“So what does a camp director actually do…?”

I start with that question, because I get asked that a whole lot. Whether its out socializing with people, at the Binghamton University Reunion each year, or the person that cuts my hair, everyone wants to know what camp directors do, especially in the off season. Normally I answer with “During the off season we have group rentals, we recruit staff, recruit campers, visit existing families, accounting/finance, purchasing, traveling to exotic places, etc.”, but today I have quite a different answer for you. Here is my story:

[Before I start my story, I have to give you a few definitions first:

  • Burn Pile- Most camps and business, especially up in the mountains, have a burn pile. Our burn pile is behind our shop in a contained area and meets all of the local and state regulations in terms of how we burn and what we burn. The burn pile has old cubbies that are broken and scrap wood from Color War.
  • John Deere- Camp owns a backhoe similar to the one pictured below. We will refer to it as the John Deere.


Now that you know those definitions, on with the story. Since we had rain over the past several days, Tom (our maintenance caretaker) and I decided it would be a good time to light our burn pile. With all of our safeguards in place, Tom lit the fire around 9:30AM and maintained constant watch over it. At around 10:30AM he started up the John Deere to push a few more things into the fire and that’s when the problem started. I was sitting at my desk twiddling my thumbs (just kidding, busy at work of course!) and Tom called on the radio for me to come to the shop. I figured this couldn’t possibly be good. I ran up to the shop (just kidding again, wouldn’t want you to think I actually ran) and found the John Deere stopped a few feet from the fire. I said to myself, self, that wasn’t the smartest place for Tom to leave the John Deere. Turns out, on the other side of it that I couldn’t see from the distance, the back tire (about the height of a Freshman camper) literally fell off the John Deere. So now this heavy machinery was leaning on the tire, but it was completely off the rim/wheel.

Matt Unger met me up there as well as Val (another of our maintenance employees) and we immediately threw water on the fire with the nearby hose. We also had the fire department on standby just in case the fire got out of control, but luckily for us, the fire was completely under control and burning just fine. Problem was, we needed to get this heavy machine out of the way and we definitely weren’t pushing it. Val called our mechanic (who happens to be her boyfriend) and he said to try to reattach the tire. Easier said then done, this thing weighs more than a person and we had to stand only a couple of feet from the fire in order to reattach this thing. Unger got one of our trucks and tried to tow it, but of course the John Deere is the heaviest thing we own and so there was no chance of towing it.

So, now we had to think of another idea. Tom lifted up the backwheel by putting down the outrigger (a stabilizer “foot” that is on each side of the John Deere to keep it level when digging holes) and Matt and I tried to reattach the wheel. By this point, we had an audience of Kaelah, Karen Sharir, and Winch and they were hosing down the fire to keep it back and try to cool us down. After about 10-15 minutes and very hot necks and backs, Matt and I got 2 bolts sort of reattached and the tire back in place. Tom backed it up a few feet and got it out of the way. One other funny (I suppose thing) was when Karen Sharir hosed my back down my shirt was literally steaming from the heat. I laugh about it now, but I wasn’t at the time.

Well all is well up at camp. The burnpile burned and now it is back to dirt and the John Deere will be fixed tomorrow by our wonderful mechanic. So, what lesson did we learn? Next time you are operating a giant machine, make sure the bolts holding the tire on are TIGHT:)

There you go, that’s what a camp director does on a Saturday morning in September.