Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Canoe Trip, part three
"Wanted: Young, Skinny, Wiry Fellows. Orphans Preferred. $25.00 a Week." - An early "help wanted" ad for the Pony Express.
There are many good reasons not to take a fat man on an extended canoe trip. Sure, if he falls overboard, he isn't likely to sink and drown but beyond that I can't think of any.
There are a few qualities that one should look for when selecting a partner for such an outlandish adventure, such as: previous canoe experience, a good sense of direction, a good cook, a pleasant demeanor, easy-going attitude, doesn't rattle easily when the going gets tough, and he already knows that the trip is going to be tough but is willing to come along anyway.
I occasionally suffer from bouts of good sense, and when I selected Err as my partner, I was suffering. I knew I couldn't do any better. Young, skinny, wiry, and the endurance of a long distance runner, he had it all.
But there is something else that Err had that had never occurred to me.
It was the third day of the trip when we were adjusting the swag box* and shifting the load in the canoe, when the wind made an abrupt shift in it's course and my nostrils were filled to the brim with a smell that would have knocked a buzzard off of a shit wagon. A rotting skunk in the hot August sun would have smelled better.
I stood up, crinkled my nose, squinted my watering eyes and took a quick step back. "What? he asked. I wiped my eyes with my neckerchief, "No offence, but you Sir, are getting a little ripe!"
Err paused, leaned his nose into his pit and took a sniff. "Yeah, I guess I do smell pretty bad," he grimaced. Nothing more was mentioned of it that day, but I thought to myself that calling it "pretty bad" was putting it too mildly. I just put it down to the fact that your own farts never stink as badly as everyone else's. "You don't mind your own brand," as George Carlin put it.
That night we made camp. Err unpacked the kitchen and put up the tent while I scouted wood, built a fire, and began drying laundry. We did not move like a well-oiled machine at this point, but more like an old married couple who just knew what had to be done. Little talking was done, other than the occasional "Have you seen ...?" or grunts because sore muscles are once again called into use.
We finally sit down by the fire and while Err cooks up this evening's coffee, I slide off my long sleeved khaki shirt** after a long day of paddling, and lean back with my arms behind my head, look up at the stars, and rest for the first time today.
It is at this very moment that I realise that the ungodly stink from earlier today didn't come from him at all. It came from me!
For the first time in the whole trip, we didn't sit side-by-side at the campfire as Err chose to eat his evening meal in the smokiest place the fire could afford.
When we bedded down that night, Err slept as close to the outside wall of the tent as he could, despite the numerous rocks and sharp sticks there. He also insisted that we leave the front flap open, as well as the back window, despite the blistering thunderstorm outside.
*Swag Box- On our trip we had a large plastic box (Tupperware or some such) with handles to carry most all of our gear. The name swag box comes from pirate lore that suggests that all of the very best of the booty, or swag, went into one chest. Hence Swag box.
**Khaki Shirt- I have got to wear sleeves and long pants because I can't take too much sun. The Irish, God help us, were not meant to be nudists. This particular khaki shirt belonged to my dad and I took it for sentimental reasons. I wear it all the time and have three others just like it. For what it looks like, picture a safari jacket without the belt or a soldier's shirt but in khaki. It's cotton, has a "rip-stop" weave, large pockets, sheds water, and dries quickly. It is the ultimate fashion accessory and will be in the Paris Fall line of all the major designers.