The Camp Account

Click on photo to enlarge 

The little guy in the overalls is my granddad, J. W. Daniels, as a little sprout. 

Granddad was actually the grandson of A. S. Camp,

But he looks like Obie to me.


A few hopefully tantalizing excerpts



The following account has developed in much the same way as a family photo album.  I spent the best years of my life putting it together, and I intend to spend the rest of my life inflicting it on my friends!  Noting at an early age, that things poorly recorded are shortly forgotten, I’ve taken great pains to put to paper unmerciful attention to detail, determined that my journal might at some later date, bring flawlessly to memory the width, breadth, scope and attitude of my every perception, not to chastise mind you, but simply to inform.  This then, in note, narrative, reminiscence and occasionally painful detail is my account.



October 1844 would mark the end of a youthful journey and the beginning of a lifelong quest. We’d been at sea for three long months.  It was an hour or two before dawn and not a soul was stirring.  Have you ever had that feeling that you’re being watched? Right at that moment, I had that feeling in a powerful way.  I turned my head cautiously and glanced down the starboard side of the ship.  All at once something aft caught my attention.  I turned suddenly and had to squint and shield my eyes.  There, low on the eastern horizon, just below the sail, was the biggest, most extravagant moon I’d ever seen.  It was the same moon that had lit the skies over the Rhine valley during my youth, but it had always seemed distant and detached.  Now, thousands of miles from the only home I’d ever known, it was suddenly a comfort to see something so familiar.  It was the first time that a cold, lonely night had forced me to seek comfort and companionship in that ol’ moon.  It wouldn’t be the last.

My name is Obadiah Jeremiah Hezekiah Camp.  I know that’s a mighty big mouthful, but my folks were bound and determined to name me after all four of my great granddads.  You can call me Obie.  I was nine years old when my family and I left our ancestral home in Germany to sail for America. I didn’t realize it then, but the innocent, carefree days of my youth were rapidly drawing to a close.  Ahead lay inconceivable obstacles, incredible exploits, high adventure on the western frontier, and eventually contentment and an inner peace that many never find.

As I lay there on that hard wooden deck, staring into that starry stillness, the only sound was the groaning and squeaking of that old ships rigging, and the flapping of her canvas sails in response to an intermittent breeze.  I pulled the tarp up around my shoulders as a sudden gust of wind garnished the deck with a blanket of fog that stung my chapped face and glistened on the coil of rope that served as my pillow.  My brother Christoph lay on the deck at my side.  Christoph was thirteen.  He had serious doubts about this pilgrimage to America.  His apprenticeship to the Count’s brewmeister had been lucrative, and he’d been very hesitant to accompany his family on this risky and unnerving excursion.  He missed his home and friends, and had joined us reluctantly at the insistence of our father and the heartfelt pleadings of our mother.

There would be no more sleep for me this night.  As the velvet black skies lightened to lavender in the east, a thin layer of scarlet became barely visible in the west.  It was land.  It was America.  Soon the melancholy stillness was replaced with hustle, bustle, and the excitement of preparation. The crewmen were busily pursuing their assigned tasks, and the passengers were crowding the decks in a frenzy of anticipation.  Yesterday, freedom, opportunity, and America had been only a well-worn, but very illusive dream.  This morning that impossible dream was palpable.  It lay on the horizon ahead of us, visible to the naked eye.  It was no longer just an incredible dream.  America was real.


OBIE Chapter 29  Excerpt, SCRAP O’ SCRIPTURE

Well, to me signs don’t make no more sense than bathin’ once a week, but these ol’ sailors believe they’re the greatest things since hardboiled eggs. Whether you believe in signs or not, there’s something about sprawling on your back on a cool, clear night, and staring up into myriad twinkling lights, that tends to open your heart and clear your mind.

Some nights we’d lay there in the stillness, with the North Pacific rolling beneath the deck, and the only sound you’d hear would be the rhythmic beating of your own heart. You could almost hear the pulsing of your own blood, as it flowed within the channels of your veins.  It was as though you sensed the waning of your own life, as the minutes and the seconds of existence ran their course and ticked away. 

On these cloudless nights the stars were bright as campfires in the snow, and thick as sparks when you stir a fire at night.  Sometimes the moon had a golden ring, and if the moon were full, the sea glowed with a green translucence as its teaming fathoms rolled beneath our bow. On more than one occasion as we drifted in a calm, we’d float along in the midst of resting whales.  You could hear their steady breathing, and once in awhile they’d blow, or a whale would roll and a giant leviathan arm, would reach up into the moonlight just as though it were in prayer, as if to touch the very face of God. 

OBIE  Chapter 78  Excerpt, The Talent Show  


The heartwrenching account of, Why I don’t do talent shows no more!

