STEPHENVILLE (July 12, 2015)- Duck Camp is the experience of a lifetime for Tarleton’s incoming freshman. It’s a chance to meet their classmates, learn about the different traditions, meet TTMs (Texan transition mentors) who want to help them throughout college, and have dance parties during every meal.
Duck camper Markie Koch summed it up, “Duck Camp was seriously the greatest experience of my life. The spirit that the students and faculty have is amazing. I met friends that I will have for the rest of my life at camp.”
The following is a timeline of my adventures at Duck Camp:
Tuesday, July 7
1:00 p.m. – I walk into registration and am asked my t-shirt size, then instructed to select which colored fanny pack I want most. (Personally, I am not fond of fanny packs and questioned who on earth would want a fanny pack for any reason. But, I ended up becoming attached to my Duck Camp fanny pack and found it to be one of the most useful bags I’ve ever had.)
1:15 p.m. – I enter the gym to find my group, the Silver Bugles. All of the TTMs are waving signs that bear the names of different Tarleton traditions and history, like the Red Ties, the 2x4s and the Purple Pancakes. My mama and daddy ducks are sophomore Ashlee Knapp and junior Brad Rutherford. Both quick witted and outgoing, they quickly put the other ten freshmen and me at ease.
2:00 p.m. – The Lead Team, made up of six college students, gets the crowded gyms attention by yelling “Duck Camp!” The TTMs promptly screamed back, “WE LOVE IT!” We are instructed to get out our Purple Books, which hold a brief description of Tarleton’s famous traditions and chants. To my surprise, the Lead Teams and TTMs begin belting out the chants with as much enthusiasm as if they were at a basketball game. My fellow Silver Bugles and I try to follow along as we try to learn the words and motions all at once. Even though I am slightly overwhelmed, it’s impossible not to enjoy seeing how much fun all of the TTMs are having.
Freshman Emilee DeForest said, “I was super excited to be there! I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the week had in store for us.”
3:15 p.m. – The Silver Bugles and various other groups load the nine charter busses that will take us the Greene Family Camp in Bruceville. I sit next to a Silver Bugle named Jon Tobias. As anyone can imagine, being with a virtual stranger and expected to make conversation can become extremely awkward. But, to my surprise, conversation flows easily between us and other seatmates.
5:30 p.m. – At the urging of the TTMs, Jon and I study our Purple Books for the trivia challenge that will come later. Brad and Ashlee set up a group message for the Silver Bugles, and we divvy up the traditions so that they are all covered for the competition.
6:15 p.m. – Even though we arrive later to Duck Camp than expected (due to a closed road), not a single tradition or step is skipped. We learn the Color Song and sing as the Tarleton flag is raised, we carry our bags down to the cabin- the farthest cabin, of course- and then we head to dinner.
6:30 p.m. – Meal time is a favorite for everyone at Duck Camp. The Greene Family Camp is Jewish, so the food is kosher. And delicious. My cabin mates, the Silver Bugles, and I all agree that Duck Camp has the best camp food that we have ever had. We had a longer time allotted for eating than I would have expected. This is due to the fact that every meal is followed by an impromptu dance party of at least twenty minutes. We even danced on tables at one point- and were quickly told that having feet on a table was not clean and should not continue. But, chairs were fair game.
“I thought the dancing was amazing and made me more social,” freshman Drake Harkins said.
7:30 p.m. – The “Waddle Olympics’ began. One thing that I will say for the Silver Bugles – we don’t lose. That became our mantra as we won event after event. First came the trivia challenge. Our strategy of memorizing different traditions never failed us, but other teams were prepared too. I proudly won the second tie breaker question, “What does NTAC stand for?” (North Texas Agricultural College, one of our greatest rivals back in the day)
Then we were a part of the tug of war challenge. But, the twist was that if one’s team lost, they would be pulled forward onto a tarp covered in gooey oatmeal. Only eight team members could participate. I know my strengths and weaknesses- I aided my team the best way I could by sitting that round out. My whole team pulled well and worked together, but Drake Harkins carried that event. He simply anchored, squatted and slowly walked backward, effectively pulling both my team and the opposing team his direction.
For the third event, the Silver Bugles combine with the Purple Pancakes to form our “super group.” Our task seemed fairly simple – carry the eggs from one bucket to another bucket without breaking them. But, this is Duck Camp. We had to crab walk from one corner of a baby oil covered tarp to the center where the eggs lay in a baby oil filled bucket, carry the egg between our legs and, quite literally, waddle to the edge of the tarp and toss the egg into a sheet held by five team members. While this seems impossible, like I said, we don’t lose. Not a single one of the twenty eggs breaks – even mine.
Divided once more into our small groups, the Silver Bugles confidently march to the fourth event. We form a line and prepare to pass a variety of different items in a variety of different ways. First, we hold hands and pass a hula hoop over and under every person. Second, we pass a watermelon with our forearms. Last, we sit down and pass a nasty cow tongue with our legs and feet. Another thing I can say for the Silver Bugles – we cheer each other on well. As each person passed the cow tongue on, he or she jumped up and cheered on their teammates. We won again.
The last event appears to be easy at first. A tarp was stretched down a hill and coated in water and baby oil. One spins around a baseball bat five times and takes off to slide down the hill. Personally, I could see myself excelling at this contest. I was light and moved quickly. Then, I saw one boy from a different team spin, accidentally slip onto the tarp, wipe out and tumble down the hill. This could be complicated. Luckily for me, my team is extremely competitive and discovered that running down the hill and sliding halfway down was less risky and more effective than trying to slide from the top of the hill. Again, we do not lose and sweep the Waddle Olympics.
Freshman Jon Tobias said, “The best part of Waddle Olympics was that, even though we just met earlier that day, we had already developed a close bond as a team and as friends.”
9:15 p.m. – The next two hours are filled with group time, supergroup time and practice for the Yell Contest. Every group seems to bond quickly and there is a large increase in the amount of enthusiasm by the time we meet in the gym for another round of chants and testimonials from TTMs.
11:30 p.m. – The Glow Party dance begins in the gym. I alternate from dancing the two step to more modern dances like the Wobble. Campers roam the camp, hang out in the dining hall, play pool and ping pong in the game room and dance until lights out at 1:30 a.m. I and some of my roommates head back to the cabin before curfew though because tomorrow night there is no curfew. And the party will not end.