Friday, December 5, 2008

Bossy Betty Brings Up The Past

My life pretty much changed in eighth grade on that fateful day when Bobby C. threw up his recently ingested school lunch of ham and beans, milk and yams during Mr. Dillard’s eighth grade World Geography class. As fate would have it, Bobby leaned toward his right where I was seated, my bright and eager brain soaking in knowledge. I turned and watched in horror as he spewed the vile concoction, which hit the multicolored tile and splattered like a Jackson Pollock painting.

In one fell swoop, Bobby had destroyed any future career I may have considered in the medical profession. Ham and beans, yams and milk would never be a part of my diet again and abstract art would always leave me feeling a little queasy. Since the shrapnel from the attack had also managed to bounce off the floor and reach my opened book, my traveling to meet “Our Friends in South America” was out of the question. Days later, I dared to open the book again and to my horror I found dried flecks of partially digested yams on a map of major exports. Although I know better, given a $1000.00 question on a game show, I am still likely to cite yams as a major export of Argentina. Who knows what my life would have been like had he leaned to the left and vomited in Sharon L’s direction instead? I might be a nurse, saving lives, serving up ham and beans to South American orphans after teaching them the joys of abstract painting—a skill that would lead them to create greeting cards and lift them out of crushing poverty.

It was during my stint as a worker at Rock Springs Ranch, a summer camp, between my freshman and sophomore years at college where I was brought face-to-face with the vomit dilemma again. My official designation was Co-Custodian and as such I had a variety of glamorous jobs such as mopping, cleaning toilets, and washing dishes. Though it sounds bad, and it was hard work, it was offset by some outrageously cute male co-workers who believed that parties every night were mandatory. Now, my fellow Co-Custodian was not a cute male, but she was a strapping girl, who was willing to swap jobs with me if there was any vomiting action at the camp. Most of our campers were 4-Hers, decent children who were counseled not to gobble their food (one of their H’s being health) and were not particularly prone to upchucking. The days went by quickly, and the nights were fun, fun, fun. The scenery was fabulous: the cute male co-workers got stronger and more tan as the summer progressed. Life was good.

Then it happened: The Future Farmers of America came to camp. Instead of organizing themselves by the names of Native American Tribes or Flowering Plants of the Plains as the 4-Hers had done, they organized via the names of breeds of cows. They would gather under large banners on the wide expanse of lush green lawn. Junior leaders would yell out the names of the breed to gather the herds of campers. “Holsteins!” “Angus!” “Charolais!” “Herefords!” “Jerseys!” The FFA campers would move into their groups and join in frenzy of yelling and calling out of the names of their appointed breeds in a competition for superiority. These campers, just assigned their breed’s designations a short time ago, developed an enthusiasm, a true devotion, a zeal for their herds that was astounding and of which I was reminded of just the other day while watching a documentary on Jonestown.

These herds of boys and a few stray girls ate their food with the same zeal and threw it up with a similar dedication. On the first day of their four-day stay at the camp, the Vomit Alert calls shot up to three calls in four hours. The second day we averaged around seven calls. The Herefords were the worst. Those bovines vomited at the drop of a hat. The Angus herd and the Charolais were not much better, but I am happy to say the Holsteins, those peaceful black and white beauties, adjusted to camp life quickly and had very few incidents by the end of Day Two. Go Holsteins! Yahoo! Number One! You’re the best! (By the way, I recently Googled information about the breeds of cows most likely to vomit and there is a shocking lack of information about this on the web.)

The night of Day Two, my Co-Custodian came to me with tears in her eyes. Her aunt had died and she had to leave immediately to be with her family. Tears welled up in my own eyes, thinking of the now-dozing herds in their bunk-bedded corrals, just saving up energy for vomiting out of their four stomachs each for the next day. She hugged me, telling me I was a “good friend” to be so moved by her aunt’s death and then left.

They say you never know what you can accomplish until you are challenged in your life and I must say this is true. The next two days at camp were eye-opening for me and the growth I experienced can never be calculated. This opportunity to mature and recognize my strengths was invaluable. Here is what I learned:

1) I learned the value and inherit goodness of volunteering. If someone needed to go into town for supplies, I was there. No questions asked. I took those long trips in for the good of the camp. I took my time and did the job carefully, taking extra time to make sure it was done right.

2) I learned about helping the less fortunate. Staying at the horse corral with the frightened camper while the rest of her group went on was my duty as a compassionate person. I can’t imagine where she got the idea that the only horse left for her was an innocent-looking, but deadly stallion that had killed the last five campers who had ridden him, his rough, cruel hooves crushing their skulls like grapes.

3. I learned about physics. I learned that handfuls of kitty litter thrown at a pile of vomit from a distance of eight feet causes the kitty litter to scatter, not land neatly atop the steaming heap.

4. I learned that giving others purpose and a sense of contribution is a gift in itself. When I wore the short white shorts and red midriff top to throw the kitty litter, I had no idea how much I would be helping the strong, virile, brave young men who just happened to be standing by, aching to help out a fellow worker, one with great legs, in a time of need.

I know not if those men will ever see this tribute, but to all of them I want to take this opportunity to say, “You’re welcome.”

Until next time,


Alyssa said...

Ok, when I first started to scroll down and I saw the abrtract art, I actually thought it was a picture of gum alley in SLO. I began to think about how cruel it was of my dear aunt to taunt me with those horrible memories of when my family nearly forced me to walk through that dreaded alley. Yucky.

Bossy Betty said...

OH! Would I bring up those horrible memories? No!

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