teaching in the inner city of South Bend, IN for many years, I now work at the St. Joseph County Public Library. I started keeping track of the books I read when I was sixteen years old, and now have read over 1700 books with a page count of more than 500,000.


  1. Oh, the adventures you’ve had. I agree with your recommendation of Holes by Louis Sachar. The movie was fun, too.

  2. Great post! I think I might have preferred the shovel, too.

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