Lidge and I had taken a load of freight over to a little gold camp in the foothills.  The mule th’owed a shoe, so we was runnin’ late and decided to call it a day and spend the night.  The camp had a dandy, little community theatre, and, in hopes of killin’ some time that evening, the folks was throwin’ an impromptu talent show. There was a fifty-dollar prize for first place, so all the miners was filing through doing jigs & flip flops & such, and tellin’ all maner of outrageous, longwinded whoppers that had never failed to bust up Ma & Pa, back home.  Lidge insisted that if I was to read a page or two from my journal, they’d be mesmerized.  I did, and they weren’t. So after two or three minutes of dead silence and growing humiliation, I was staring at my feet in mortification, when I noticed that one of my brogans was untied and fixin’ to fall off; so I hoisted my foot up on the lectern to lace up my shoe.  Well, folks began to marvel at my flexibility and dexterity, and some fella in the front row asked if I could wrap my leg plum around my neck.  I assured him that I couldn’t, and another ol’ guy bet me ten bucks I was mistaken.  Confident of some easy cash, I hauled off and swung my right leg for my left shoulder with all the determination I could muster.  My loosed brogan flew off, and my big toe became deeply embedded in my left ear, right up to the second knuckle.  Instantly my leg muscles cramped up, in a bunch, and my back went into spasm. Just when I figured things couldn’t get no worse, the frayed cuff of my overalls began tickling my nose, and I went into fits and convulsions of violent sneezing.  This sneezing persisted and grew in intensity, until a particularly virulent sneeze went directly down my pants leg, and proceeded to turn my pockets wrong side out and darn near blow off my underwear!  Reacting quickly, the horrified stage manager immediately dropped the curtain, cracking me on the cranium and knocking me colder than a dogcatcher’s heart!  About 45 minutes later, I come to in the local hoosegow, servin’ a three to six week sentence for vagrancy and indecent exposure. This concluded my stage career.


OBIE Chapter 78 Excerpt, Seasons, Cycles & Exceptions  

Assuming just for a moment, that I’ve gleaned some bit of wisdom from my long, illustrious career as a muleskinner, I’ll share a few thoughts on living a satisfying life. First of all, set aside a bright, roomy section of your mind and fill it with all your best memories.  Visit it often and never enter without first removing your shoes.  Keep it immaculate and it will serve you well. Share it with your Diety, whatever you perceive him to be.

Sharpen your awareness of the natural wonders that surround us, and encourage it’s appreciation in others. Be cognizant of life’s cycles, appreciating each new season in turn, while realizing fully that despite our best efforts, time is resolute, and with time, each season will pass. Embrace each new season with hope and optimism, while retaining all that’s best of seasons past.

Do not be drawn into meaningless, futile, debilitating debates with loud, obnoxious people. Just consider the source and when possible avoid their venting. Their noise is a noxious vapor, and repulsed silence is often the appropriate response. I have good news.  Your loudmouth neighbor, your loudmouth in-law, and the loudmouth in your Sunday school class, all have one thing in common; they don’t know squat!  They’re just noisy!  Relax and ignore them, and don’t encourage their clamor.  Be mindful of your example to others; it’s your most effective testimony.  Value truth and consider the cost of deceipt. 

 Cherish and reverently exercise your right to vote and keep this country free!  Many people have given their lives in order to secure the freedoms you enjoy today.  Honor their sacrafice.  Honor our veterans and all those who choose a life of service. Honor individuality, revere tollerance and exhort all those who lift up the cause of freedom. Confront ignorance, and be diligent in the advancement of knowledge.  Ignorance and intolerance are almost inseperable, and despite what some will tell you, neither one is a virtue. Positive outcomes are never achieved through negative actions. Respond to others, as you’d have them respond to you. 

Be open to affection but wary of unwholesome pleasures. And do not be deceived. Deceipt is ephemeral; lies and indiscretions will eventually come to light. Every action has a consequence.  When considering any action, before proceeding, think the scenerio through to its logical conclusion.  You can never undo a thoughtless deed, and carelessly sewn seeds produce a ponderous harvest!

 Anything that you are unable to do in good conscience and moderation, do not do!  Eat nutritiously and judiciously, consistantly burning more calories than you consume, until you’ve achieved your ideal weight, and you will be healthier, more industrious, more prosperous, more popular, profoundly gratified, and gutwrenchingly contented.  It’s what all the ages have striven for.

In all things, promote liberty for all, and justice tempered with mercy.  In this country, everyone has the right to life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness. Celebrate ethnicity; take pride in your heritage, but value the traditions of others.  Our country’s greatest strength is diversity; honor diversity and keep America strong. While I am generally conservative in my own actions, I am passionately liberal in defense of the choices of others. Personal choices, that’s what freedom is. Remember always that you are as good as any and better than none. Be just, merciful, humble, and be happy.

OBIE   Page 304  

Am I happy?  Why, I’m happy as a bug on the bow of a boat!  Have ya ever watched a grasshopper at the bow of a boat, when the ol’ steamer is churning along at a good clip, the hull is pounding the cobalt blue water into a fine spray, and the shore is sailing by? And that old grasshopper is clinging to the railing for dear life, his little antennae are trailing in the wind, his molars are all catching sunlight, his eyes are glazed over and glistening in grateful satisfaction, and the tobacco juice is streaming out the corners of his mouth and collecting in his whiskers and his ears?  Now that’s happy!



Contact Shannon: