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Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Oh Ginger, we hardly knew ye

A brief explanation:

In my post entitled "one brief fleeting moment" I shared one of my many, many camp stories. You see, church camp was very instrumental in helping me end up where I am today. It nurtured me in a vibrant and diverse community of faith (although we were, for the most part, middle class white kids, there proved to be much diversity even amongst such similarities), helped me to grow in confidence and skills as a leader, and really brought out where I believed God was and is calling me to be in my life. So there are many, many stories that I may perhaps decide to share someday, involving a whole range of topics, such as: complicated relationships, bodily functions, vegetarianism, and weird weather formations. Unfortunately, however, I do not have a story that encompasses all four of those which is, indeed, sad.
But this story is about something I mentioned in "one brief fleeting moment," and that would be the "burial spot" of "Ginger the dead horse."

I worked at camp for several summers and on many hikes to the lake and the swimming pool (we had a swimming pool so as to be more handicap accessible. And no God-fearing person wanted to swim in that lake unless they had to. Luckily, after my heroic life saving efforts, I did not come down with any weird rashes or parasites) I would walk by this large mound of dirt. I'm not sure what it was there for, but it was about 11 feet long and 5 feet wide, give or take a couple feet. It had been there long enough that grass and weeds and whatnot were starting to grow on it, but it was still a prominent pile of dirt.
It had become such a part of the scenery, that I really did not notice it anymore. It was just there, as it had always been.
One day, however, I was hiking down to the swimming pool with a group of campers, and I remember little freckle-faced Keegan grabbed my arm and stopped me. He pointed to the large mound of dirt and asked, "What's that?"
I turned and I think for the first time really noticed that there was, indeed, a large mound of dirt there. Like I said, I had no real clue what it was or why it was there. But I felt that Keegan's question needed an answer, so I said the first thing that came to my mind.

"That's where Ginger the dead horse is buried."

Keegan's jaw dropped. He looked at the mound of dirt and looked up at me. "What?"
"Yeah," I continued. "Ginger the dead horse. She was an old camp horse, was here for a long time, even when I was a camper. We couldn't get rid of her when she passed away, so we buried her here. So that we'd get to walk by her all the time."
By now several other campers and counselors had stopped on their hike down to the pool and were listening. The counselors, who all knew me and also knew that this was not the burial spot of a horse, were trying to hide their laughter. Several campers let out oohs and aahs, as if they were at the burial site of some great saint.
"Come on. We'll be late for swimming." I urged the campers onward and they made sure not to walk on this sacred mound of dirt.
As the day continued to progress, I forgot all about Ginger. It had been a spur of the moment joke, and I figured that nothing more would come of it. We ate supper, played games, went to evening worship, and eventually went to bed.
However, the next day after lunch we once again began our hike down to the swimming pool. I walked right by the mound of dirt, it once again had faded outside of my focus. But I wasn't let off that easily.
"MARK!" I stopped and turned to see Keegan and several of his friends standing by the mound. "Come here!!" I walked back the several feet to where they were now standing around the pile of dirt. "We need to have a moment of silence for Ginger!"
I tried to hide a grin. "That would be nice," I said. So there I stood with several fourth and fifth grade boys, in a reverent circle around a pile of dirt. A few seconds of deep silence later we all turned and continued the hike to the pool.

I don't remember if I ever told them the truth, about how that pile of dirt was not the burial spot of an old, faithful camp horse and in reality was probably just a pile of misplaced dirt from the nearby gazebo. I do know, however, that the story spread through the staff like wildfire. Everyone asked me questions that weekend about this Ginger, and I think other people told their campers about this horse on their hikes to the pool. I never heard if my boss at camp found out, or how she felt about me telling kids there was a dead horse under that pile of dirt, but I do know that the following summer it was hidden by a large pile of branches that had been cut from trees.

So is there some deep theological message behind this story? I'm not sure. But there was something oddly moving about Keegan and his friends' need to have a moment of silence around this pile of dirt. And after that week, that pile of dirt was never again just any regular pile of dirt to me.

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