Mountain Men

Cleburne County Middle School Mountain Men Expedition on Friday at Cahulga Creek Park in Heflin. Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star

HEFLIN — Blood-curdling screams filled the Cahulga Creek Park during the Cleburne County Middle School Mountain Men Expedition on Friday as various “tribes” competed in the Call of the Wildman contest.

Fifty-two Cleburne County Middle School seventh-grade boys attended the annual rite of passage which prepares them for their transition to the high school, according to Jennifer Swafford, CCMS guidance counselor.

“We are very, very excited that we get to take these young men off campus for at least one day and have them bond together and discover whether they’re going to be a legend or a myth,” Swafford said.

The boys were divided into the Yeti, Bigfoot and Sasquatch tribes and competed against each other during the day. Activities included making a mountain meal, archery, Bigfoot hunt, fire challenge and disc golf.

Speakers discussed vaping and alcohol, leadership and responsibility.

Brent Thompson, pastor of Heflin Baptist Church, stood in the shade of an oak tree overlooking the Cahulga watershed and gave the kids a heartfelt talking-to.

“We’re just trying to be a positive influence, to help them make the right decisions as they go into high school,” Thompson said.

Thompson stressed reading and leadership during his speech and said if he had a chance to go back in time he would read more.

“I would spend more time reading because if you’re going to lead, listen here, we need leaders guys, we don’t need people that’s just going to follow the crowd and we don’t need people who just fit in. We need people who will stand out, who will step up and will lead,” Thompson said.

Jacob Cavender, 13, chomped on his mountain meal which consisted of steaming hunks of hamburger, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and onions wrapped in aluminum foil after being cooked in a large grill.

“It’s really good, the potatoes are the best,” said Cavender.

Cavender said the experience made him feel like a “grownup.”

“It’s really fun, it’s funner than I expected it would be,” Cavender said.

Triston Denney, 13, also enjoyed his mountain meal, saying that “it’s full of meat and vegetables and there’s nothing better.”

Todd Chandler, middle school principal, was busy helping other volunteers with the mountain meals at lunch. Chandler said older students have returned to help out with the event, now in its seventh year, and remember it fondly.

“This is a big memory-maker and that’s what’s it about, making memories,” Chandler said.  

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.