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Tales of a Hay Hauler: From shirts and shorts to scouts and spies

Brad Nelson Published on 09 October 2010

Ever sit down and list those things that could have made you a million bucks if only - - - ? Think of some of the statements made on t-shirts, for example. Early on in our marriage, my wife actually wore a sweatshirt I got for her that had lettered on the front, “Eat your heart out. I’m married!” My son has a t-shirt that says, “VOTE FOR PEDRO.” He has no idea who Pedro is or what he was trying to get elected to, but the t-shirt was cheap. The one I have never seen that I think would sell well would read, “SMASHES SPIDERS BAREFOOT.” One of my antics that my wife wishes I would grow out of is, when meeting someone with a shirt or jacket that has the logo, “B.U.M.” on it, is to ask them why their mother named them “Bum?”

Which brings to mind the boy who came home after a week at Boy Scout camp and was a little upset with his mother. She had dutifully attached or written his name to all of his clothing except his undershorts. Seems that some of the boys had been calling him “Fruit of the Loom,” which was the only name on his shorts, all week.

I once spent a few days at Boy Scout camp “to help maintain some semblance of order.” The permanent camp was on a lake north of McCall, Idaho. One evening the boys asked if they could canoe across the lake to one of the closer islands. For them to go, I had to go. My oldest son Mitch was at camp that year. Due to some physical limitations, the powers that be said the troop could check out canoes, but if Mitch were to go with us, we would have to take a rowboat and he would have to stay in the rowboat.

We were off, Mitch and I in a rowboat and the rest of the troop in canoes, running off at the mouth about how much faster they would go in the canoes. Wrong. I had parked the hay truck to go to camp with the boys. It seems that the same muscles I used every day throwing around hay bales were the same muscles it took to run a pair of oars in a rowboat. We easily stayed ahead of the canoes. We made it to the island and stayed long enough to pick up a handful of souvenir rocks. On the trip back to camp, the boys in the canoes were whining about unfair advantage rather than claiming the rowboat was too slow.

The following evening at the flag ceremony just before the evening meal, there was time allotted for any kind of presentations and assorted antics from the troops. I got the floor, and proceeded to present one of the souvenir rocks to the head honcho of the camp. And then I proceeded with a tall tale as to why that rock deserved a place forever in the award display case.

“Did you know,” I asked the camp staff, “that there is a colony of Kodiak bears living on yonder island?” They did not. “And did you know that piranha infest the waters surrounding the same island?” Again, they did not. I told them we had discovered both the previous evening.

I stated to the assembled troops with suitable theatrics that while exploring the shore of the island in question, we were beset upon by a huge Kodiak bear. I made sure the canoes had all the boys aboard who came, and then Mitch and I launched the rowboat. The bear ran into the water after us, and as fast as the rowboat had been, the bear was still gaining on us.

I threw one of the souvenir rocks toward the bear, and as luck would have it, it lodged in his throat and he stood, grasped his throat in his paws and with an awful wailing and thrashing, fell into the water. To our amazement, the water turned white and then red as the piranha went into a feeding frenzy, devouring the bear.

Paralyzed with utter disbelief of such happenings, we sat and watched until the waters again became still. The surface of the water was broken one more time as the biggest piranha I had ever dreamed of surfaced and spit into our boat the rock which I had just presented to the camp director. “This rock,” I declared, “saved the lives of our whole troop. That is why it should be displayed here forever!”

Later that evening, Mike Moser said to me, “I was so embarrassed while you told that story.” I turned and said to him, “Why were you embarrassed? I’m the one who did it.” He had no answer.

My eight-year-old granddaughter watched with great big eyes as I made pineapple upside-down cake this evening. I just whipped up a box of cheap yellow cake mix, dumped it out in a rectangular cake pan, and then scattered pineapple pieces all over the top, followed by a thin layer of brown sugar. I told her that the pineapple would sink to the bottom as the cake cooked. I don’t think she believed me. I let her peek into the oven at about half-time to see for herself that the pineapple had disappeared. Now she was incredulous.

When it came out of the oven, she was begging her mother for some cake before she went to bed. The concern of her mother was that it would take too long to cool. My experience has been that this kind of dessert is as good hot as it is cold, and I proceeded to dish it up. I called Hannah to me. I had used up the last of the paper towels and still had a bit more mess to wipe up. I bent down so I could look her in the eye. I said to her in a heavily accented voice, “I need to hire a spy.”

She asked what kind of a spy, and I said, “A smart, quiet, sneaky cute little spy,” still using the heavy accent. She asked what I wanted this spy to do, and I explained that the paper towels were all gone, and that I wanted my “spy” to find out where they were hidden, and get a roll of them, “very quickly, and very silently, and without anyone knowing what the spy is doing or seeing the spy do it.”

I then turned around to dish up the upside-down cake, and when the first serving was placed on the counter, there was a shiny new roll of paper towels on the dispenser. The “spy” smiled at me as I sent her in to offer her parents some of the dessert. That was too easy. I should have worked for the CIA.  PD