True Tall Tales from Camp Kranky Musky

True Tall Tales from Camp Kranky Musky

Jodie Paul June 30, 2023

July 1974, Camp Kranky Musky

No one will ever believe me.  It’s as far-fetched as vampires and werewolves, but if I don’t get this down on paper before the sun goes down, there might be no one left to tell it.  Just two weeks ago I said my goodbyes to my overly dramatic, bawling mother and shook my dad’s hand, while simultaneously accepting an extremely stiff shoulder hug, and off I went to summer camp.  This year, camp was going to be different. I’m Bobby, by the way, and I just turned 12. I enlisted two of my best friends to accompany me to summer camp, both bigger to ensure a certain level of protection against wedgies and swirlies, and procured a fine cabin on the water at Camp Kranky Musky. 

When the flyer appeared in our mailbox in April, both of my parents paid little mind, too wrapped up in the drama of the Wisconsin Democratic Primary.  Despite being tossed aside, this flyer didn’t go completely unnoticed as I casually scooped it up for entertainment while digging deep in a bowl of Cap’N Crunch. As far as flyers go, it seemed innocuous; no bright colors, black and white print.  It was really the title that got me interested: Kick-off Summer Fun at Camp Kranky Musky.

Three summers ago, my dad had decided it was finally time to teach me how to tame the elusive musky, after all, “we’re Wisconsinites, it’s in our blood,” he said.  So out on the Jon we’d go each Sunday, tilling from one spot to the next in hopes of landing a whopper.  From the moment I raised my first musky, until well now, I was hooked so to speak.  Landing a musky was the most endorphin-producing two minutes of my life.  It was better than racing dirt bikes downhill, playing Pong on Atari (though this one was close), and certainly better than watching tv with my pet rock. So, as you could imagine, the word “MUSKY” caught my eye lightning fast.

After breakfast, I readied myself for school and packed my newly gained reading material in my satchel for a little lunchtime show and tell.  It was at the lunch table that my pals were quickly enlisted and our summer was decided; Camp Kranky Musky here we come. 

It didn’t take long to convince three sets of parents who would be happy to ship us off and enjoy their weekend barbecue and nightcaps in peace. As soon as the assurances were made, my friends, Todd and Jeff, and I began planning for the adventure of a lifetime.  We spent every extra moment mentally building campfires, reeling in monsters, and telling ghost stories until the day finally came to pack up and roll out. 

Camp Kranky Musky accepted all of our applications without hesitation.  On the back of the flyer was a cut-off ticket to mail-in with a small fee of $40 for four nights.  My postman obtained some extra copies for Jeff and Todd to do the same. Thursday through Sunday was just enough time to pull off the vacation we’d all been dying for – woods, mischief, and muskies. In return for our payment, we received a map of the camp, a cabin assignment – Cabin A2, and a note from the Head Counselor.  The note stated,

Thank you for soon attending Camp Kranky Musky.  We hope all of our young residents will enjoy our facilities and activities this summer.  Please pack for 4 nights with an extra change of clothes and swimming attire.  We can’t wait to meet you.  It’s going to be groovy.
 Levi Westford


As far as invitations go, it was simple and to the point.  I guess I didn’t expect anything more, but without an activities list or a detailed list of extras to bring, I was a bit miffed.  The note came with no calls for tackle, poles, matches, or even pocket knives.  I figured I would bring the latter anyway, but for the rest of my bag, I just packed the clothes required and a few washroom standards.

Upon our arrival at camp (Jeff’s older brother was tasked with dropping us off), we met other weekend attendees, some older and some younger, and checked in with Counselor Amanda at our cabin.  As camp cabins go, it was amazing.  Log walls, bunk beds, and a single bulb lamp were all boys like us needed to get our wheels turning.  Just being away from our parents was enough to make this cabin feel like a general’s palace.  We stashed our bags on beds and proceeded with the rest of the newcomers to the “Welcome Lunch” hosted by Levi – The Head Counselor.

Counselor Levi’s voice was loud and booming.  His voice easily carried outdoors over the picnic area filled with tables and youngsters.  He welcomed us to Camp Kranky Musky and hoped we enjoyed our lunch: Manwich and chips.  Honestly, we enjoyed it about as much as you can imagine, but smiles and claps followed from the crowd in any case.  After lunch was over, all guests were allowed 30 minutes to return to their cabin and unpack.

Todd, Jeff, and I raced back to the cabin, unpacking required about 1.5 minutes, but we managed to fill the remaining time with roughhousing and the like.  At 1:30 PM all guests of Camp Kranky Musky were asked to meet at the Camp Center for afternoon activities.  Here, we were divided into four groups of eight and assigned a counselor.  Our counselor, Amanda, now Mandy for short, took us away, one by one, into a secluded area of the woods for our next “activity”. As I walked away, I turned back to observe the other counselors do the same.  I would say, this is where things started to go downhill, and not like you might expect.

(To be Continued…)