Don't Shoot! - Tate
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Sunday, 10 May 2009 14:37

model-tExcerpt 2 of "Walkin' on the Happy Side of Misery" by J.R. Tate, also known as "Model T."  Retired Marine, author of two hiking books and 4-time Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker, Model T beguiles readers and auduences with witty accounts of hiking lore.  Links:  you can order "Walkin' on the Happy Side of Misery" or "Walkin' with the Ghost Whisperers" at Model T's website, or support Wiki-Walk by searching the titles here.

Whether the journey lasts only a mile or ends atop Mt. Katahdin, each day lays up a storehouse of memories-some good, some bad, and some just plain nonsense. For example:

I slowly came awake and stretched, carefully easing into the protesting muscles as I tuned in to the outside world and strained to pick up any indication of feisty weather, but all seemed quiet. I checked the time-6:30. A lot better than yesterday! No use lying here any longer, for I had to pee; plus, I could hardly wait to see if Horseman's curse had disappeared. "Up and at'em, Marine. The day's awastin'." I crawled out of the bag and stuck my head out of the tent into the frosty dawn, which vacillated between light and dark as high cirrus bands played tag with the sun. Night unfinished, or day beginning? A solitary ray pushed through the wispy veil and painted a narrow swatch of gold on the forest floor. Promising!

I wiggled swollen feet into stubborn boots and made the obligatory pit stop, and then hobbled across the clearing to see if Dame Fortune had smiled. Alas! She hadn't even simpered, and the bag still dangled like an annoying habit that refused to go away. "Rats, Ego, even the danged bears won't eat this stuff!" He retorted, "It's probably bear repellent in disguise." I carried the bag back to the tent and told him, "Well, you can't expect to catch fish every time you go fishing. Maybe we'll have better luck today."

It was COLD-28 degrees by my pack thermometer! From the other two tents, sounds of easy slumber drifted into the frigid air. I wavered, tempted to get back in my bag and snooze until the others woke up, but I pushed the tantalizing urge away and packed, anxious to get on the Trail and generate some heat. "We'll eat breakfast just as soon as we get warmed up," I promised.

I walked past the lifeless Scout camp. Last night's revelry had been replaced with the acrid, dank smell of ashes, which lingered over the area like a giant whiff of halitosis. J.R. grouched, "This smells worse than Old Man Padgett's outhouse." (Old Man Padgett, Pap's neighbor back in the Kentucky knobs before Pap and Granny moved closer to the Bluegrass, thought "sanitation" was something you got at camp meeting when The Holy Ghost swept down through the tent top and cleansed your innards-which was another way of saying that he didn't believe in using lime in the poop hole!) I replied, "Different smell, same effect," and hurried up the Trail before the odor could become a permanent blight inside my nose.

The wind freshened in the hour it took me to reach Cooper Gap-a small dent between two mountains that was conspicuous only because of graveled USFS 42 (the same road that accessed Springer Mountain), which wound up the mountain and crossed over the "dent". "Okay, J.R., breakfast time. Grits or oatmeal?" "Anything but ramen, Alter-man!" I hunkered down behind a large oak tree near the edge of the road, out of the wind's bite, and cooked a double batch of instant grits-a winner, I figured, for we both liked grits.

Ahh! We gobbled the grits down, spoonful after wonderful spoonful, shutting out everything except the delicious taste caressing our taste buds. (Well, the taste buds really did belong to J.R . . . or did they? And how about the arms, legs and feet; what about the nose, eyes and ears, the fingernails and the eyelashes? We had never really examined this muzzy part of our relationship and had always managed to sidestep the complicated matter; ever reluctant to wade into muddy water for fear we might founder in quicksand. Some things were better left in the closet of tacit avoidance! Still, I felt that being the Head Rooster in this henhouse did give me a certain legitimate claim to the real estate-sort of like leasing a car, except I was leasing a body for the trek up the Trail. Yep, using this logic I definitely had possession of the taste buds!)

Without warning, two camouflage-painted trucks bristling with antennas roared up into the gap and screeched to a halt beside the tree. Simultaneously, the vehicles vomited out twelve mean-looking dudes who scared the pee-diddle out of me! Brandishing rifles nearly as wicked looking as the snarling teeth and fierce eyes that glared out of black and green face paint, they silently rushed my position, and my heart stalled out! The big brave Marine shrieked, "Run! Run for your life!" I dropped the half-empty pan of grits and jumped up, raising my arms (Yes! They were My arms!) high in the air, too paralyzed with fright to scream, and barely managed to squeak, "Don't shoot! I surrender!"


Next Installment:  Mom's Apple Pie

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 May 2009 15:13
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