“Happy early Father’s Day!” said the Normal Mormon Wife. It was Friday, two days before my official day of praise and eating red meat, and I was still at work. Over the phone the NMW gave me the following instructions, “Don’t go home after work…and make sure your car has at least a half of a tank of gas.”
Saying I was intrigued is like saying Mary Murphy on SYTYCD gets slightly excited about a “buck” and/or “stank” dance routine. My mind was swimming with possibilities. Were we going to the Carolina beaches? The Appalachians? Where, pray tell? WHERE!?
Well, we ended up staying in town but I still almost get eaten alive by a wild animal and shot dead by drunk hillbillies. I’ll explain later.
Before I left work the NMW called again and told me to meet her at huge campground just outside of town. She and our three kids would meet me there for an evening of hot dogs, S’mores, and outdoor shenanigans. Then the family would head home at night and I would camp out.
Alone. All by myself.
When I first spoke to the NMW about my desire to go camping alone I described the experience as “fun”, “relaxing”, and “manly.” I think she used words like “disturbing”, “anti-social”, and “Charles Manson-like”. But this is what I love about the NMW – she supports me even when she thinks I am behaving like a serial killer.
I volunteered to swing by Wal-Mart to grab some hot dogs, buns, and ketchup. When I got to the campground I was amazed to see the NMW had already put up my tent despite having three kids with her. Initially I could only see two kids because our 12-month-old toddler daughter was already covered in mud and blended into the natural environment, like Arnold Schwarzenegger hiding in the mud bank from The Predator. (Sorry if only three people got that last reference, but it was an unforgettably cool moment in the movie.)
The NMW unpacked the groceries and said, “Ummm…where are the hot dogs?” They were nowhere to be found.
Now I know I put the hot dogs in my shopping cart because I had debated whether to get the generic dogs ($.17 per artery-clogging goodie) or the all-beef, road-kill free Oscar Meyers ($.26 each per coronary assassin). After reviewing my Wal-Mart receipt I realized the hot dogs never even got rung up. I think they must have disappeared from my cart into a fourth dimension vortex near the Fritos display at that particular Wal-Mart. (I’ve seen other shoppers have things get sucked into that same vortex, too, like “hope” and “the will to live.” Gotta love Wal-Mart!)
So we improvised had S’mores for dinner!
As the sun started to go down and our daughter’s mud-to-skin ratio became dangerously out of whack, the family headed home. And I was left alone. In nature. To camp.
And, being a real manly-man, did what manly-men do – I gazed at the stars, contemplated stuff, stoked the fire, ate several 12-inch Slim Jims, and started re-writing a novel I shelved a while back. And I was completely happy.
But my tranquility was shattered when the human version of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel and his brood pulled into the campsite next to mine. I counted between twelve and seventy-eight children running about yelling, “Wooooo Hooooo!” until 11:30 p.m. At one point I asked myself, “Where are their parents and/or court-appointed guardians?” My question was answered after hearing an adult male belch followed by the sounds of several other adults hootin’, hollerin’, and guffawin’ their approval.
I tuned them out and kept writing. By now it was pitch black and I could only see within a few feet of my fire. At one point I had to get up to gather some more firewood and as my flashlight illuminated the blackness I saw something that freaked me out:
Now, I’m no Jack Hannah or anything, but I am positive it was a coyote. My friends have tried to convince me that it was a fox or a hedgehog and I’m just embellishing, but after extensive internet research I have concluded it was, in fact, a coyote. Among all the other possibilities, it definitely looked most like the first animal in this police lineup:
The coyote was slinking around the outskirts of my camp about forty feet from my fire. As soon as the flashlight hit him he quickly darted into the woods, like an impatient member at Stake Conference who bolts the meeting before the closing hymn to “beat the parking lot traffic.”
Hoping the coyote was gone for good I sat down and continued to type. One of the things I did not anticipate was having every insect within ten miles being attracted to the glow of my laptop screen. Seriously. Dozens of winged insect swarmed my monitor like a quorum of hungry Deacons attacking the éclair table at a wedding reception.
While I was typing and simultaneously shooing away bugs I was also periodically shining my flashlight in sweeping motions in the general direction where I had spotted the coyote. I felt like a prison watchtower guard scanning the walls for escaping convicts. After several minutes I had become convinced the coyote had left for good, but then I did one last flashlight sweep for good measure.
And there, reflecting back at me in the flashlight beam, were two dazzling coyote eyes.
He was only about fifteen feet away and slinking toward me in perfect silence, like a parent tip-toeing away from a sleeping infant’s crib.
We both froze. Then, when the fight-or-flight instinct kicked in, I responded by urinating myself, throwing Slim Jims at the coyote, and running away screaming like a little girl.
Not really. I jumped up, made my 6’6" frame as big as possible, bared my teeth, and growled like a bear. The coyote ran away. I felt manly. And freaked out. So I picked up a large club-shaped piece of firewood roughly the size of baseball bat and continued typing.
I kept scanning the camp site every minute or two with my flash light after that. And, believe it or not, but a few minutes later I CAUGHT THE COYOTE FIVE FEET AWAY FROM ME! Now I was convinced he was trying to eat me, and, if successful, the NMW would forever be the brunt of “Maybe the dingo ate your husband,” jokes. I was not about to let that happen.
Plus, at this rate, I wouldn’t catch the coyote’s next sneak attack until he was literally sitting in my lap and editing my novel. I had had enough!
I picked up my club, jumped up from my chair, and ran after the stupid coyote while I hissed, growled, yelled and grunted like a female tennis pro.
The coyote left for good this time, but I’m pretty sure I was too successful in my general scariness because I startled Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel and his posse. Based on the noises that had emanated from their camp I was pretty sure my neighbors had four things in amply supply: 1) Beer. 2) Loaded Shot Guns. 3) Limited common sense (even when sober). 4) Itchy trigger fingers.
For a moment I was afraid Cletus was going to shoot me dead right there on the spot, mistaking me for a bear. Or his parole officer. Whatever. Fortunately nobody ended up eating hot lead that evening. (Well, at least I didn’t, but I wouldn’t put anything by Cletus and his crew of merry-makers.)
At this point I was tired and not particularly relishing hand-to-hand combat with a wild animal or trading small arms fire with my neighbors, so I went to bed. Nothing protects a person from wild animals and a hail of gunfire like a $10-tent from Wal-Mart.
Fortunately I survived the night alone in the woods and returned home to celebrate Father’s Day with an fun-loving wife and three awesome (and dirty) children.
But the next time the NMW says, “Don’t come home…get your passport…withdraw $218…meet me at the Motel 8 under the name Chesty LaRue…” I’m asking some follow-up questions.
Like NMH? Grahamtastic Stickers and Husband Hero make it possible. Why don't you advertise on NMH, too?