FRO-BACK FRIDAY: My Husband, the Camper



Yesterday my husband, Richard, neatly folded his clothes and then packed them in his duffle in accordance with the color wheel from left to right. I’m sure his whites were packed in their own Ziploc. He left for Minocqua, Wisconsin for the weekend to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Camp Kawaga for Boys with Braves of the Kawaga Nation of all ages.

Years ago he’d board a bus for the eight-hour drive, but he’s had a driver’s license for 37 years, so I let him take a car.

Some people, especially people from camp, don’t know his name is Richard because they’ve only known him by his nickname, “Murray.” So, to avoid confusion, I’ll just refer to him as Murray from this point on.

Leslie and Murray c. 1975, just before Murray left for camp that summer
Leslie and Murray c. 1975, just before Murray left for camp that summer

I’ve been Mrs. Murray for nearly 28 years but have known him since we were 14 years old. Throughout high school we dated during the school year, and then he’d leave for camp. Our relationship was on the same schedule as my parents’ plumber: It would heat up in the fall when he came to check the boiler, and cool off in the summer when he’d check the air conditioning.   

It took years for me to understand his love of camp because my camp experiences resembled a stay at Alcatraz.


“The Rock”

Murray was a camper, then a CIT (counselor in training), who eventually became a counselor. I, too, was once a camper, then a CWST (camper-with-strep-throat) who, after spending two summers at two different camps, eventually convinced her parents that she was not a happy camper.

Murray enjoyed learning new skills such as archery, riflery, canoeing, and waterskiing. I enjoyed writing home to Mom and Dad, begging them to take me home.

Murray learned to become a real man at camp, earning and receiving a sacred Indian name. I learned what it was like to have breasts at an early age when no one else had them.

Murray swam the bay. I broke out into hives from the lake water.

Murray credits his camp experiences with helping him become the honest, self-assured, organized person he is today. I credit camp with giving me my first panic attack.

Murray lives by the principles he learned at camp. Camp instilled in him good values, a keen sense of fairness, and unrivaled sliver-removal techniques. I guess there were a few things camp taught me, as well, such as always have money in your canteen account for candy bars, jumping on the trampoline is fun, and going home was the best day of my life.

camp kawagan



While most of the Kawaga Braves will spend this weekend in cabins on the campgrounds,




Kids having fun outside their rustic cabins









Murray, and a few other campers-of-a-certain-age will be in a cabin at The Beacons Lakefront Resort and Suites. They will be roughing it though, when they walk into and out of camp each day.

Beacons cabin
A cabin at The Beacons


Beacons room_n
Inside view of a cabin at The Beacons





beacons pool_n
The indoor pool at The Beacons

Murray used to love roughing it. Now he prefers roughage. His brother tries to get him to go on a camping trip with their cousins every year, going as far as finding a campground with a port-a-potty. He told his brother, “I don’t care if there’s a port-a-Hilton. I’m not going.”

My, how things have changed. But some haven’t. Murray still gets a thrill when doing cabin inspections. He carries a clipboard and wears a whistle around his neck every Saturday morning at 0800, but the kids and I will have none of it. We don’t care if we earn an ice cream cone for having the cleanest room; we can go get our own.

He found a letter that had been sent to his parents, written by his counselor, that said, “While not a gifted athlete, he tries hard and is rewarded for his efforts. He is brilliant at organizing and running a cabin.” He was 11.  Since I don’t have the letter in front of me, I’m hoping he’ll comment with the exact wording because it’s priceless, and so true.

I hope the Kawaga Braves are having a great time together, celebrating this truly unique, and amazing milestone in history. I also hope Murray brought what his mother refers to as “his $5,000 Kawaga jacket” because it can get cold at night in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

But I don’t know why I’d give his gear a second thought; after all, he’s the one who makes packing lists for our family when we go out of town. And, rumor has it, he made the packing list for his fellow Braves for this weekend.

Happy anniversary, Kawaga! Men, have fun this weekend, but remember how old you are, and be careful during your activities. I can’t help it! I’m a Jewish mother. And, Murray, the kids and I will do our best to make sure you come home to a cabin inspection worthy of an ice cream cone.


For the history of Camp Kawaga, please click this link: