Tater Tot -A Skylake Memory

Ok….TW reminded me of a funny/slightly disturbing story from back in the day. And to correct him from the get go, I was not the one who tied Tater to the flagpole.

Who was Tater, you ask?  Sit back.  First, you need a little context…

Skylake Yosemite Camp. You got an auditory and visual taste of the place by mine and TW’s stellar, slightly rebellious song we played to the campers. It is a camp seemingly like most camps, though sentiment has me thinking that there is something special about this place. The sentiment comes from not only having spent four summers there, but also because this is the same camp where my parents met and fell in love.

Awwwww……Yeah. My mom was the nature lore counselor, and my dad was the canoe-ing counselor. Very sweet. Yes, they boned in a canoe.So there you go. I owe my existence to this place.

I always had a certain mental imagery of what it would be like to be a Skylake counselor. Music, women, friends, moonlight….canoe sex. So when I got the letter that I was accepted to be a counselor (though how couldn’t I? I was a legacy) I was all excited for a relatively wholesome time. You know? To whatever degree. At the time I wasn’t totally straight laced, but again I had my preconceptions of what to expect and they all pretty much ran the straight and narrow.

Damn there are too many stories I could tell about Skylake. There is so much absurdity rushing back right now, that I could go on forever. And these stories include the insanity of staff initiation, which would make most fraternity initiations pale in comparison. At least by creativity standards. But in a snapshot, since I brought it up…

Thirty or so naked men (women were doing there own initiation) covered in paint. In one hand carrying a bottle of Southern Comfort (or the other handle to one of the party kegs), and in the other dragging along a fallen comrade. This is all existing in the backdrop of drunken songs being sung in chorus, w/ our new camp names (mine was Brother West cause I’m deaf in my right ear…clever shit) painted across our chests….And a massive bon fire dancing ahead in the distance where we were doing our best to arrive in one piece. Or at least, simply arrive.

So there are a million stories. TW joined me after my first year. Of all my friends at the time, he was the one I knew was right for it. It’s strange in retrospect because we weren’t really close then. But it was predestined. What can I tell you.

There were of course the stories of total debauchery with the opposite sex. Classic stories. Unbelievably ridiculous behaviors that spell y-o-u-t-h and r-e-t-a-r-d-e-d as clear as day. Stories I wont repeat on here. Too racy. Too revealing. Possibly too offensive. Okay, I’m almost sold on retelling them, but naaah.

And stories, so many stories of naked nights w/ the staff. Out on the docks, under a massive blanket of stars, with 75 degree nights and 75 degree water temps. Naked. Jumping around singing, no belting, out our camp songs with such intensity and passion while our bits and pieces jiggled to a different tempo than the other parts of our bodies. While of course our kids were left abandoned in their cabin. Shivering from fear. Wondering where their counselor was. Wondering what all that distant shreeking and screaming was all about.

Or when xx and I inappropriately….my God. Again, how we were never arrested for these things is beyond good fortune. When we streaked the girls campers initiation. We covered our faces of course, but as for the rest of our bodies….not so much. At 23….oh my God, sadly I was that old, anyways, we didn’t see the harm for some reason, in exposing the female staff to a random flash while they went on and on about friendship and butterflies.In defense we thought all the younger kids had left and what we expected was a chorus of laughter (or applause) from the over-fifteen crowd. Instead we got the shrieks that only little children could make. And little children they were. xx and I ran like the wind, with our little Birkenstocks ripping apart under the speeds that we were moving at. Pure shredded leather.We got in trouble for that. Nearly fired, but for some reason we came away unscathed.

Stories. There are too many that fall under Skylake. It truly was a perfect experience up there. Changes you. Adds so much too you. And not just in the rebellion department. It opens up your heart a tremendous amount as well.

And Skylake pumps out some talent. Andy Samberg from Saturday Night Live worked withus.

As well as some others that probably wont ring a bell…Like “Tater”.

TW never got to experience Tater. Tater was the camp assistant director or some title like that my first summer at Skylake. Again, before I would show the effects of the corruption of previous summers spent up there.

Damn…need to pause and re-feel that walking at home at two in the morning from a lake party. Drunk. Shirt off. Warm breeze. Meandering up the tree lined road. Moon, enormous. Damn it was good.

Anyways, Tater must have been 30 or so. I guess. I have no idea. He had a receding hairline so that’s always misleading. But he was significantly older and he was one of the main people in charge. Maybe not in disciplining (he wouldn’t have stood a chance) but in scheduling and organizing and all that shit.

Now mind you this camp, the male staff specifically, was a mad cap of misfits. We were very fraternal, and tremendously free spirited. As a group at least. Different people had different strengths. So again that is the context for the impending story.

