Camping Problems


The names of our friends in the following story have been changed to protect them from possible embarrassment.  Otherwise, the details of this incident are as accurate as my memory will permit.

In October 1973, my wife Ann and I, Stuart, Harold, Robert, and Eric joined a group of friends from our church for a camping trip in the Catoctin Mountains near Thurmont, Maryland.  There were perhaps forty of us all together. We were to stay in a private campground not far from Cunningham Falls State Park. The church group was clustered in a circle at the top of a small hill.  The main part of the camp, including a concession stand and restrooms, was down slope about a quarter mile away.  One family in our party, the Greers, had come in a large RV, and they brought friends Jack and Jane Simpson and their young daughter Cathy with them. The remainder of the church group was situated in tents. 

The weather turned bitter cold, and we did not have proper equipment for the change in temperature.  That Friday evening Ann and I huddled and shivered and giggled all night, trying our best to stay warm under two thin blankets.  The following morning at breakfast a lady from a nearby tent said that it sounded like we had been having an orgy that night.  Some orgy!  We had been trying to keep from freezing to death.

CF_lakeside (3)

Cunningham Falls State Park

On Saturday afternoon, the fun really began.  The campground advertised a free hayride for all young children.  At the appointed hour, all the kids in our camp trekked down the hill for the ride.  At camp, most of the adults were sitting around talking or beginning preparations for the evening meal.  Fortunately, the weather had moderated.  A short while later the young children who had gone downhill less than an hour before began straggling back into camp.  When asked why they were back so soon they explained that the hayride had been cancelled.

Suddenly the camp owner roared into our area in his jeep.  He was a large, unpleasant looking man, and he was obviously very angry.  He slammed a wad of money down on a table and told us to tell Mr. Greer that he had an hour to get out of camp.  The camp owner then got back in his jeep and sped back toward camp center.  All of us were mystified.  What was going on?

About fifteen minutes later Mark Greer strolled nonchalantly into our circle, and we immediately told him about the camp owner’s tirade and asked him what had happened. He explained that he had accompanied the children down the hill for the hayride, but at the last minute the camp owner’s son had appeared at the office door and announced that the wagon was broken and there would be no hayride.  The owner’s son then stepped back inside and closed the door.  Mark rapped on the door, spoke to the son, and asked to see the “broken” wagon.  Unpleasant words were exchanged, and the owner’s son slammed the door in Mark’s face.  Mark rapped again, and this time the camp owner himself appeared.  The verbal exchange became increasingly acrimonious, and the owner told Mark to get out of his camp.  Mark shrugged and walked away.

What to do?  Mark had his wife Mary, his nine-year-old daughter Alice, Jack and Jane Simpson, and nine-year-old Cathy Simpson in his RV.  He adamantly insisted that he wasn’t going anywhere.

That night Ann had an acute attack of intestinal distress (known in the British foreign service as the Benghazi Dash or the Kabul Trots), and every hour or so I had to drive her down the hill to the restroom.  I was waiting outside the restroom door that evening shortly before midnight when I saw a police vehicle arrive.  The camp owner came out of his office and joined two police officers for a trip up the hill.  Uh oh!

Mark Greer was arrested and forced to drive his RV out of the campground and on to the police station in Thurmont.  It was a hazardous maneuver at that time of night among all those trees, but he finally made it.  Once they had driven to Thurmont, and by the time they finished booking and fingerprinting Mark, the justice had gone home for the night, and Mark was therefore unable to post bail.  He spent the night in jail.   His wife Mary, Jack and Jane Simpson, and the two young girls slept in the Greer’s RV on the county jail’s parking lot.

There was a follow up to this story.  Several months later the church campers accompanied Mark Greer and his lawyer to court in Thurmont to defend Mark against the camp owner’s charges.  The trip was unnecessary.  Neither the camp owner nor his son appeared in court, and the case was dismissed.  But it cost Mark a bundle for legal representation.  It seemed to me that if his lawyer had been worth his salt they would have been prepared with a countersuit.  Of course, I know very little about the law.  I have studiously avoided courts and the legal system all my life.  If a camp owner tells me to leave his campground, I’ll shake the dirt off my shoes and move out smartly.


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