Tip for the day

Isn't it strange that evolution would give us a sense of humor? When you think about it, it's weird that we have a physiological response to absurdity. We laugh at nonsense. We like it. We think it's funny. Don't you think it odd that we appreciate absurdity? Why would we develop that way? How does that benefit us? I suppose if we couldn't laugh at things that don't make sense we couldn't react to a lot of life. I can't tell if that's funny or really scary. Calvin

Don’t struggle to change. Struggle strengthens what you are trying to change.
- Cheri Huber

A day without laughter is a day wasted.
- Charlie Chaplin

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Back to Nature

This is the time of year I usually go camping with some friends, Waldo, Thin Finn and Buzz.  (We call it hunting, because it sounds more macho. Actually bagging an animal is too much work)

I'll bet that all you campers are dying to benefit from my extensive wilderness knowledge. Camping is all about getting away from civilization to places of alarming amounts of nature, nature being described as anything you would kill if it got inside your house. We have a great deal of it in Colorado. Camping my way can take intestinal fortitude. Don't bring your spouses. It will take years of therapy to regain the image she had of you before the excursion.

        Surviving in the wild  takes extensive planning. Every year we all agree to be on the road by six AM. It has never happened. We usually all show up about nine, and go to IHOP. Then we'll notice something we forgot like, the brake shoes on one of the trucks need replacing, or making sure one of us has a good battery. By noon we are happy and patting ourselves on the back excited both the trucks start. Only six hours behind.

The first thing to know about camping is what to bring. For me food is the major concern. Instant coffee, hot dogs, beer, peanut butter, (in case I have to make lunch) bread, beans, eggs, beer, bacon, cans of corned beef hash (in case I have to cook breakfast), beer and a Chef Boyardee assortment (In case I have to cook supper). No one ever considers food before hand, so we have to go grocery shopping before we leave. People seem to stare at three guys wearing camo in the store, even in produce aisle. You'd think they wouldn't be able to see you. Don't worry about roughage as you will be eating plenty of pine needles and dirt. I always bring about a hundred of the little single serving Kellogs sugar puffs. Remember you will be feeding most of the forest's raccoon, squirrel, and camp robber bird population. It's about two in the afternoon when we walk out of the grocery store. Only eight hours late now.
Remember, you fart what you eat! If you are in a four man tent with four men, skip the beans; even so, in about three days your cohorts will smell like the south end of a north bound goat and you will wish you had your own tent anyway. 

More often than not I'm elected to take my truck. They decide I'm the best qualified on account of I'm not usually there when they decide. After my truck is loaded up, it won't go over fifty miles an hour unless it's dropped from an airplane. I take along plenty of extra gas because I spend a lot of time in four wheel drive gears. My old Ford gets about four miles to the gallon in four wheel drive when loaded. We always have to gas up extensively before we go and forget till it's time to leave. We head on out from the gas station about four PM. Not bad, only ten hours off schedule.  

On the way, we go up trails that are so steep a mountain goat would want seat belts. At times we can approach car wash speeds. It's the only way to get far enough from civilization. The drawback is that if something bad happens, it's tough to get to a hospital, at least it was for Lanky Lou when he got drunk enough to wrestle a bear, God rest his soul.

We have to drive next to some very steep drop offs. Some one always has to drive poor Waldo's truck as he can't drive with closed eyes. All of his focus is devoted to sphincter control.

By the time we get to our tick infested, plumbing free destination and find a suitable campsite, it's about nine or ten PM. I have no air conditioning in my truck. The drive is always hot and I usually feel like a shake and bake pork chop branded by a seat belt by the time we arrive. We are all experienced and are able to put up tents in the dark... not. Well, Waldo is, because he's almost blind anyway. A four man tent means you need four engineers with plenty of tent Viagra. The tent will still collapse under harsh conditions such as nightfall.  We never can find the mantles for the Coleman till it's light so we do what we can with truck lights. We usually finish by the next morning and have to sleep half the next day.

We all take turns cooking. I squirrel away plenty of raisins, peanuts, and power bars for the nights Buzz cooks. Buzz is a slob whereas Waldo worries if his tie goes with his underwear. I went over to Buzz's for supper once and watched as the rats staggered out from under the tables and die from eating food that fell on the floor. Before we had a few talks with him, he referred to cats as "good eatin." We leave his cooking out at night as bear repellent. Someone always forgets and eats his dinner, which is about sixty percent beans and forty percent ingredients (I don't want to know.) About midnight, the dulcet sound of men sleeping and snoring like chain saws are the only thing audible for miles around. Suddenly a sound relative to a Harley at a chess tournament rips through the night and tent walls will billow out like a parachute. Screams of "Code brown! Code Brown, from terrified men echo through the trees. A small mushroom cloud hovers over the tent and blocks out the stars for a while. In the morning, you can see man shaped holes in three sides of the tent. It would give an elephant the runs and it would stop for months afterword to remember.

