Bob's Critters are long-awaited stars of the show

Bil Bowden

He wandered through the door, carrying big boxes filled with mystery. His vest bulged with whatever was inside, and he looked like a mountain man. Dressed for outdoor work, Bob didn't smile much, and if he did, no one could see it through his thick gray beard.

The Arc of York County is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with intellectual and other disabilities and their families.

Bob-- he just goes by 'Bob', he says-- was raised in wide open, dry, hot Texas. "My parents would tell me to go out and play," he explains. "Two simple rules-- watch out for the snakes with the big heads, and be back in the house before dark."ID=88447924

With that story, the star of Bob's Critters grabbed the Camp Pennwood campers attention. Rattlesnakes and Texas after the sun goes down are apparently two things not to mess with. Last week, Bob brought a few of his friends he learned about while growing up in those wide open plains. Campers had been waiting for him.

For more than 50 years now, Camp Pennwood has been providing summer recreation and learning experiences for young people, and this year's run is about to end again. But not without a few flashy goodbyes.

ID=88447930Campers this year learned about healthy eating from Flinchbaugh's Market, law enforcement from York County Sheriff's Department, fighting fires from York Area United Fire and Rescue. They swam at Graham Aquatic's pool, sang, crafted artsy masterpieces. Oh, and they shot bows and arrows with help from the York Archers. Some of the campers are confined to wheelchairs, others are non-verbal-- but they did it all.

Probably the most treasured visit came just last week when Bob rolled through the camp door.

Bob brought out snakes, lizards, turtles, spiders to the shrill cries and 'ahs' of the campers. A few snakes weren't taken from boxes-- Bob carried them in his vest. Surprisingly--or not--depending on your perspective, most of the campers warmed up to the creatures.  Bob heard all the 'ewwww' and 'they're slimy' -- happens all the time he says-- and before long had the campers petting the animals. Millipedes crawled over hands.ID=88447936

It should be pointed out that the staff enjoyed the show as much as the campers, and many ended the day feeding the skinks, letting the snakes wrap around their necks.

Camper numbers are dwindling  from the huge crowds decades ago, but camp goes on.  Plans are already being made for next year.