Opening Day: Through the Eyes of a First year Camper
The boisterous banter of boys has filled a lush arborescent bowl of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Zirconia, North Carolina for the past 54 years. Falling Creek follows an American tradition of camp and leads a group boys through a boyhood journey that often transpires across multiple summers throughout its 890 acre plot enriched with two spring-fed lakes, 15 miles of trails, and private access to the Green River. The boys are inculcated into a lore and a code that defines their sense of masculinity and brotherhood.
Meyer Thompson, 9, was one of the first of the 311 campers to arrive for June Camp, wearing a retro 1984 Falling Creek shirt that his father, Todd Thompson, wore during his time as a camper. Meyer represents the experience that many first-time campers face as they dropped off in this new world filled with anxiety and exhilaration.
Falling Creek campers are divided into four groups based on age from youngest to oldest: Sorrel, Tsuga, Robina, and Betula. The etymology of the four lines stem from tree species that are native to the region. Meyer was placed in Sorrel line, which comes from the common name for the plant species Oxydendrum arboreum and is typically smaller than the other three species, and led to cabin 5 where he picked his bunk.
He immediately wanted to save the top bunk for a friend from back home in Louisiana. Like many campers, Meyer started his journey off shy but quickly found his voice as he joined the other campers in an intense game of Warrior Ball. He shouted from the sidelines, calling for his peers to target the counselors in the game. During cabin meetings, the counselors Bryce and Mason established rules and consequences and introduced aspects of the Falling Creek code. The campers took turns writting the cabin's agreed upon expectations for conduct. When it was Meyer’s turn to define a rule, he suggested that campers do not go through other campers’ trunks.
As Meyer was introduced to more aspects of camp he relied on his new cabinmates and counselors to navigate his way from discussing activity signups and putting away heavy trunks to the feelings of insecurity of failing the swim test. During lunch and dinner, campers learned the handwashing routines and meal blessings as part of Falling Creek's Christian values. The boys met the directors and toured the campus. Meyer found his friends from home and made new ones.
After everyone had showered and settled down, his cabin reflected on the day around candle light in a tradition known as Evening Embers. Meyer admitted that it took a lot of courage to come to camp. But when asked about how the first day went, Meyer said, “It’s great. I can’t wait for what tomorrow brings!”