By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Julie Laney once had a cabbage plant, but her daddy cut it down, and she doesn’t know why.
It’s OK, though, because cabbages aren’t her favorite plants. Daisies are.
“They’re so pretty, and they come in different colors,” the T-shirt-clad 10-year-old offered Tuesday at the Oren Dunn City Museum, where more than a dozen youth participated in a week-long summer camp.
Launched Monday, the camp leads children through a host of activities like bird-house building, quilt making and seed planting. On Tuesday, campers got to make a worm bed and then tour the museum’s garden with Mississippi State University Extension Service Research Associate Thomas Horgan.
Horgan showed them the difference between weeds and desirable vegetation. And he let them sniff fresh herbs plucked from a living plant.
When one observant camper spotted blueberries in the garden, everyone bubbled with excitement and crowded around.
“Don’t pick them until they’re blue,” Horgan cautioned the children, who heeded the warning until one girl found a ripe fruit and popped it in her mouth.
Then everyone had to get one.
“Don’t pick ’em.”
“I found one.”
“Don’t walk on the flowers.”
“That one fell on the ground. It’s dirty.”
Nine-year-old Selena Crowley of Tremont contemplated a little blue orb before placing it on her tongue and closing her mouth. She seemed to savor it.
“It’s good,” she said. “A little sour. I love blueberries.”
“I do, too,” said 5-year-old Christian Palmer of Tupelo, before apparently changing his mind. “They’re kind of nasty.”
Eight-year-old Maggie Laney, Julie’s sister, spied a yellow squash hiding under wide, low-lying leaves on the garden floor. She picked it up, and Horgan said she could keep it.
Maggie beamed and cradled the vegetable. She said squash is cool, but her eyes really shone when talking about worms.
“I touched ’em. They’re gushy,” she said. “They’re really slimy and dirty, but they’re good for gardens. They help recycle.”
Worms also impressed Thomas Taylor, an 8-year-old – “almost 9” – who thinks an invertebrate’s coolness factor increases with each degree of sliminess.
“Yeah, but they can bite you,” Christian said.
“No, they can’t,” Thomas replied, quick as lightening. “They don’t have mouths.”
Museum Director Janice Anthony herded the children into the “Tornado Room” to write brief narratives about their days. A retired teacher, Anthony passed out papers and clipboards. Campers sprawled on the floor, clutching pencils and swapping spelling tips.
“How do you spell church?” 6-year-old Jesse Elyse Brooks wanted to know, crossing and uncrossing her pink cowgirl boots.
“It’s a hard word,” said Mya Anne Bell, also 6.
Their stories complete, campers stood to read them aloud and received three, collective snaps of approval from attentive listeners.
“Camp is fun,” said 6-year-old Mason Ambrose, cupping a small fruit he found outdoors. “I like it.”