It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… no … that’s already taken …
But it sure does work for this one. Let’s see …What about, It was a really good weekend, until it turned really ugly?
My brother and I, along with three friends were finally going on that much-anticipated, planned-on-it-all-week-long camping trip to Lake Delano in the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park.
We had our sleeping bags (old itchy Army blankets), food and drinks and our fishing tackle. As usual, we brought an iron skillet, a pound of lard, and a bag of cornmeal to fry up all those fish we were going to catch. From previous experience of having nothing to eat but creekwater cornbread, we also had our usual emergency cuisine... Vienna sausages, sardines, Spam, Pork n’Beans, the ever-present Spanish Rice and that danged Potted Meat.
We fished all afternoon. Not a nibble. After all the worms had made the ultimate sacrifice-by-drowning, we tried every bait we could hunter-gather; grasshoppers, crickets and grubs all joined the worms in bait heaven. Not a nibble, and now it was getting dark, and boring, and we were getting hungry. On the way back to our campsite (which was the big shelter with the fireplace that now rents for a gazillion dollars), one of us said, “If we had a boat we could get out to the deep water where the fish are at.”
At that moment the devil seed was planted. Since we didn’t have a boat, it seemed moot to even respond, so no one said anything … but that thought burrowed in and began its evil plan.
With still a possibility of catching fish the next day, we decided to save the cornmeal for a real emergency. Out comes the various canned delicacies. The Spanish rice (with chopped up Vienna sausages), cooked in an iron skillet over an open fire was nearly enough to satisfy us all. But then I saw that can of potted meat. There were some crackers left so I stuck that little tab of metal into the key (remember those?) and began twisting. About three-quarters around the can, it broke off. Rather than try to re-attach the key, I figured since it was almost all the way around, I could just grab the lid and pull it off the rest of the way.
The greasy juice had spilled onto my hands, and... I’m not sure what happened exactly, but somehow my fingers slipped and the top of the can cut the ends off of three fingers.
There must be something in potted meat juice akin to hornet venom. I had never experienced pain like that, and on top of that I was bleeding profusely. All the Bandaids we had brought finally got that under control; but I spent the rest of the night with my arm upraised and my fingers throbbing with every heartbeat.
The next morning, we walked around the lake to the little office and behold! There were the boats, but they were all chained up …except for one, and it had a paddle in it! The office was closed for the weekend, and no one else was on the lake… and that Devil Seed germinated.
We climbed in and paddled out to deeper water and fished. And fished some more. Not a nibble. Finally we just paddled around the lake, goofing off and looking and sounding like a boatload of teen-aged tourists.
At the far end of the lake, across from the dam and about twenty feet off-shore was a small island made up from maybe two small trees and various bushes. The boat drifted into the overhanging brush, so my brother took the paddle to push us away. Unbeknownst to us, Red Wasps had built one of the biggest nests I have ever seen beneath the very bush we were under, and they weren’t receiving company. They boiled off that nest in a cloud like Kamikazes. I think I was the first stung, but the others were soon to gain that experience—all except my brother. The rest of us abandoned ship and swam to shore.
My brother remained in the boat, paddle upraised and swatting. You could hear those wasps hitting the paddle, yet he remained unstung. I later heard that wasps will attack the highest point of its victim, and they were after that upraised paddle, or it may have been just blind luck.
I don’t remember if we stayed another night or not… to enjoy some of that good ol’ Lake Delano-water cornbread.