Anyways Tater had a tremendous knack for fucking things up. Just everything really. Clumsy, bumbling fool is what he was perceived as being. In retrospect he was probably a really nice guy. Awkward of course, but good. But we were young. And we were a motley crew to say the least. I was just a pup though. The young one in the group. The newcomer. I fit in just fine, but I wasn’t establishing the culture. I was learning it.

And there was a lot of positives in the culture. 26 year old male counselors who played guitar and sang on their own time. Who were also ripped and rock climbed. This was all taken in by me. This was a tremendous influence to me. Warriored poets, you know. I was impressed by it. I was turned on by it. Not in that way JH. But when you’re 19 you still tend to look up to the elders. These guys were part of the BN sculpting process.

So I was taking in all the wildness. It was all in good fun and in good spirit. So the night of Tater was an event where that good fun and good spirit got a bit out of control.”Damn it Tater”. His new nickname, which was a spin on his last name. He was like a teacher who lost all control of his kids. Jokes had become disrespectful and now he was being given no slack.”I’m sorry. I’m sorry”. He bobs his head up and down, praying for the summer to end. The staff expresses their annoyances, but with the undercurrent of a smile. It’s not real annoyance, but petty small mean-ness of the rejection of another person. I was not above it.

So late one night…. I can’t remember much of the details leading up to it. All I remember is that I was let in on it, and was needed.”Meet us up at Tater’s cabin in ten minutes”.”Why?”A wry smile breaks out on TH’s face. He scampered off without detail.

Ten minutes or so later I’m at Tater’s cabin door. I hear the shuffling of feet. I hear stifled grunts.”What the fuck?” I think with a curious smile. Flashlights are darting throughout the cabin. I have already had my eyes blasted opened euphorically/hedonistically to everything in the one month I had been there, so I was well greased to be up for the unexpected.

And there was Tater. The 26 year old guitar playing warriored poet had his knee in Tater’s back and had a gag forced into his mouth.


The other guys were swarming around. Everyone was dressed in black mind you. This was well thought out, as was apparent in the seeming flawless operation. Rock climbing ropes whizzed through the air as they bound and tied Tater like a fly in a web. It was impressive really.

And holy shit, right? This was our boss in a sense. How fucking crazy is that?

But it wasn’t over, though what would come next? I mean what do you do next? He’s tied to his bed. We’re all fired right? I mean who’s running this show?

But tying him to the bed was clearly not the finish line to this operation. I just stood back amazed and charged on the ridiculousness of it all. Even at 19 I had some empathy, so I was making sure that he wasn’t suffering. He actually was being a tremendous sport about it. Or at least that’s what I interpreted “mmmmmppppphhhh” to mean.


Tater’s bed was ripped from it’s hinges.

Of course.

Laughter and immediate ’shhhh’s’ bounced back and forth between us. Half of us were holding our wieners like excited little four year olds. That’s the level were were operating at. Tater, bound and gagged was raised above four of our heads. I was one of them. I was an avid weight lifter at this point. An easy choice.

So in our funeral-esque procession (complete with four pall bearers of course) we led Tater to the flagpole.The flagpole is where every morning begins. After revellie and a quick cabin clean-up, that is. Hungover, unrested counselors stagger up w/ their neglected kids to line up while we hide under our shades, and steal a glance or two at the female staffer we may have hooked up with the night before. The worse you look, weary-wise, the better. It shows that you’re living it up, up there.

So flagpole is a place of assessment and commencement. What better place than to tie up you assistant director. Right? And that was the plan, and that is what was shaping up in that moment.

BC and I lowered our end. Fortunately it was where Tater’s feet were. Upside down, now that would have been cruel. Ha ha.More ropes fly through the air. Such precision.

Zip, zip, zip.

In seconds Tater is fully attached to the flagpole. High-fives are exchanged.

Mission accomplished……almost.  Now he just had to remain there for, oh I don’t know, six more hours until he would receive his ultimate humiliation.

The male staff began to filter out and recede back into the darkness of the trees. Laughter is still to be heard, but there is also a sense of tyers-up remorse. A sort of, ‘is this too fucked up?’ rightly being assessed, though we laugh it off like a bruised arm.But anyways, that’s where this story ends, and where the mission ultimately fell apart. The female staff in time would untie poor Tater from his hitching post. And bless them for doing so. That was in fact well beyond cruel and unusual.

So there’s the story again TW. A funny memory. Pretty sure not for Tater though. If you’re out there Tater…. I for one am sorry and wish you the best. That had to suck.Skylake Yosemite Camp. I don’t know about you TW, but I can’t imagine not having those summers man. I do believe we are better men for it. Though probably heading straight to hell when our times up.


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