Thin Finn is not a bad cook, but he normally only cooks enough for one person. He's so skinny when he holds his arms up he falls through his shirt and hangs himself. He reminds me of a furry Keith Richards. I bet he doesn't spend twenty dollars a month on groceries. Finn has to wear a lot of clothes since he does not have the natural insulation us fat guys have. He looks as big as the rest of us when he's bundled up, but his head looks real tiny. Finn doesn't talk much. He's from Texas and he has only one phrase you can count on hearing thirty times a day, no matter what you say, he replies,"Theyt's rat." (that's right.)  That guy has some acoustics in his mouth to match the Mormon Tabernacle. I used to think only fat guys like me snored that loud.

Nervous Waldo is chubby and really knows how to cook. (I think his wife makes him do the cooking at home.) We try to make sure he's aware it's his turn to cook as often as possible, so he cooks about half the time. He always brings cast iron pots and pans. When he cooks he says things like, "Hooo wee, Ah Gaarunteee! mmm mmm."  It's kind of scarey. I blame this on the high altitude preventing oxygen getting to his brain. Don't get me wrong, pots and pans are important accoutrements to any camp. Teflon and campfires are not a good combination unless you normally spice your food with burnt Teflon chips. The preferred camp spices are cinders and bugs.
No one minds my cooking too much, as I have never made a bad peanut butter sandwich.

Do not forget toilet paper. Leaves and rocks are not all they are cracked up to be. If you do forget it, don't put your latrine any where near poison ivy. You don't want your latrine too close, or too far away. One time Finn dug the latrine way up the hill we were camped in front of. Some of us got there too late. Mosquitoes and flies are always thick there. I end up using so much Deet, by the time I get home, I can breathe on a mosquito and kill it.

Do not forget underwear and long underwear. Going commando is not advisable. Buzz is understandably not married partly because he is the kind of person that will insist that you watch how far he can spit pop when on a date. With no wife to remind him, he usually forgets his extra under wear, and has to burn the ones he's wearing after a couple days. Buzz talks incessantly. I'm used to that, but after about three days, I won't go near him unless he is wearing some of those Christmas tree air fresheners here and there. I often wonder if he is carrying dead hamsters in his pants. His stink causes all the vegetation around the camp start to die. Every year  we invariably have to throw him in the back of the truck, and take him down to a small town to take a shower and do some laundry.  When we arrive, we all pitch in and rent a room just to use the shower. Buzz waits in the truck and takes his last.

In most of the small towns where we hunt, lifting animals is a major cultural activity, so looky loos always want to see if you have any animals in the back of your truck. 

The gas stations always seem to have some old coot who belongs to the north American association of guys missing teeth. He'll be watching TV behind a counter with shelves of mosquito related products and half dead refrigerated worms. He'll sell you an out of date candy bar for three dollars, and tell you about a place you can hunt, where you will never see an animal. To use his restroom  it's necessary to lug a key attached to a two foot 2x4 back to the co-ed bathroom. The bathroom won't have been cleaned since Jesus was a corporal. They smell like a Turkish whore house exploded.Mutant flies the size of Ted Kennedy will be sitting on the toilet seat with their legs crossed, sipping cans of Raid with little paper umbrellas in them. The smell can peel wall paper, so I just take a big breath, and unarmed, bravely rush in  and try to finish before I run out of air or the Frankenflies get me.You would think by now my olfactory system would have shut down. Fat chance.

When selecting a campsite it's desirable  to find one without rocks. (Hard to do in the dark.) I have a nasty scar on the back of my head from when I flopped down on my bag once. I think I cracked the rock about the third time my head bounced. Our campsites are usually a lot like... well, rocks. If you happen to fall asleep on a cold rock, the next day you're going to feel like a curly fry and you'll walk like people did in old V-8 commercials.

