Pulling “a Holekamp”

I attended high school (that school being Indian Springs School, a remarkable educational institution with interesting stories to tell that I’ll save for other blog entries) with a funny and creative fellow with the memorable name of Bill Jones.

Bill and I lost touch with each other after graduation, but through ISS alumni newsletters I learned as years passed that he was devoting his working life to service as a Presbyterian minister in Tennessee. Having retired from that noble endeavor now, he has moved on to a second calling as a teller of tales on the storytelling circuit.

Recently (thanks to the good offices of Google) Bill reestablished contact with me and I learned that he has produced an array of CD recordings of his accounts of life experiences that are regularly performed live before audiences around the country.

Which brings me to today’s topic. There is a bit player named "Howard" who is cited in passing in his tale of a long and long ago canoe trip Bill undertook with fellow ISS students in Quetico Provincial Park, a wondrous Canadian wilderness preserve north of Minnesota. That "Howard" in Bill’s story would be me.

Listening to Bill’s CD put me in a nostalgic mood, in the throes of which I have dug out the diary I myself kept during the same summer adventure described by my storytelling friend (who carried a more high-tech memory aid than I did into the woods: a trusty 8mm movie camera). I share with you today one of my journal’s anecdotes about our trek through the roadless lake country up north.

July 12, 1961

On about the second day out, Jay Holekamp got a little too close to the water while drinking and fell in. I didn’t see this; but it was described as a very dramatic immersion, with Jay fighting for balance while slowly slipping in; and everyone regretted that Bill Jones had not been nearby to capture the scene with his movie camera. Ever since, the action of accidentally falling partially or wholly into the water has been dubbed as “pulling a Holekamp," and Jay has pulled at least two more of them since.

Somehow out of this grew a game which several of the campers are continually playing. Any unfortunate and embarrassing accident wins a number of "points” for the victim, the value of points being obscure yet the collection of points being a matter of pride. The value of "pulling a Holekamp" varies with the degree of the mishap — slipping and wetting a foot is worth a paltry 5-or-so points, while a grand total of from 50 to 100 goes to the lucky fellow who plunges headfirst into the lake with a kettle of chicken soup. (Yesterday it was unanimously agreed that anyone dying on the trip would win the game. In the event of multiple deaths, the most points would go to the one who suffered the most!)

At the moment, to my knowledge, Jay himself is in the lead, but John Terry is not far behind. John got a big boost in points when he stepped in a cherry pie this morning.

Our 1961 canoe trip (untertaken under the expert guidance of Bob Pieh and his son Jerry (the onetime headmaster at Milton Academy), easily wins the title of the most outdoorsy and physically demanding experience of my nerdy cartoonist’s life.

I both treasure the memory and would never dream of asking my body to do that much paddling, portaging, and aching again!

But that doesn’t mean that the cry of a loon or an unexpected moose sighting won’t always get my wilderness-loving juices flowing.

Hands off ANWR, Mr. Prez!

Above: myself and Bill Jones as immortalized in our Indian Springs student newspaper.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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One Response to Pulling “a Holekamp”

  1. Jay Holekamp says:

    Greetings Howard, Last week my younger brother Harry and I visited the Minnesota Outward Bound base camp outside of Ely. Nothing remains of what was there in the summer of ’61 but the lake, river and the big rock. The black flies and mosquitoes are still as fierce. brgds, Jay