By Lindsey Kay Hurtt
In Emo Park, a mossy grove betwixt the Baylor Student Union Building and the Carrol Science English building, there can be found a group of students swinging from the trees. At least their hammocks are swinging from the trees. The site of what was once the Bill and Vara Daniel Fountain has been affectionately re-dubbed Hammock Harbor by the hammocking troupe who has traversed its grounds for the last few years. “If you look at the trees, they’re perfectly aligned for hammocks because of the vertical and horizontal rows. The hammocks fit perfectly in between them,” said Nathan Holles, a freshman Baylor Business Fellows major from Sheldon, Iowa.
Holles is a member of a Facebook group called Wreaking Hammock for Jesus, whose members swing, worship, and attempt to brighten the days of passersby. “We say we’re going to do homework, and we’ve often brought books, but a lot of times it ends up being social interaction. One of our friends has brought guitars, and we’ve worshipped…or napped,” Holles said.
As many as twenty students at any given time chill out in Hammock Harbor. “The most we’ve ever had is six hammocks. But then, there are normally people who are with us and sitting on the ground, and we’ll trade off hammocking,” Holles said.
Lauren Ward, a senior speech communications major from Dallas, is another avid hammocker. While she is not a part of the Facebook group, Ward says she enjoys hammocking with friends. “Normally, I’ll go grab a burrito or something with a friend, something that’s really messy and really not practical to eat in a hammock, and we will sometimes double up in a two-person hammock and sit and watch the other hammockers,” she said.
Ward mentioned a “super nice English professor” who will drop by and chat with the hammockers, never failing to remember and expound upon the last conversation. This professor would be Tom Hanks, a well-loved Baylor literature professor. “You guys really know how to live,” he tells the hammockers.
Ward said, “You kind of get the feel for what Baylor is really like when you sit and people-watch, and you’re in the middle of campus so you see all your friends as well as people you don’t know. It’s a great place to unwind and relax when it’s nice outside.”
Although hammocking is a preferred leisure activity for many Baylor students, some have cited concerns about the effect hammocks could have on both the physical appearance of campus and the safety of students. “When I think of putting up a hammock, I think of putting one up in my yard,” said one Baylor staff member. “We do a very good job of curb appeal and want campus to look a certain way.” He mentioned that are several green-and-gold “Baylor-looking” swings placed across campus that allow for a potentially less-invasive swing in the trees. He also cited the potential for safety issues arising from hammocks getting in the way of gardeners or tripping students on their way to class.
Although rumors have been floating around about potential hammock restrictions, Luke Womble, Student Government communications director, said, “After looking into the issue, I am not aware of any rules or regulations prohibiting the use of hammocks on campus. Additionally, Student Government has no plan to propose any legislative action on the issue.”
The Baylor Department of Judicial Affairs did not know of any regulations or restrictions on hammocks being put into effect. However, one Baylor staff member said, “I’m not sure the university has any written policy prescribing hammocks, but I’m not sure that [hammocks] are going to be permissible.”
Holles does not agree with the idea that hammocks mar Baylor’s visual aesthetic. “It brings a social aspect to campus. A campus bus went by, and there’s students sitting there playing guitar, on hammocks, hanging out, relaxing—it shows that the campus is fun,” Holles said. “We’re not causing a ruckus or anything.” To his knowledge, the hammocks are also tree-friendly. “We just use light ropes or elastic straps, no metal things that would cut a tree,” he said.
If you’re on campus, grab a hammock and stop by. “Just don’t expect to get a lot of homework done because you’ll get distracted by people, you’ll fall asleep, you’ll end up in worship. Watching the sunset, with Pat Neff in the background—that’s good,” Holles said.