I like to camp under the trees so I can hang an extra tarp for when it rains or snows. Notice I did not say if. It doesn't matter if the weatherman swears on his mother's grave that there will eighty degree days all the while you are up there. When it snows, getting up in the morning is quite the challenge. The condensation in the tent honestly made my sleeping bag zipper freeze once and I couldn't get out. I sleep with a hammer and chisel now, in case it happens again. About the only perk to cold is, that all the mosquitoes are frozen to the tent walls. I'm used to doing my ablutions first thing in the morning, but when it snows, its so cold you'd have to jump start a reindeer. It's about all you can do to get up and light the Colman lantern and wait for it to warm up the tent enough to get dressed and scurry to the latrine. This is when latrine distance is critical. 

Rain is not much better. It always rains on tents. Rain clouds will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent. I broke down and got a cot a couple years back. If I'm sleeping on the floor I don't enjoy streams running through the middle of the tent about one in the morning. If it does rain, you need to get up as soon as the sun rises or before long you'll notice patches of fungus growing on you from the humidity in the tent. It makes no difference whether you dig trenches around your tent. Your scout master was an idiot.
Even though he has gone with us the last five years, Waldo is the newbie, and is the butt of many of our pranks. He has pop bottle bottom glasses and can see nothing without them, and very little when he is wearing them. We don't let him drive anywhere there might be a steep drop off, or if it's dark, or light for that matter. We always wear camouflage clothes up there, so Waldo is often seen talking to bushes thinking they are us. We only left Waldo unsupervised in the forest one time. We spent the entire trip looking for him. Never did find him that year, a ranger did a week later and called his wife to come and get him. One night, after a few beers, we stole his boots and glasses and started yelling "There's a snake den here! Run!" With a voice like a soprano hyena, he ran screaming, straight out to the truck. We had locked his truck, so he ran around for about ten more minutes, sans boots and glasses. He was high-stepping, smashing his toes on rocks, and trying all the doors to the locked trucks, while we hid in the trees making growling, grunting noises. He dropped more f-bombs than Carter's got little pills. Only one of us didn't wet his pants laughing and it wasn't me. He remained the color of vanilla yogurt for a couple hours after that. I think that was about the third year he went with us. He's not as gullible nowadays. Every year, when we pick him up, we tell him "Don't go barefoot to a snake stompin' party." It's his own, personal, compliment (in our eyes). It lets him know he is one of us. His wife gets mad at him for going with us, and gives us the evil eye when we go by to get him. We started letting up on him some the last couple years. His wife went to our wives, well mine anyway, and told her how mean we were. His whole family is fraught with humor impairment. He has a girl that acts like Wednesday Addams, a boy that hates everything, and his wife is a lovely clump filled cat box of a person that repetitively makes comments about what he is packing (Sounds better than nagging, or not.) Women just don't understand male bonding. This is how we share our feelings and affection. We save a lot of money staying out of Hallmark stores. Every one of us went through it. I started making this trip with three other guys. I won't even tell you what they did to me, but there were a lot of calls to the highway patrol about a guy walking down the highway wearing nothing but a hefty trash bag. 
Even so I reacted in an adult manner similar to the way Moe reacts when Curly hits him with a paint brush. I didn't go whining to my wife. We lose someone every few years. They move or can't get off work, and then we need a new newbie. This year it was my turn to go on a sabbatical due to knee surgery and a torn rotator cuff. I hear the boys got someone who works at the DMV. He recently transferred from New York city. Yeah, that what I said. I hope none of them needs their license renewed anytime soon.

I have made memories I will never forget, even with the aid of electro-shock therapy. In the evening, we would sit around the fire drinking beer, playing cards, telling jokes and laughing about this stuff. We would make fun of all the wusses in Winnebagos, trailers and have ATV four wheelers, secretly wishing we could afford them. In spite of a few discomforts, I truly believe they could not have had as good a time as we did. 
This is my method of hunting. Sooner or later an elk will run up and impale himself on the arrow. I can't even begin to tell you how many elk I've gotten this way, so I won't try.

 Last year was my last for a while. I hope I'll be back. I was the prank organizer so I abdicated to Buzz, because I think Waldo would be too zealous and Finn probably would not take the job seriously. This year I'll participate in activities geared more for people my age, like scratching. You know, it's kind of neat, because they're up there talking about "The legendary Dangerous Dan", and the stupid things I and the guys before me did. They're harassing some new kid and I hate to miss that. I kinda feel proud, like I left a heritage behind, and that I'm part of a continuity (Probably continuum but I don't listen to opera.) that goes back about thirty or forty years. That's what I call progress. 

I hope you campers picked up some practical tips on how to survive and have fun. Remember; Planning is everything.

Seriously! Remember! If you brought it in, pack it out! If you see more trash, pack it out too! Douse your campfire!

Dangerous Dan, over and out.

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