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Children learn survival skills at Historic Jefferson College camp

lauren wood | The Natchez Democrat — Audrey Garrett, 10, a camper at Pioneer Survival Camp, holds the obsidian arrowhead she received Friday afternoon at Jefferson Military College.

NATCHEZ — Jake Meriwether had always been interested in how American pioneers lived.

This week at Historic Jefferson College, Meriwether learned just how hard pioneers had it and also learned skills that would help him survive if he was thrown back in one of his favorite historical time periods.

Meriwether, 11, participated in the Frontier Survival Camp this week, and he said he learned a lot while having fun participating in survival activities.

“Back then they really didn’t have a whole lot of stuff,” Meriwether said.

One of the activities that really opened Meriwether’s eyes as a gun enthusiast was shooting an old-fashioned muzzleloader rifle.

“Back then almost everybody had a gun,” he said. “I like shooting guns. I go hunting a lot. Some of the modern guns have bullets with clips on them, but with these you have to put paper and can only shoot once.

“I wouldn’t kill much (if I had to use these guns).”

But if he ever gets thrown in a survival situation, Meriwether believes he learned enough at camp to hold his own with nature.

“I learned you have to make shelter and a fire and cook food,” he said.

Historic Jefferson College historian Toni Avance said the camp was designed to teach the approximately 10 children that participated as well as give them outdoor activities.

“We try to teach them something, and it encourages them to get away from the video games,” Avance said. “The fact that they had to survive before electricity and running water is interesting, and the things we learn today are like traveling back in time.”

Twelve-year-old Piper Mophett said she decided to attend the camp, because the activities sounded like something she would be interested in, but she was afraid she would be the only girl.

She was pleasantly surprised when 10-year-old Audrey Garrett showed up at camp, and the two girls bragged about beating the boys in the competitions.

“My favorite thing was the tomahawk throw,” Garrett said. “I hit the bull’s-eye on the first try and all the boys were jealous.”

Garrett also fared well with her cane fishing pole and caught the second-biggest fish.

“It was awesome,” she said. “It took so long to catch the fish, most of the big ones got away off the hook.”

Mophett said she did well with the bow and arrow.

“I liked shooting the bow and arrow,” Mophett said. “I finally got a bull’s-eye. I like the bow and arrow more now. I hadn’t done it a whole lot, but I got a lucky shot.”

Garrett said she was glad she did not have to grow up in the days of the American pioneer.

“I found out they actually had a hard time when they were around,” she said.

Eleven-year-old Robert White said he always enjoyed visiting Historic Jefferson College and when he heard about the camp he knew he wanted to participate.

“I’ve been (to Historic Jefferson College) a lot before,” he said. “I like looking at (the displays) and going to the gift shop.”

White is an avid fisherman, and he said he goes fishing every day near his house. He said fishing with a stick or cane as a rod is much different from modern equipment, but he still did well.

“I caught three or four,” he said. “It was just different, because you don’t cast or reel it in.”

The campers finished their pioneer adventure off with an authentic meal and each was awarded a certificate for completing the camp.