camp

Those of us who live in Casper, Wyoming know about Garden Creek and Garden Creek Falls. It is a beautiful area, filled with trees and picnic tables. Hiking trails take off from the area, some of which follow the creek. Rotary Park is often full of picnickers and hikers. Everyone is out to have a great time. The Garden Creek area was a much different place in 1891, however. What we know as a day picnic area was a resort area and was lined with camps. A hotel was located at the head of Garden Creek and was a loved summer resort, frequented by local picnic parties. It was frequented by families from near and far.

On, July 31, 1891, a cloudburst occurred over Casper Mountain, right about the area of the head of Garden Creek. The creek is about seven miles long from mouth to source, and it was lined with camps. The heavy rains triggered a flash flood. The swollen creek rushed down the mountainside. The first thing the flood waters reached was the resort at the head of Garden Creek. The buildings were crushed and swept away, and the original site of the hotel was buried beneath wreckage twenty or more feet deep. The rushing floodwaters followed the creek on down the mountain, sweeping away anything in its path. Water marks indicate a volume of water 40 feet high and 495 feet wide must have passed through a narrow area about 2 miles form the mountain proper.

As the water rushed down the side of the mountain, it crashed down upon many campers up and down the creek. Many were either sleeping or just about ready to go to bed for the night. Campers, the Newby family, were sleeping when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by water. Newby heard his wife scream for help, grabbed for her, but missed, and in the next second he found himself being carried off by the rushing water. He never saw his wife or baby son alive again. Newby caught the limbs of a floating tree, He was carried about 200 yards, before he was thrown onto a bank. The body of Mrs Newby was found the next morning beneath a pile of rubble, but the Newby’s baby boy was never found. Near the Newby camp was the camp of Samuel Harrison of Alliance, Nebraska. Harrison’s two children were caught in the flood, and carried away. The bodies of the children were recovered the next morning. The tents and wagons of all the campers up and down the creek were destroyed, and at least fifty persons escaped with nothing but their pajamas. The citizens of Casper quickly stepped forward to bring food, clothing, and comfort to the survivors.

The quick response of the citizens of Casper doesn’t surprise me, because this is a city that often steps up in the face of tragedy. The flooded creek doesn’t surprise me either, because I have seen first hand just how quickly a rain storm on Casper mountain can result in a flood…even in the city proper. All that water has to go somewhere, and Sage Creek near my house is often the recipient of a large portion of that water. Thankfully it quickly drains into the Platte River, and the area returns to normal. Our mostly dry climate helps too, I suppose. The thirsty ground absorbs the water quickly. Still, it shocks me…not that Garden Creek flooded, but more, the vast difference in that area between 1891 and 2019.

We have all made mistakes, but thankfully, most of them don’t end up costing people their lives. Nevertheless, there are few mistakes that can measure up to the Battle of Karansebes. In 1788, Austria was at war with Turkey, fighting over control of the Danube River. About 100,000 Austrian troops were camped near Karansebes, which is a village that is located in what is today Romania. Scouts were sent ahead to see if they could locate any Turkish soldiers. The scouts didn’t find any evidence of Turks, but they found gypsies…who as it turns out, had a lot of alcohol to sell, and the scouts bought it.

After returning to camp, with the alcohol, they started drinking, thinking that the next day they would be going into battle, so why not enjoy the evening before with a party, since the best thing to do the night before a big battle is get very, very drunk. As happens with a drunken party, the revelers got very loud and quite obnoxious. The noise attracted the attention of several foot soldiers who wanted to join in. The scouts were not interested in sharing the alcohol, and being very drunk, they weren’t careful in how that told the foot soldiers that they were not welcome.

Once the argument began, it quickly escalated into a fight. The alcohol was confiscated, more men joined in the fight, punches were thrown, and a shot rang out. In the middle of the chaos, someone shouted that the Turks had arrived. Most of the soldiers fled the scene immediately, because they were unprepared for battle. Others got into formation and charged at the supposed enemy. Shots were fired, cavalry was assembled, and the defecting soldiers were killing every man they saw without thinking. Needless to say, the Turkish army had not arrived. They wandered into Karansebes two days later and found 10,000 dead or wounded Austrian soldiers. A little confused by this turn of events, they were nonetheless delighted to take Karansebes without any effort.

If you ever feel like you’ve “made a huge mistake,” just remember…it’s probably not bigger than the Battle of Karansebes. When an army mistakes its own soldiers for the enemy, and mistakenly fights and kills 10,000 men…well, that is a huge mistake!! Some people say that the Battle of Karansebes never happened, because they can’t find any conclusive evidence to show that it happened. Seriously, if I were in charge of the Austrian Army, I might not want anyone to know of this mistake either. Still, those who believe in the battle said that the army could very easily have gotten confused. At the time, the Austrian army was made up of people who spoke German, Hungarian, Polish, and Czechoslovakian, among other languages. This resulted in a lot of confusion and miscommunication as many troops and officers weren’t able to understand each other. I can certainly see where that could bring the kind of confusion that could have cause the army to fight themselves, especially in a drunken state.

My grand niece, Jala Satterwhite is really into horses, and she is blessed enough to live on a small ranch seven miles outside of Powell, Wyoming, where she has access to them every day. Jala loves all kinds of sports, and she is in great shape, but horses are her true love. They have five horses on the property. Two belong to Jala and her family, and the other three belong to her step-dad’s parents, but Jala and her little sister, Kaytlyn get to have access to them all. Of course, horses aren’t the only animals they have. There are also four cats and three dogs to play with and take care of. My niece, Susan Griffith, Jala’s mom tells me that they are slowly buying more things for the horses, and she comments that what used to be an economical mode of travel, sure is expensive these days. They would love to be able to go riding more often and for longer distances.

This summer, Jala did get to go on a week long back pack trip with a group of young ladies. It was called Dano Camp. It was a completely amazing experience. I had no idea what that was, so I looked into it. Per their website, “Dano Youth Camp was established in memory of the life and character of Danny “Dano” Ostrom. The camps are unique in that they provide the equipment…tents, backpacks, camping gear, food, etc…and the basic gear needed for the trip. The only requirement of the campers is to fill out the appropriate paperwork, make a commitment to the time frame, bring along a few personal items, and be prepared for summer fun!” It sounds like an amazing experience for the kids, and it sure was for Jala.

This seems to be the summer of camps for Jala. She also attended the Youth Life Camp in Oregon, and just got back last Friday. Jala describes it as the best week of her life. The camp is a Christian camp, and Jala is growing closer to God everyday. That makes her parents, and me, very happy. I’m sure the camp in Oregon, where she was surrounded by other young people who are believers too, was an amazing experience. It’s wonderful to be able to share your faith with others. For Jala, it has also been a camping summer, because the day she got back from Oregon, the family loaded up and headed for the Big Horn Mountains to go camping for the weekend. It’s a good thing that Jala is an outdoor sort of girl, because she sure didn’t spend much time indoors this summer.

Jala is going to be a Freshman in high school this year, and will be participating in swimming competitions. Jala did some diving competitions last year too. Practice for that started yesterday, even though school has not started yet. As most people know, gearing up for the school year is almost as busy as the first day. Nevertheless, it’s going to be a great and exciting year for Jala…especially since she is now old enough to get her learner’s permit and start learning to drive. Today is Jala’s 15th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My younger sisters, Caryl and  Alena  were in high school, when our church decided to have a church camp. All the cool stuff happened after I went through, of course. I had always thought church camp…or camp in general would be great fun, but there just wasn’t one when I was the right age. Anyway, the girls went to church camp for a week, and everyone had a great time. That was a week that the girls would remember for many years, filled with friendships, both new and continuing, and new boyfriends, but then what was camp for anyway, if not for finding a new boyfriend.

It’s funny how camp always seems to end up with those boyfriend/girlfriend situations. Most of them don’t last very long, because other than camp, what did you really have in common anyway. But sometimes, there were a few that lasted as long as any other boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. The friendships the girls made at camp, whether with boys or girls, did last for years to come, however.

You never know how far reaching those friendships can be until years later. And you also don’t know how strong family resemblances can be either. About 5 or 10 years ago, I was approached by a man at the mall, when Bob and I were in the food court having a lemonade, and he said, did your last name used to be Spencer. Amazed, I said “Yes, how did you know that?” He told me that he had gone to church camp with my sisters when they were all in high school, back in the late 70’s, and he knew that I had to be their sister, because we looked so much alike. Now, I have always known that we looked a lot alike, but seriously, the last time he had seen my sisters was about 25 years earlier. I marveled at how he had picked me out of all the people at the mall, and without my sisters there, and he just knew I was their sister.

We talked for a couple of minutes, with him reminiscing about the fun times they had a church camp, all those years ago. Then he asked me to tell my sisters hello for him and he went his way. I don’t remember his name anymore, but the girls were sure surprised that I had run into him and he knew I was their sister. They were even more surprised that he still thought about church camp after all those years. But then, some experiences just stay with you. Maybe it’s about wishing we could have our youth back, maybe about lost loves, and maybe it’s just about the fact that some experiences are just so much fun that we want to reminisce about them once in a while, just for the fun of it.

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