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Boy and Girl Meet (Part 2)

11 Jun

(If you haven’t read Part 1, click here.)

The camp was even better than I had imagined. As my old car rattled across the cattle guard and onto the rocky red dirt road, I gasped in awe of the scene before me. Horses whinnied and chased each other playfully through the front pasture while the cattle huddled lazily beneath the shade of the pines. A herd of misfit canines sprawled across the wrap-around porch of the horse barn, welcoming all of the new counselor recruits as we arrived for training.

I followed the handmade wooden signs haphazardly nailed to tree trunks that led to the main lodge. I wound past the horse barn, down a hill, and around the glassy lake until I finally arrived at the main lodge. I parked and wasn’t two feet from my car when Sally greeted me.

“Welcome to camp!” she said.  Traveling to a new place without knowing a soul had me a little anxious, but her strong Southern accent and enthusiastic smile quickly made me feel at home.

“Thanks.” I smiled, as she swung my bags across her back without pausing to ask. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I knew in that moment that she and I were going to be friends for a long time.

—–

The first week of counselor training went by quickly. We were up with the dawn gathering eggs from the hen house, helping in the kitchen, cleaning up the camp, and – my favorite – receiving lifeguard training. The cool water was a welcome respite from the heat of the afternoon.

When Saturday finally arrived I was exhausted, but in a good way. I felt fulfilled, accomplished, and confident that I had made the right decision in coming to this camp. To top it off, Sally and I were quickly becoming good friends. A few years older than me, she was like a big sister (something I’d never had) who I could confide in (something I rarely did with girlfriends). She was just so perceptive about things, and I appreciated her honesty about life. There were no pretenses where she was concerned.

There was an undercurrent of excitement that morning in the girl counselors’ cabin as news spread that the team of male interns was returning that afternoon from ropes course training. Naturally, I was curious, but I wrote it off as a distraction that I didn’t need. I knew why I was at camp – to get away from guys, not find one.

After lunch, I decided to relax in one of the many hammocks hung throughout the campgrounds. I laid in the shade, looking up through the tops of the pines and letting myself get slightly dizzy from the rocking motion. I was on the verge of a nap when I heard the low grumble of a truck’s engine pull into the parking area and abruptly sputter to a halt. All 4 doors of the crew cab flung open and several pairs of muddy boots slammed to the ground as the guys – the male interns, I guessed – sprang from the truck.

That’s the first time I laid eyes on him. My heart fluttered as I took in all 6 feet-4 inches of him. The top of his mud-crusted boots were covered by his starched blue jeans, which were cinched at his waist with a worn leather belt. His blue shirt, although clearly covered in the aftermath of a hard day’s work, was neatly tucked into his jeans. As he finished knocking the mud clumps off his boots, he slowly raised his head, and below his weathered cowboy hat and chocolate brown hair was a face that took my breath away.

Keeping myself from getting distracted this summer was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

Boy and Girl Meet (Part 1)

10 Jun

Well, I might as well start at the beginning.

If someone had told me that one summer in college would change my life, I wouldn’t have believed them. I never saw that summer coming. I didn’t see myself sleeping on the top bunk in the basement of a dust-layered cabin for 3 months. I didn’t see myself giving piggyback rides and swimming lessons all day under the scorching Texas heat. But most of all, I didn’t see that I’d have to get lost in the woods to find something that would change my life forever – him.

Five months prior to that summer, I had completely written off guys. I was in my second semester of college and had recently broken up with my high school sweetheart. I needed space, freedom, and time to focus on the woman I wanted to be. And for the first time in a long time, I was content. I even went so far as to tell God I would be completely happy if I never married.

At the same time I was experiencing this personal growth, a boy my same age went to visit his friend at his new gig – training horses on a ranch in East Texas. The friend was living in an 8’x8′ tack room in a horse barn with large water-filled Ziploc bags suspended from the ceiling (for those of you not familiar with rural life, the bags keep the flies away). He was up before the dawn and crashed each night from exhaustion well after the sun went down. Seeing his friend’s living conditions brought 3 words to the boy’s mind: No, thank you.

The entire 2-hour drive home from the ranch, the boy shook his head and thought to himself: Who in their right mind would volunteer to live like that?  The days were long. The work was hard. The pay was low. But something kept gnawing at the back of his mind. Then, as he approached home, he had a sudden moment of clarity, and he was equally as disappointed as he was excited to admit to himself what had been bothering him the whole trip. He needed to be out there. But he couldn’t figure out why he felt such a strong pull to be there. It was like fighting gravity – you aren’t going to win.

A few months later, as the last frost bite of winter melted into the first blooms of spring, I was cheerfully walking across my college campus. I was buoyant that day. The night before I had begun praying about what I needed to do that upcoming summer. I didn’t want to go home to the same people and the same old life. I wanted a new experience, and I was elated with the hope that I would find one. That’s when it happened – the moment where my life’s path took a sharp and sudden turn.

A middle-aged gentleman with reddish-blonde hair was standing in the main hallway of the student center, looking out of place, and he smiled right at me. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye, clutching my books to my chest and quickening my pace. I had no intentions of speaking to a stranger. Then he said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“Are you a Christian?”

I turned abruptly and smiled. “Yes, I am.”

Then, I noticed a marigold banner above his head with thick black letters: CAMP RECRUITMENT DAY.

He waited for it to sink in, and once understanding spread across my face, he continued. “What are you doing this summer?”

“Well, I don’t know,” I said carefully.

“Have you ever thought about working as a summer camp counselor?,” he replied.

“Not really, but can you tell me a little more about it?”

Then he turned to point at the scenic booth backdrop behind him that featured an enlarged photograph of his camp. I didn’t hear what he had to say, and frankly, I didn’t care. The beauty of the rolling green meadows and the tall pines that speared the clear blue sky above them was all in needed to see. And in the matter of a few seconds, I knew where I would be that summer.

(To read Part 2, click here.)