Camp Big Papa 2020


Due to the Coronavirus, and with schools closed for the next two weeks or perhaps even longer, Camp Big Papa 2020 has opened early this year.

But before you rush to sign up your energetic offspring, please be advised, our camp roster is already full.

Little One and Sweet Caroline, our two granddaughters, have once again donned their dark blue camp shirts with their names emblazoned on the back in caterpillar yellow ink and headed into the great outdoors with Yours Truly – Big Papa.

And in less than a week, it has already been a grand adventure. But just like those back on Flamingo Street, some of our grand adventures have had a few missteps along the way that now require a few new camp rules to keep everyone safe.

Along with triple-tied shoes, a waterproof backpack, and an escape-proof bug-collecting container, Camp Big Papa now requires a spider stick for the line leader of any hike.

During our first hike of the year last Saturday, our first line leader ran face-first into a spider web. Not just any ordinary web, mind you. It was a giant, super sticky web — one of those that wrap completely around your head. And, as a bonus for our hike, the web came outfitted with its eight-legged occupant.

Don’t worry; no small campers were injured during my encounter with Leggy the Monster Spider. And the girls were still laughing for hours while trying to reproduce my “spider dance” through the woods.

School’s never really out at Camp Big Papa, we do math even during a hike in the woods. Math is everywhere in nature, exemplified by the Fibonacci sequence, also known as “nature’s universal rule.” It’s one of the most famous formulas in mathematics.

Leonardo Fibonacci, a 12th century Italian mathematician, discovered that a certain math sequence repeats itself everywhere in nature. On our recent hike, I pointed out a few examples. His “golden spiral” can be found in pinecones, honeycombs, pineapples, the center of a sunflower, in petals and in the spiral of the nautilus seashell. (In our case it was a large snail’s shell.)

But Leonardo’s math went out the window when it came to water balloons. Trust me, fifteen water balloons divided evenly between three people doesn’t mean things are truly even.

The girls’ relentless bombardment upon Yours Truly was all the math “proof” that was needed. But I didn’t mind. The cascade of water helped finally to get rid of that super sticky spider web.

So what’s the new rule? Simple. At camp Big Papa, we use Big Papa math. To make things equal … I get twice the number of water balloons than any other camper.

Real life lessons are also taught at Camp Big Papa. You don’t always get to be first — unless you want to go on a hike with us, then you can be first in line. Just make sure to bring your own spider stick or you’ll come face to face with my eight-legged friend.

Be optimistic and positive. Mistakes happen, and you might turn over the wrong rock. (In my defense I had no idea our old buddy, Goliath the giant water snake, was again sleeping underneath.)

Wonder where ants actually go when they disappear into their anthill. And always respect and delight in Mother Nature’s wonders. Never lose your childlike imagination. Take a moment in time to lie down and see the animals in the clouds.

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important life lesson taught at Camp Big Papa, apologize when you’re wrong and make mistakes … even if you happen to be Big Papa.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]