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Thursday, August 12, 2010


Every year on the first Monday of August my family makes the eight-hour trek to a tiny Texas town called Skillman's Grove. Actually, I'm not sure it's even considered a town. Anyway, it's the site of Bloys Campmeeting, a 121-year-old tradition where, for one week out of the year, the 400+ tin cabins that make up the encampment come to life as the setting of countless new memories for the more than 4,000 people who gather from all over the country.

While my family wasn't part of that first meeting in 1870, my dad's been attending since he was young, and my siblings and I have gone our entire lives. I've only missed twice ever: once when I was too young to remember and the summer right after we got engaged (and I was miserable the entire week).

It's kind of a big deal.

The experience (for lack of a better term) is hard to put into words, so I'll give you a glimpse through the lens.

It is unbelievable how much you have to pack when you take a one-year-old camping. Hence the picture. Believe it.
Yes, our child is brilliant and is reading at 13 months. Haha, okay, so the book is upside down. She was entertained.
After being cooped up in a car for 10 hours (the aforementioned 8 is without a baby), the poor girl needed time to stretch and explore.
Part of that exploration meant that she would pick up every. single. leaf. and hand it to me while I said, "Thank you."
Usually the daily nap is one of my favorite things about campmeeting. This year, however, naptime was spent driving Avery through the mountains so she could sleep where it was cool and quiet: the car.
Still not walking on her own, but she'll walk back and forth between people. I guess she just needs the right motivation. :)
Having a nice chat with Grandma on the deck.
Aview of the cabin from the outside. Notice it's not enclosed. Good thing the temps get in the low 60s at night, and the highs during the day usually don't pass 90. Yes, it's August. Yes, it's Texas. Anyway, as far as I know, our cabin is the only one that's got the open-air concept; there are some fancy shmancy cabins out there, but come on, people. You're there for a week out of the entire year. Is it really worth it?
Avery's first meal at the cookshed. That is some good eatin' right there. Three heavy ranch meals a day, and I leave 7 pounds heavier. Think lots of beef, potatoes, biscuits (with gravy for breakfast!), beans, corn, and Pecos cantaloupe. 
Avery's new "trick": stopping multiple times during a meal to hug Daddy's arm. Priceless.
Chillin' with the cousins. Amy (left) is Avery's 2nd cousin (my cousin), and Riley (right) is Avery's fifth cousin. There were 26 people sharing the cabin this year (with two bathrooms and only one shower-- how's that for "roughing it?").
Always an audience. Hehe, Avery loved the attention though (imagine that)! We took her ducky bath instead of trying to brave the tiny shower with her.
See what I mean? She has an adoring public. She was a little lost when we got home and people weren't clamoring over her every second of the day.
Ah, time to read. This year I read Heart of the Matter, Emily Giffin's new book. One of my favorite parts (and there are many) about campmeeting is being able to get through a whole book (usually more) relatively quickly. Mindless chick reads are the best when you have all that free time...aaah. Who needs the beach?
Standing in line at the cookshed. There are two lines that form for the buffet-style service.
Avery got her first taste of hiking when we attempted to take her up the mountain. We didn't get very far. Fortunately, she was much more enjoyable on the way down. Unfortunately for Matt, he had to pretty much crawl through the trail to avoid the overhang from the trees.
Mmm, dirt. A healthy dose of iron is a staple of campmeeting.
We play lots a ridiculous amount of games during the week. Yahtzee's always a favorite, as are Grouch (aka Nertz), late-night Canasta, Moon, Settlers of Catan, and, this year, Things.
So Avery won't walk on her own, right? Well, the only problem is that she still wants to walk all the time. Thus requiring a willing party to be her crutch, lest a tantrum occur. Aunt Chelsea was the innocent victim this time. (p.s. Chelsea and my brother Aaron actually met at campmeeting years ago. They got married last summer.)
Aaron looks high here, but he was just mad that Matt and I beat him and Chelsea at Spades. I'm not competitive at all.
Ohmygoodness, how can you not love this precious face?!? Her second hike up the mountain was much more successful. She even sang "Amy...Amy...Amy..." all the way up. And down.
Traditional family picture at the cross (along the mountain trail).
Morning nap with Daddy in the tent. We've slept in a tent ever since we got married. As much as we love being close to everybody in the cabin, it's nice to have a place just a little bit separate. Especially with a baby.
Every year on Friday my dad checks camp attendance since he's on the grounds committee. I wonder where I got my love of lists...
So the chair in the foreground kinda ruins the picture, but here's a glimpse at part of the sleeping arrangements. Two full beds, a twin, and bunk beds in the main part of the cabin, plus a full-size futon and top bunk on the "porch." There's also a cabin addition (not pictured) that sleeps 7 (I think). Add some cots for the covered porches, and you can cram in more people that you'd think.
On the Friday after the annual camp-wide "talent" show, we take s'more fixins over to the cookshed for some marshmallow-y goodness. Yum.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Harp. Here's the outside of the tabernacle. There are four services a day, each alternating preachers from different denominations: Baptist, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, and Presbyterian.

It's an incomplete picture because you never really "get" campmeeting until you go, but here's something to go by in the meantime. Some of my very best memories are from this yearly tradition, and I'm so thankful that my kids will have some of those same experiences.


Amy said...

Good synopsis! It's really hard to explain this thing called "Bloys" to people who haven't experienced it! Of course, my favorite parts were canasta and Avery singing my name on the mountain. :)

iris said...

Wonderful description and pictures! I love how you tell it. Harp's have been going since 1940 and your dad has only missed twice - the year we got married and when I was pregnant with Aaron (that was the first time you missed, too). It is a special part of our lives and one that I'm glad has passed on to you and your siblings! Love it!

Rachel said...

I think it is so special that your family has this time together and has prioritized it every year!

Brooklynn said...

Sounds like such a great time! I'm jealous!!

Avery is just too cute!

Anonymous said...

Wow!! Looks like a great time!