Friday, June 29, 2007

Camp Yuc-Yuc: The Backstory

Many years ago, my siblings and I bought a 20-acre piece of property from our Grandpa after our Grandma had died. This parcel had originally been part of the land owned by her parents, then owned by her brother, and, sometime in the seventies after his death, she acquired it. She and Grandpa had parked a house trailer there and had electric run to it, and it had been their summer get-away for many years.

Way back in 1929, my great grandpa Chalk had bought an 80-acre farm, sight-unseen, up in Presque Isle County. He moved great grandma Belle and their four youngest children there from Flint in the fall of the year and he returned to Flint to work in a factory and send them money. Great grandma was stuck by herself out in the sticks and, according to family lore, hated every minute of it. Somehow, she toughed it out (they never got a divorce!) with no electricity and having to carry water to the house from Indian Creek every day. Great grandpa gave the back 20 to his son, Great Uncle Ted, and that's where he farmed and lived in a creek side berm. When my grandparents were first married, they lived there for a time, and it was in this berm where my mother was born. Naturally, one can see the sentimental value and significance this property has had for my mother and me and my brothers and sisters. It's been in the family for almost 80 years!

After Grandma died, Grandpa wanted one of us kids to have the property. He offered it to one of my brothers first, and instead of having it just for himself, my brother had another idea - for us siblings to buy it together. When this proposal came up, I don't recall hesitating. I became a property owner with them.

The first tradition we created was camping on the Fourth of July, and for quite a few years, we all tried to make it up for the holiday. And every time, small improvements were made - a new outhouse was built, the old berm was eventually burned down, and other general maintenance - nothing spectacular, but something was something. My dad, brothers, and brothers-in-law really worked their tails off.

We started out by calling the place "Our Property" or "Our Property Up North." Because the property is located very close to Ocqueoc Falls, some started saying, "Our Property near the Ocqueoc Falls." Pretty soon that morphed into "Camp Ocqueoc."

One Fourth of July, we had a particularly tough camping experience. The mosquitoes and black flies were atrocious! The days were hot and steamy! Everyone was being bitten and burned to death! Despite all the other mishaps, we managed to have a good time anyway, thanks to lots of bug juice and beer and campfire smoke, laughing it off, saying we should have t-shirts made that said, "I Survived Camp Ocqueoc." One of my brothers, always the pessimistic clown, declared that we should write "I Survived Camp Yuck-Yuck" instead because the whole experience had been rotten! His suggestion was a good one and we have lovingly/humorously called the place Camp Yuck-Yuck ever since.

Being the Creative Writer and English Minor, I pondered this name. Because the word "Ocqueoc" is pronounced "ah-kee-ock" I decided that the most accurate spelling of our camp name should be "Yuc-Yuc" instead. Three years ago, after my daughter asked me what "Ocqueoc" meant, I looked it up on the internet and, much to my surprise, found that the word is from the Odawa language and means "sacred." That was a quandary! There is nothing sacred about something that is considered "rotten," but, since the name had already stuck, I wasn't about to change it, so Camp Yuc-Yuc it is!

As the years have passed, almost twenty now, we've gotten together to celebrate the Fourth of July less and less. We have jobs, responsibilities, and families to care for. Every so often though, we do camp there. We all have dreams of what to do with the place, and these dreams usually include building some type of rustic cabin, but nothing has happened yet. For now, all that stands on the property is a falling-down shed, an outhouse, the old trailer, and my mother's camper, but, let me tell you, that's not what's important. What's important is how much fun it is to camp there when we do go and for all the special memories that have been created. Here's to more!

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