Presbyterian Summer Camp Turns Into Winter Shelter
By LORETTA FULTON
When James and Linda Myers went to bed Sunday night, Feb. 14, they had electricity and water in their home on the 11-acre Presbyterian Encampment at Buffalo Gap where they live and serve as camp managers.
When they woke up Monday morning, they had no electricity and soon would be without water. The couple, who live alone at the camp most of the year, soon would have about 20 unexpected guests to house and feed with no electricity and no water. Overnight, the summer playground for kids from all over Northwest Texas turned into a winter shelter for local folks.
The Myers quickly learned that the entire Buffalo Gap community and much of the state were without power and water. The dire situation would last the rest of the week, and the Myers were glad to accommodate people who had no safe place to stay. Even though Buffalo Gap is a small community, the Myers didn’t know any of the people who sought shelter at the church camp.
“We made some new friends out of all this,” James said.
And no doubt, the folks who stayed in the cabins are saying the same thing about James and Linda Myers. The electricity was off at the camp, but the cabins have gas heaters. The electric fans inside the heaters didn’t work, so it took a while for the cabins to warm up to about sixty degrees. People who came to the camp brought their own bedding and some brought food.
Even area residents who didn’t move into the camp got assistance from it. Many houses in Buffalo Gap have fireplaces or wood stoves, and with the power out, the fuel supply was dwindling fast.
“We gave away a bunch of firewood,” James said.
The Myers slept in the camp kitchen all week, using the gas stove and oven for heat. They weren’t concerned about the danger because the kitchen is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors and oxygen depletion detectors.
Only one bathroom in the entire campground was working due to frozen pipes, and that was in the dining hall. When the Myers learned that water would be shut off Tuesday, Linda stored about forty gallons that was used for flushing the toilet, supplemented by melted snow. About midnight Tuesday, the Myers got another surprise.
“I looked out and there were flashing police lights in the parking lot,” James said.
Actually, it was flashing Taylor County Sheriff’s Department lights. Deputies had picked up a man near Coronado’s Camp who had called 911. The deputies, who James praised for their service to the community, brought the man to the campground, where he stayed until Thursday.
The camp guests may have been a little cold and certainly a little dirty during their unexpected visit, but they were well fed and cared for. The Myers made a run to Sam’s Club for extra groceries and bottled water. Guests chowed down on pancakes, bacon, eggs, soup, chili, and even a chicken and pasta dish that Linda cooked up.
“It’s amazing what you find in the back of the freezer when you look,” Linda said.
Both James and Linda touted the Buffalo Gap community, which stays connected through a Facebook page. Neighbors checked on neighbors, making sure everyone was accounted for. The Myers even loaned unused mattresses to Beltway Church, which set up a shelter in south Abilene.
“People were really looking out for each other the best they could,” James said.
The Myers learned that the family they succeeded as camp managers thirteen years ago had a similar episode during an ice storm in 1987.
“They ended up living in the kitchen as well,” James said.
The Presbyterian Encampment was established in 1921, and a 100-year anniversary is planned for the summer. That’s assuming COVID-19 and Mother Nature don’t interfere. Summer camps were held online last summer due to COVID. If the celebration is held next summer, some of the Myers’ new friends may show up. The Myers invited their unexpected guests to come if the event is held–only next time they need to bring a swim suit instead of layers of winter clothes and bedding.
“We’ll all jump in the swimming pool,” James promised.
Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene