School’s Out! Summer Camps Are In!


School’s out.

What’s next, besides sorting through two lockers full of rancid gym clothes, rotted-out lunches featuring sandwiches made from leftover Thanksgiving turkey, and a dozen permission slips that never made it home?

Summer camps.

By this time, if you haven’t already signed up your kids for camps, there’s nothing left but the White Is Right Survivalist Jamboree in North Idaho (concealed carry permit required) and the Spot Welding Fun camp at a machine shop in Stevensville.

The time to sign up the kids for summer camps was in early March. That’s the message I got from the moms of several of my kids’ friends. They’d been calling me with increasing urgency since Valentine’s Day, asking when and where Rusty and Speaker would be attending camps, so they can put their kids in with their friends. I kept putting them off because it was hard for Barb and me to find the time to pore over the summer camp time/space coordination matrix.

But, by the aptly named May Day, we got ‘er done.

The planning went thusly: My suggestion of obtaining fake passports and shipping the kids off to a South African labor camp was immediately shot down, so we finally cleared all the tax documents off the dining table and replaced them with fliers and brochures from the various summer camp offerings we’d collected.

The YMCA is usually the starting point, as many of their friends go there, and we have a family membership. This holds down the cost somewhat, but the big drawback is their signup day, which they call Super Saturday. The name is an attempt to put a positive spin on a savage free-for-all the first Saturday in May, when parents show up before dawn to form a line that snakes clear around the building. When the doors are opened at 7:00, hundreds of surly, sleep-deprived parents shoulder their way into the gym and push and shove to get their kids signed up for a limited number of spaces. It’s kind of like the Mariel Boat Lift, but without the camaraderie.

Barb and I considered all the possibilities of the YMCA camps, discussed the pros and cons of the various full-day and half-day options, and decided to forego the Y this year. Mostly because I stopped paying our dues eight months ago.

I picked up a brochure from “Youths In Positive Environmental Situations.” They offer a series of outdoor adventures, with a green attitude and a real “protect the earth” message. I called the number.

This summer, your kids can learn how to smelt with Bob Wire!

There are still plenty of spots available at the Smelting Camp in Butte, Montana!

“YIPES!” said the woman on the other end.

“What?!? Are you okay? What’s going on?” I shouted.

“YIPES,” she said. “It’s our acronym. I know, it’s kind of unnerving, isn’t it? Still, it’s better than the one we had when we were called Teens In Trouble Trying Yurts. Anyway, what can I do for you?”

I hung up. My kids are teens, but they are not troubled (as long as our internet connection is uninterrupted).

Next up was an art camp, offered by a hazy organization somewhere in East Missoula. Listed as a girls-only “empowerment art camp,” it sounded intriguing. Barb clicked to their website on the laptop.

“Hmm,” she said, knitting her brow and squinting at the screen. “Their website says they teach girls how to express themselves and empower their inner warrior through art.”

“Well, that sounds all right,” I said. “Speaker could use a little push in the self-confidence area. Is she gonna have to wear a breast plate, or swing a mace?” I laughed.

Barb silently scanned the site. Finally, she said, “No, but they seem to discourage ‘breeders’ and people with ‘phallo-centric lifestyles.’ I don’t know about this place, Bob. Look at some of the art that was created by last year’s campers.”

The depictions of women wearing camouflage pants, with bandanas wrapped around their shaved heads as they plunged spears and knives into cowering, pencil-necked white men were enough to curdle my cheese. A few of the well-muscled women in the paintings were wearing Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco t-shirts, and seemed to have dropped out of a Frank Frazetta calendar. We gave that camp a ‘no.’

“Hey, here’s a brochure from that gymnastics place,” said Barb. “Both kids are into tumbling, maybe it’d be good to get them started on some real gymnastics.”

I took the brochure and perused it. The camp seemed pretty straightforward, ‘til it got to Wednesday morning. The session that day begins with a “prayer muffin,” then the kids are encouraged to hit the mats and “flip for Jesus.” Well, I don’t like evangelism mixed with my somersaults, thank you very much. Nix.

As Rusty and Speaker both sport a strong dramatic streak (especially when their cell phones are taken away), we thought they might enjoy a kids’ theatre camp. The Montana Kids Theatre Company was offering a one-week camp that takes the kids from script to rehearsal to the full performance of an actual well-known stage play. The price was reasonable, and I knew the kids would dig it. Barb was at their website, so I asked her what play they were doing.

“’True West’ by Sam Shepard,” she said.

“I’ve seen that one,” I said. “There are only two actors in it.”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding at the computer screen. “The camp’s already full.”

We were running out of options. I looked at brochures from the Nature Explorers Cooperative (since I do most of the laundry, I dreaded the idea of emptying their pockets each evening), the Young Brewers Club (a local brewery teaches kids how beer is made—vetoed by Barb), Extreme Hang Gliding Camp (must be 21 or clinically insane), Neighborhood Crime Watch Camp, Let’s Play Doctor! Camp, Video Gamers Confab (bring your own couch and bong, I suppose), and Tattoo Art Camp (includes your kids’ first tattoo!).

Barb and I looked at each other. The camps were either too expensive, too weird, run by dipshits, or just too boring. I gathered up all the paperwork and round-filed it.

“Same as last year?” asked Barb, cracking open a bottle of beer.

“Same as last year,” I said, opening a brew for myself and dialing the phone.

“Hey, Mom! How’s it going? Great. Listen, are you busy this summer…?”


Wanna laugh ’til your sides hurt? These ought to do the trick: Parenting Sucks. And I Love It., For Writing Inspiration, Head to Missoula’s Bark Park, and Zombie Apocalypse? Bob Wire’s Got Your Back.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Bob Wire will eat your braaaaaaains.

Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.