Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Life Lessons from a Man Named Beefy

From the time I was about 5 years old until I was a teenager, I spent every day of every summer at a local day camp. This camp was run by a man named Beefy. He was named Beefy for all the reasons that you might imagine -- he was a large, hulking, man with hands like sides of beef and fingers like sausages. He wore his hair in a 1950s flat top and he had an ever-present chaw of tobacco in his cheek, and usually had tobacco juice staining the corners of his mouth. Woe to you if you happened to get a bee sting in his presence. He'd pull out a big, slobbery, hunk of tobacco and press it to your sting. Definitely a case of the cure being worse than the ailment!
Occasionally Beefy wore khakis and a cotton shirt, but his uniform was a large pair of denim overalls.

And Beefy was gruff. He could yell like a drill sergeant -- I'm pretty sure a stint in the army was somewhere in his past -- and when he yelled jump, you yelled back "HOW HIGH?" The more he yelled, the higher his voice went (in my family, whenever someone would start to yell and their voice would start to rise we'd always say "Don't get Beefy tones with me!) We campers lived a little bit in fear of him. Getting "sent to Beefy" was the worse punishment that could be imagined. If you got caught throwing rocks, you had to fill your socks and your pockets with rocks and walk around with them in there the rest of the day. If you were older, and male, and you committed a more serious offense, it was the slingblade for you. You'd be sent out to sling blade the high grass that grew around the camp lake. In the blazing hot sun. No lawn mowers at this camp, no sir! Just testosterone fueled arm strength and a sharp blade.

I don't think I need to say that this camp was not for the weak. We were on the go from 9:00 to 12:00, each hour spent on an outside activity such as canoeing, riflery, softball, or playing dodgeball in the gym. Nothing was air conditioned. We would cool ourselves by visiting Whippoorwill spring, an ice-cold spring that bubbled up on the property, but whatever you do! DON'T PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE DIPPER! After a lunch at which you dared not complain about the fare, we retired to the (again, un-airconditioned) cabins -- boys to one cabin, girls to another -- for the nap. You didn't have to sleep but you could NOT talk. There were many children who did not last more than a day or two at camp. My cousin who usually spent a couple of weeks with me in the summer absolutely detested it. I loved it. I used to use it as a test of whether I would like someone or not -- Could you handle camp? If not, we probably wouldn't get along. It just meant you didn't have "the stuff."

Now, I was a good girl so I rarely got in trouble, but even Beefy and I had a run in or two. As you got older at camp, you could get into leadership positions, but you had to be an LIT first -- or Leader in Training. Basically that meant you got to be slave labor. The most dreaded assignment as an LIT was kitchen duty. That basically meant that you got to stand around in the kitchen all day and have Beefy yell at you.

I remember once I was helping get lunch together and he yelled "Madden, get that blue pot down from that shelf!"

Um. There was no blue pot. There was a black pot. And a couple of silver ones. But no blue.

"Where, Beefy? I don't see a blue pot."

"THAT BLUE POT RIGHT THERE, MADDEN!" he yelled as he reached up and grabbed the black pot.


But Beefy had a soft side, too. And he could impart a lot of wisdom. Once, as a leader I made all my girls go the bathroom before we went down to the rifle range, which was quite a hike. "You better go now" I warned "because there's no bathroom down there and WE WILL NOT come back to the bathroom."

After we had been at the rifle range for some time, one of my older girls came up to me and said "Hannah wet her pants." I approached Hannah -- she was seven and she was mortified! When I asked Hannah why she didn't tell me she had to go she said "You said you wouldn't let us go to the bathroom." I could have died right there on the spot.

I couldn't leave all the girls with my LIT, so instead I sent Hannah up to the camp office with her. I felt like I was sending Hannah to the lion's den. What would Beefy say? Would he punish her? But I needn't have worried. Beefy found her some extra clothes and had someone wash and dry her clothes for her so that none of the other campers would find out. He pulled her into a hug and told her "Don't you let anybody make fun of you about this. If anybody gives you any problems, you just tell me and I'll take care of it."

But probably the thing that Beefy is most well known for in my house is one of his sayings. He might not have originated this saying, but he is the first person I'd heard it from. Many a parent struggling with a rebellious teen sent their wayward offspring to Beefy. I mean heck, it was almost like boot camp. And he did set a few back on the straight and narrow path. But a few were not to be helped and left camp and down the road found themselves in trouble with the law, living a life of petty crime or drugs. But Beefy had an interesting outlook on these young men, for they usually were male, an outlook that may hold a nugget of truth -- "You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit."

I think I'm going to cross stitch that and hang it in my living room.


Burgh Baby's Mom said...

While I'm glad I've never come across Beefy, I do have to say he does have the best.ever outlook on boys. That needs to be a t-shirt.

AndreAnna said...

You should head over to cafepress.com right now and make a T-shirt of that.

I really enjoyed this story! Everyone should encounter a Beefy now and then.

Lauren said...

Holy moley! That DOES sound like boot camp! And i think a nice lil' throwpillow with that saying would be hilarious!! Though I like the idea of the tee shirt.

Karen said...

Weirdly, that camp sounds like something I would have loved.

I think everyone should have a Beefy in their lives to keep them on the straight and narrow. Or separate the chicken from the doo-doo.

Jen M. said...

OH MY GAH this is a fabulous story. In so many ways.

Terry said...

I love the expression "getting sent to Beefy." That's classic.

Mir said...

