Ye Old Menogyn Guides
"Memories  of Camp Menogyn",  by Dave Malmberg, In Camp Staff  1967
(1)  "The Quiet"

There is a quiet in wilderness. This we know. But, there was also a quiet that was at Menogyn itself. Always there, one only had to listen for it. This quiet permeated not only the ground, but the buildings as well. Perhaps it was theprimitive nature of the camp that contributed to the silence. The lack of outside influences. No radio, television, phones or newspapers.Oil burning lamps in the buildings gave light at night. The scent of the burning oil with me to this day.

The moonlight guided our steps on the in-camp trails in the evenings. And, with each step there was the unmistakable ‘thump’ of the boot coming in contact with the impacted pine needle trails we walked on. There was a quiet in the camp that could be heard on Chapel point. The unmistakable sound of the wind moving through the pines. When we would listen, it would always touch something primitive within. The quiet was in the cedar laden air as well. Not only when the sauna had been stoked, or the wood had been split, but also by grabbing a handful of cedar bough and inhaling this sweet aroma of the north.

And then, nights at Menogyn. Times when a few of us would go into GrandMarais, choosing to paddle a Chestnut to the landing rather than take a launch.We all knew there would be something special on the return trip. It was alwaysdifferent and yet the same. Northern Lights that would shudder through the crisp air on the return, so bright, mysterious and vivid one thought it alien. Then,finding our way through a fog so dense you couldn’t see your hand in front of you. Or paddling back at 1:00 AM on a crystal calm Bearskin, lying back in the canoe and gazing at a billion stars in the universe. No one speaking, everyonetaking it in, The Quiet. Unforgettable.

Or the Quiet of final night camp fires given to each returning group. The glow and guttering of burning cedar. The reflection of fire in the faces. The dark surrounding the campers creating a closeness only found in the protective shroud of the fire. All of this reinforced with music that instilled a sense of meaningfulness and closure after each trip. Closure that would manifest itself individually in each camper. A powerful Quiet that would live a lifetime. And so it was, in those days of old. The Quiet we all know. The Quiet thatremains in each of us to this day.

(2)  "Stories of Old"
We were sons, born in the past
Voyageurs lost in time
We were young, so very brash
As we moved through the pines

The northern lights shined in our souls
As we moved through the days
Ten thousand times, our vessels rose
In cadence with the waves

Stories of old
Behind me now
Stories of boys lost in time
Stories of old
Still live somehow
If only in my mind

We would glide the lakes with ease
Never stopping to rest
We would charge through stormy seas
Just as equal to the test

Could this be a fantasy?
An improbable delight
Like a campfire from a single match
On a wind swept rainy night
Well, I’m content remembering
Though you think its make believe
This perception’s my reality
So you best just let it be…

Stories of old
Behind me now
Stories of boys lost in time
Stories of old
Still live somehow
If only in my mind.

From the song, Stories of Old, by David Malmberg
C 1995 Swampsong Publishing
(2)  "Wisdom in the Holer"

My recollections of Menogyn are many. As I was musing over the profundity of the wilderness experience at Menogyn, my thoughts somehow gravitated toward the number of outhouses which were in camp. These outhouses were effectively called ‘Holers.” This, based upon the number of holes that had been cut in each outhouse. There were two holers, perhaps a four holer and for sure, the supreme outhouse of them all: the six holer. She was a grand structure sitting proudly on a hill near one of the camper cabins. Engage, I believe. The six holer was a great testimony to Menogyn ingenuity. Used frequently by campers coming off the trail after a diet of fruit soup. Sitting there proudly, taking whatever was given, six at a time.

But, I’m digressing. For some reason, the six holer was also the most popular outhouse amongst the staff. Perhaps it was due to its spaciousness, or ventilation or close proximity to the mess hall. (no slight intended to Ma Brown) One thing for sure, it was used by the staff.

Well, at some point, Camp Director Armond Paulson no doubt calculated that captive audiences could be gained in the Holers. Arm as spiritual leader, guide and mentor was always looking for an opportunity to improve the spiritual condition of his guides. So why not combine spiritual constitution with bowel constipation? Somehow, this made perfect sense to him. On the other hand, he may have been in the woods too long…Whatever the reason, it began. A campaign of spiritual counseling in the holers.

One day, after a meal of Almond bars and hooch a trip to the holer was necessary. I of course, like everyone else, preferred the sixholer. So, up the stairs I ran from the boathouse, arrived at the sixholer, drop my drawers, and sat down, when in through the door walks the “Dillo.” (As in Armadillo, our pet name for Arm.) He drops his drawers and sits down right next to me. I’m thinking: ‘Arm can’t you at least choose the hole at the other end of the outhouse? For Gods sake, I know we are a close staff, but this is ridiculous.

Then Arm turns to me and says:“Honker, (that’s what they called me) what do you think God is telling you to do with your life?” What? Here I am hoping to God to have a bowel movement and this guy wants to talk theology. “Uh, I don’t know Arm, I haven’t given it much thought.” “Well you know Honker, God has a plan for your life and there is no better place than the wilderness to meditate on your destiny.” I’m thinking: ‘The only destiny I have right now is to shit and get the hell out of here.

Now about this time both bowels (mine and his) are moving pretty good and the aroma was anything but the sweet smell of God.“Well Arm, (with a big smile) I was thinking maybe I should go to work for the Y as a career.” I hoped this piece of BS would do the trick.Arm with a big smile back says: “Honker, I’ll do whatever I can to assist you in your quest.” Whew. I’m oughta there. I wipe my butt and smile off my face and head for the door.“Thanks for the counsel Arm!”

Well, word got around to the staff that using the Six Holer could be dangerous to one’s constitution. From that point on I always kept an eye out for the Dillo whenever using the Six Holer. However, due to his diligence and commitment to the higher life, I’m sure many staff nevertheless said Amen, in the course of a BM to Director Armond Paulson.