Posted by Danny
Every spring for the past nine years I’ve headed down to Camp Sea Gull with one of my daughters for a Y Indian Princess weekend outing. DJ and I started going with nine other dads and their daughters in 2003.
Y Princesses is a father/daughter program for kids in first through third grades. It’s sort of like scouts – but you can’t do any activity without a dad/kid pair. You earn patches for service projects, hikes and campouts. One time we sorted pasta at the food bank – had to wear hair nets. I didn’t like that.
Each participant chooses an Indian name. I was Screamin’ Hambone. DJ chose Shining Star – booooring. Stephanie was more compliant – she went with Little Screamin’ Hambone, a name suggested to her by her Big Brave. Michelle chose T-Bird, a nickname I’ve used for her since she was 2.
Michelle was my last kid in the program and this was my last trip down highway 70 to camp. I’ll have to admit when we drove out of the camp gates on Sunday to head home, I sort of had a lump in my throat.
I’m not sure why. These are not particularly fun weekends.
My first two tribes had some of the snorinest people I’ve ever heard in my life. I used to take two Tylenol PM, put in ear plugs and hold two pillows around my head – and I could still hear them. Cherry Point Air Force Base is right across the Neuse River from camp. I’d doze off a minute and wake up thinking a F1 Fighter Jet was about to land on the cabin’s devotional table. I was afraid one of those dudes was going to snort one of the little princesses right up into his nostrils.
Ten dads in bunk beds – me on the bottom, a 250 pound dude in the bed above with the mattress springs sagging down – inches from my protruding nose. It’s like sleeping in a medium security penitentiary.
There was a curtain draping the bathroom “stall”, the floor grittier than the Mojave desert. The toilet paper like wiping your behind with sandpaper. I’m still raw from last weekend, and I only went once.
In year two, the organizers of this program bring in a special act called Snakes Alive. As if pooping behind a paper-thin curtain with 9 elementary aged girls you scarcely know running through the bathroom isn’t enough, they top your experience off with coolers full of reptiles.
“Which dads out there want to hold the python today?” the handler asks.
Every child raises her hand and begins pointing to her father. “Pick him! Pick him!”
My kids knew better.
“Dad, will you go up?”
“I’d rather sleep in a single bunk with Mr. Brown for three months. PUT-YOUR-HAND-DOWN-NOW.”
And to top it off, there’s the annual ride down the zip line.
The zip line combines all of my favorite things: heights, cold water, standing in line, and harnesses strapped around my crotch. (This video is not of me – but it is at Camp Sea Gull).
I have to be honest though, as much as I complain, I really did enjoy almost every minute I spent in the Y Princess program. My best friends are the men I’ve spent weekends with – chewing on politics on a freezing cold night by a campfire – melting marshmallow goop dripping on our winter boots. The individual time I had just driving to and from our outings with my daughters was priceless. And the memories from Camp Sea Gull…wow!
I’ve heard of a dad who stood up at his daughter’s rehearsal dinner. He looked his new son-in-law in the eye and pulled out his daughter’s Indian vest. “Take care of my little princess,” he implored as he passed him the buckskinned garment. I may just do the same.
How! How! Big Braves; How! How!