“The Early Birds.”  If you went to K1, you probably remember that the cabins had names and that Cabin One was “The Early Birds.”  I got to be in that cabin for four summers and it was magical. 

Insiders note:  when they tore down the old K1 girls cabins, I was going to college overseas and my dad told me over the phone that they were tearing the cabins down and I was SO SAD because my name was in cabin one four times, all in the same spot and it was so special to me.  If you go back to the K1 girls camp now, there is one old cabin standing, the cabin one and two duplexes. My dad did that for me. Unfortunately, they had to tear down one of the walls and that was the wall with my name on it four times. To this day, I am still so sad about that.

I don’t remember all of my friends that early. I don’t remember many of my counselors that early (I was 5, 6, 7 and 8 years old those summers), but I do remember many things.

I hated (always did) drop off day. I didn’t like the big production and I would have been mortified to be the center of attention as they yell out your name and wait for your counselors to come running up screaming with excitement that you had arrived.  HATED IT! So, each summer, my Gran’ma would take me to the cabin while the staff was eating lunch and we would set up my bed and then I would go back to her house until the last bus had arrived and I would “start being a Kamper” at dinner time.

Each morning I would lie in bed way before the sun just waiting for Pardner, the “Flower Lady,” and my great grandma, to show up to water the flowers at the flagpole.  She’d get all of the flowers watered and then she could come over to Cabin One and we would talk through the screen window—quiet whispers about I don’t know what. But I cherished that time.

I loved the traditions of K1 (now that I have a son in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, I can see where SO MANY of them came from).  I loved “camp attention” and “camp at ease” and “cabin one all hear ma’ma” (with the salute) and “camp dismissed” at flag each morning.  I loved having to “Olympic walk” around the girls camp and not walking on the shuffleboard courts. I loved singing songs at the Ponytail before meals and shouting “knit one, pearl two” at the Sammy Lane and the Lake Queen and having them honk back at us.  I loved getting to walk over to the boys camp for Kamp Store day and being quiet in the dining hall during lunch because the boys camp was resting. I loved leftovers and chocolate milk on Sunday nights and doing the college cheers during dinner. I loved being a Kiowa and knowing that the Kickapoos didn’t know what SS&T meant.  (I hated having to wear jeans and walk in a long line of 160 girls holding hands to the Campfire, but I loved the quiet reverence of the Indian dancing.). I loved toothbrush check (I hated shower check). I loved hearing TAPS at night.

I wasn’t the most athletic kid at Kamp. I was an orange bead in swim for MANY years (the “goldfish”) and I was so jealous of the “sharks.” I thought the soccer teams were fun because we were on teams with girls from other cabins and from the other tribe for soccer games once a day (The inner Kiowa in me would have preferred to just stick with the regular competition, but it was fun being a part of a team). My favorite thing about soccer was getting to pass my Gran’ma’s office.  I would race ahead of my cabin as much as I could so that I could get one or two extra minutes with her on my way by. I loved tournament day so much and K Work was my all-time favorite!  

Saturdays were party days and Sundays were special.  On Saturdays we would go to the upper slab (just the girls, of course) and learn the dances.  I remember learning “The Hustle” and the “Salty Dog Rag.” And then that night heading to the pool instead of dancing with the boys (thank you, Paul Jackson, for asking me to dance anyway—sorry I said no).  On Sunday, Spike, my “Pappy,” would be at the flagpole oftentimes with coffee cake for the first 20 girls who were at the flag. I remember getting to go to co-ed pre-church in the woods and then having girls church after that. Pickle and Banana day on Sunday afternoon was the most memorable SunDAY from the early ’80s for me.

I remember Stunt and Trip.  Trip was my favorite!!!! I loved the closing ceremonies that were three days long with vespers and the dance show and the carnival and the swim and track meets (high jump and diving were my events every single year).  And then I remember the painful sadness of singing “Remember” after the awards ceremony and then having to hug all of my friends as they left me there for eleven more months. 

“Remember the times we had here.  Remember when you’re away. Remember the friends you made here.  And don’t forget to come back someday. Remember beside the campfire, among the hills so blue.  That you belong to Kanakomo and Kanakomo belongs to you.” (I’m not 100% confident that those are the exact words, but those are the words I still sing in my head when I walk through K1 today.)

My name isn’t on the walls of Cabin One, but the memories of Cabin One are still etched in my heart, and the overall feelings from those four years will never fade. I was in awe of Kanakomo and I loved it with all of my heart! The lasting friendships would come two or three years later, but there is a very special place in my heart reserved for Cabin One.

Jamie Jo Braner, Director of Alumni Engagement