Memories of Camp Tallaha

By BY MARK H. STOWERS COLUMNIST,

Good Mornin’! Good Mornin’!

There are special places in my heart that are only but a memory these days. One such hamlet – Camp Tallaha.

The memories of chiggers and ticks and the coldest dang spring-fed pool where hours were spent in lifeguard training.

Campfire songs, hundreds of skits, kids from around the entire Mississippi Delta area — the Delta Area Council and Koi Hatachie Lodge 345 — yes, I know Tallaha.

Lashing bridges and lookout towers in our Commissioner sites, coaching young minds in the nuances of first aid and camping and cooking. Re-telling stories on our “Wilderness Survival” campouts once a week of people somewhere else who had “allegedly” burned poison ivy and died from breathing the smoke.

Taking our nights off and heading to the Sonic in Charleston. Getting to know campers early in the week to scout out any “hot” big sisters who might attend the Friday night campfire.

Traversing up suicide hill to get to the (the old) lake for rowing and canoeing, finding those blue racer snakes, even found and killed and cooked a rattlesnake one summer, hitting the “canteen” after campfires for a coke and snack or to purchase a moccasin kit or basket weaving kit for a merit badge class.

Watching kids become men, watching men swell with pride as their interest and hours molded these campers into the hope of tomorrow.

Phrases like “don’t forget your buddy tag” and “who’s getting tapped out?” and “you dancing old style this week” all echo through my head as I remember time spent in Tallahatchie County.

Wet spring weekends and late summer memories of both opening and closing the camp each year, folding tents, clearing land, cleaning and stacking and making the quartermaster hut glisten and shine.

Skits like the pencil seller, the bee and the honey, the enlarging machine and more are sketched in my mind and old notebooks I’ve carried for years as well as songs like Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch, The Titanic, German Orchestra, Sipping Cider and many more bring a smile as the memory floods each corner of my brain.

Waking up at 2:00 a.m. in the midst of a torrential downpour to go check campsites for trouble and having one of your buddies ask you if you just saw the latest Friday the 13th movie that eerily resembles your trek through the woods at the moment.

Staff versus Scoutmaster volleyball games, box hockey and hours of tetherball (got to get the right angle) are all tightly woven into my Tallaha memories.

The weekly pool events, the diving competition, swim meets and the ever hilarious ‘greased watermelon’ make me grin as I remember faded photographs of a scrawny little boy slowly becoming a man through the sweat and determination of scores of men and women to keep this little hamlet in the hills alive.

Places like Tallaha aren’t supposed to die. And it shouldn’t be preserved just to be preserved, it’s a Scout camp, it’s my scout camp and my brothers and my friends and a few so-called enemies.

But it’s ours.

It belongs to everyone who ever tied a square not or hiked its backroads to meet the requirements of Orienteering, or any kid who came in as a boy and left closer to being a man.

It’s Camp Tallaha, a Boy Scout camp that helps make men.

That’s my Camp Tallaha. It may have left us, but it will never die, hundreds of boys who became men will keep it alive.

Square knots and cooking skills, skits and songs — I’ve collected them all and shared them around the nation.

Thank you, Camp Tallaha and the hundreds or thousands of people who made it everything that it was.

You helped make me what I am today.

Today, I smile and cry, Tallaha is my friend, home away from home, and a long lost but not forgotten special place.

The torch may be extinguished in Tallahatchie county, but thousands more are being lit around the nation as the spirit of Tallaha will never fade.

In the works – since 2009 – is an oral history book of Camp Tallaha. Send me your story, camptallaha@gmail.com. Camp Tallaha – My Boy Scout Camp.

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