Ahahahaha that is The Awesome.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

On the outside Beefy seems kind of a butthole, but it seems you have to know him to KNOW him. Thanks for explaining "Beefy tones"!

Camp always reminds me of "Little Darlings". Was Christy McNichol there?

ImpostorMom said...

Hahahaha hysterical

that would look great in cross stitch

Lulu said...

I ALWAYS wanted to go to camp, but my Nervous Nellie mother would not allow it. It was too germy, or too hot, or there were other kids there that might be sick that would get us sick. Plus, there was the movie Meatballs, so that pretty much ruined everything for me.

Queen Mother said...

One memorable thing Madame Queen failed to mention about Beefy...he wore the 34 jersey for the GA Bulldawgs before Hershel.

Colleen said...

that's awesome!!! I love that saying. I need to figure out how to work it into my everyday interactions with people...

Anonymous said...

That is great...I miss him so much. People who did not know him will never understand him!! One of my regrets for my children is that they will never know what it is liked to be loved and yelled at by the only man I knew as a grandfather...Beefy!! He made me a cedar chest for graduation and I will treasure it always...It will be Georgia's hope chest. Patsy

Tommy T said...

I actually got to know Beefy well before Camp Harmony came to be. I still remember little league t-ball at 6 years old with Beefy and the laps around the field and the "never give up" sermons. Back then Beefy kept an unlit cigar in his mouth and occasionally used it as a pointer. Every baseball season and every football season was ruled over by Beefy.

Some of my first adventures outside of Elberton were with Beefy and Bill Clark on camping trips -- my first was to Cherokee, NC. The evenings were punctuated with stories of peoples heads being ripped off by angry bears and the like... the sounds of sleeping bag zippers turned into claws ripping through the tents in my mind after the stories. On most of the trips we had incredible bon fires that were fed with cups of gasoline until they we were all moving back to escape the heat. The Beefyisms were endless and the fear of being the target of his wrath kept me in line. Outside of my dad, Beefy was one of the strongest influences in my life as a young man. The whole Eaves family actually had some part in my development over the years in ball and swimming (thanks Peggy and Linda). I am very thankful for Beefy, Mr. Clark and the whole Eaves clan.

Tony Bryant said...

I met Beefy in the spring of 1966 which was my first year of Little League baseball - a more imposing figure I had never met and quite frankly have ever met. He was tough (former Marine) hardnosed (played on the 1942 UGA Rose Bowl team - and legend has it that after suffering a broken back during a game - got up and walked off of the field)but one of the fairest men I have ever met.He expected two things - that you put forth the maximum effort that you were capable of and that you showed respect - if you did these two things you would always be on his good side.It did not matter which side of the tracks you were born on you would be treated equally.
Getting back to the first day of Little League - as we began try-outs and the various drills - Beefy told us not to stop at 1st base until we had passed it - had the right field fence not been in place some of us would still be running - you did not want to disappoint Beefy.
I too was an (LIT) in (1969) - which meant essentially a year of endentured servitude with the promise of paid employment the next year - for a male that was the aforementioned sling blading the lake (yellow jackets on the dam included along with the tobacco juice)slopping the hogs (which was an experience all to itself - just ask Joe Fendley) washing the pots and pans from the lunch meal and a list of laborious tasks too long to mention. Many a Saturday morning Beefy would pull into our driveway around 7:00 a.m. - my dad would meet him in the yard - Beefy would ask "does Tony want to work today ?" my dad would say "sure - let me wake him up" and another day of toiling in the sun as Camp Harmony was created would be in store - Saturday's paid .50cents an hour and let me tell you I was a big spender at the Tahoe Club on Saturday night.
I stirred the big pots of Brunswick stew (with a boat paddle)swept that dining hall with a corn broom - grilled chickens at the bar-b-que pit - my eyes burning so bad when we turned the chickens that I could not see and performed a host of tasks that went with working for Beefy.
Now - let's get to the good stuff - Tommy T mentioned a little earlier - he would take us Little Leaguers up to Smokemont, N.C. on camping trips - Smokemont is located between Cherokee N.C. and Gatlinburg, Tenn on the Smokey Mountain Parkway - we would camp in these huge (circus type) tents and travel up there by bus. As a 10year this was quite an adventure -as the night wore down a big campfire would be built and the stories would begin - "boys - on the way up here today when we stopped for gas - I talked to a Deputy Sheriff at the filling station" - he told us of some unusual happenings going on in the area - seems local cattle farmers are finding their animals slain with their heads bashed in and most of their carcass eaten -as local lore went - a small boy was lost while his family was camping some years ago - it was presumed that he was taken by bears and raised as such - he would now be of age that he must be surviving of his own means and the legend of the "Bearman" was born -"now boys -the deputy informed me today that he was spotted near the campground and that we must be on the look-out - make sure that you sleep with your feet to the edge of the tent so that if he grabs you - you can holler out and maybe we can save you " about this time there was total silence - everyone was mesmerised and as still as could be - Beefy suddenly lept at the fire and let out a roar that put all of our hearts in our throats -then cackled out this laugh that was a Beefy trademark - I didn't know whether to run - laugh - scream or hide - never the less I put my sleeping bag in in the middle of the tent and did not close my eyes all night - a rock was under my sleeping bag but I was to afraid to move - no one has ever been so glad to see sunrise as I was that next morning.
I must close for now but look forward to viewing this blog in the future - Beefy was truly a legend in his time and I am so grateful that you have started this and hope to add more later. Thanks