E3 and I survived Gooseberry. Barely.
What is Gooseberry? Our school district for the last 30 odd years has taken the entire third grade class camping overnight each September. It is held at the Fishlake Forest Service campground called Gooseberry. (As a bit of local education... you don't say it as two seperate words. It is not "goose / berry" is it more "goozberry".
This year the class arrived around lunch time and had a scavenger hunt. They then made headbands by pounding leaves and berries onto cloth strips with rocks. The rest of the afternoon was spent circulating through different classes such as archeology, orienteering, stream ecology, etc.
Dinner was spent with any parents who could make the trek up the mountain. There was then a fireside program on what to do if you get lost in the mountains and stranger danger. After this we enjoyed a demonstration from a local artist who makes large wood carvings of animals with his chain saw out of big logs of wood. He made a bear peeking out of a log. The kids loved that.
All of this is leading up to the highlight of the whole two days.... Annie Bangs. You are not a true resident of Sevier County until you have experienced Annie. I've heard lots of version of the legend of Annie Bangs but basically a little girl lived in a cabin at Gooseberry with her family a long time ago. By some catastrophe or another the entire family is killed but Annie. Some versions of the legend have Annie being raised by wolves. Despite the version told, a few points are the same.... Annie still lives in the mountains of Gooseberry. Being raised as a wild animal, she has no social skills. She loves the color red and thus whenever she is seen she is wearing that color. She is drawn back to Gooseberry out of curiousity whenever she hears the sound of children.....
Each year the experience is basically the same. All the kids turn out their flashlights and the lights of the campground are put out. A ranger tells his version of the story of Annie Bangs around the flickering light of the fire. The tension builds. It is dark. It is cold. The students then go into the clearing in the middle of the campground and sing the "Annie Bangs" song to draw in Annie. It is a horrible song that goes something like, "Annie Bangs.... you have the cutest little Shiny Fangs"..... (I'm not kidding here). Just when the tension is at it's highest, you will start seeing glimpses of someone in a red dress in the trees. It is pretty freaky even when you know it is really one of the High School track team in a dress and mask. Sometimes Annie will charge out of the trees and get kind of close to the kids. They all scream. Some cry. It is traumatic. The kids love it.
Well Annie Bangs was REALLY scary this year. Maybe they figured that these kids are used to more violence in their world as this year they had THREE Annie Bangs appearing at different times out of nowhere. She buzzed THROUGH the crowd, brushing up against people. She leaped picnic tables and threw metal garbage cans. She even grabbed one child and ran off with him for about thirty feet. It was really freaky. Elissa got seperated from Darren and I in the mayhem and was a blithering mess by the time we found her. It sounds absolutely barbaric, and really it kind of is. When I first heard what happened at Gooseberry I was wondering what kind of uneducated redneck tradition this was. Until I experienced it myself. And now I fully support Annie at Gooseberry. You may ask why.
It is true that each time I've experienced Annie (this was my third time) the kids scream and some cry. But the kids wear the experience like a badge of honor. Their siblings and many of their parents have all experienced it and survived, and now they have, too. It is the Sevier County rite of passage.
One year Gooseberry got rained out and a whole class did not get to come. Over the next few years the parents of those students brought them up to Gooseberry as an older child just so they could experience the legend of Annie for themselves.
I'll agree it's strange, but it is part of living in Richfield. A strange part, but part of it just the same.