Klondike Day by
(87 Stories)

Prompted By Camp

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Cabin 4 at Camp Nissokone, 1960. I’m in the front row, second from left. Bud is just behind me.

On Klondike Day at Camp Nissokone, we campers became prospectors, wandering through the fields and woods with laundry bags. We were searching for “nuggets”—rocks that had been painted gold and scattered across the camp grounds. If we could get them back to the “assayer’s office”—actually the senior division director’s office—we would be paid off in play money based on their total weight. The cabin whose prospectors collected the most gold would win a prize. But also roving the grounds—on horseback—were counselors dressed as bandits. If they found us before we cashed in, they would relieve us of our nuggets and we’d have to start again. “Mounties” on horseback also roved the woods, providing meager protection if they came upon a bandit robbing us.

We could get credit for the golden boulder—if we could somehow transport it to the assayer’s office without getting robbed.

Prospecting together, my friend Bud and I spotted a gleam of gold in a field. It turned out to be a “nugget” that was mostly buried underground. When we finally unearthed it, it was a boulder the size of a Dutch oven. Jackpot! But the two of us could barely lift it, let alone carry it. We had to set it down and rest every ten feet. We tried rolling it, but it was irregularly shaped and just settled back on the ground.

A mountie came by and verified that it was indeed a valid nugget, although he thought it might be a relic from a previous year. We could get credit for it—if we could somehow transport it to the assayer’s office, about a half mile away, without getting robbed.

Could he help us carry it? Nope.

So we lifted, rolled, and dragged it back toward camp, making tortoise-like progress. Sure enough, a bandit spotted us and rode over.

“What’cha got there?” he asked.

“Nugget,” we said.

“Not for long,” he said. He dismounted and made his way over. Reluctantly, we moved aside and let him examine it.

He looked at it, rolled it over, and hefted it. Then he started laughing and got back on his horse.

“Aren’t you going to take it?” we asked.

“Are you kidding?” he said. “No way I can carry it up here. If you can get it back, it’s yours.”

After more than an hour, we reached the camp entry road, barely halfway. Then a truck came by. We flagged it down.

“Can you help us get this rock to the senior director’s office?” we pleaded.

“Sure,” said the driver. “Hop in.”

In the end, we got credit for our golden boulder. But it took us so long to bring it in that our cabin still didn’t win. We would have been better off scouring the woods for smaller, more plentiful nuggets.

Profile photo of John Zussman John Zussman
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Adorable picture and great story, John, thanks for sharing. I am still pondering the life lesson though. Is it always better to go for the smaller, more plentiful nuggets than the golden boulder? I’m not so sure.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Before NMC, I went to Camp Nahelu in Brighton, MI, where we also had Klondike day…this brought back a long-lost memory of special days like that, Color War and other such days, like “normal” camps had. I was even Dorothy in the camp production of “Wizard of Oz” one summer. I didn’t go with a best friend and never found a boulder, though. Still it WAS fun! Thanks for the flash-back.

  3. I read with interest and glee your experience with your great ‘find’. What a fun experience, and what a life lesson to ponder! Do you shoot for the stars, or do you collect moondust along the way because you can’t fly that high? I say shoot for a star. You worked hard for it. I am happy to have read your story!

  4. OH, how funny! I wonder if the lasting lesson was the one at the end of the piece, or if there’s something bigger there…the whole thing is so strange and must have been a very big deal to those two boys. So you made money, but you didn’t win the prize for your cabin. What does that translate to in adulthood? 🙂

  5. Constance says:

    Klondike days. How cool is that? What interesting things people think up for camp kids to do. I see plenty of life lessons what with the prospectors and Mounties and bandits and such. You should have gotten a bucket load of bonus points for completing the mission with that boulder. By the way, you were the cutest little kid ever.

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