I feel compelled to admit that I’ve been a bit spoiled growing up. I’ve spent my life in Colorado, living right next to the mountains AND close enough to the city to get myself in trouble on more than one occasion. (Most notable being the “sock in the night” incident…but that will have to wait for a later date.) What really skeeves people off when I tell them that I live in Colorado is when I admit that I have only skied a handful of times in my life, hardly ever hike, bike or do anything outdoorsy on a regular basis.
The notable exception that comes to mind is the few camping trips we’ve taken with our friends over the years. For instance, the first year involved a hike up the unofficially named Mt. Disappointment, a thunderstorm and a trip into the town of Ward, which is straight out of your choice of horror movie. Take one twisty, winding mountain road down into a valley, throw in mist, rain and no cell phone service, and shake. Garnish with a handful of dilapidated houses, one broken pay phone and a run down general store (now with less stuff!) and you’ve got a bad slasher flick just WAITING to happen!
Honestly, when the proprietor of the store answered a timid request with a menacing “we ain’t GOT no working phones ‘round here, ya’ll had better just get outta town…” we knew we were but one bloody scene from total carnage. Fortunately, since not a one of us had the urge to ill-advisedly take a shower in a stranger’s house OR head up the nearest available staircase in search of mysterious noises, we escaped, found the friends we were trying to meet up with, and spend an enjoyable weekend roasting Slim Jims over the fire.
Well, clearly we were roasting Slim Jims…this particular time was right after the beer-chugging portion of the Woodlympics, and just prior to the “speed whittling” event.
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Note to anyone reading this…don’t ever ever ever ever ever attempt “speed whittling”. It’s just going to end badly. Trust me on this one.
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Anyway, see? (If you’d forgotten, and not that I blame you… the original POINT of this post was why I’m spoiled.) Living in Colorado, even if you don’t take advantage of nature on a daily basis, is pretty nice. 300+ days of sunlight on average, little humidity, warm days, cool nights, and the occasional snowstorm in the winter, which in the city, melts within a day or two.
Having said all that, what I’m driving at is that I don’t have a lot of experience with the stranger aspects of nature as it relates to places outside of Colorado. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been caught in torrential downpours, and till this spring had not had the pleasure of the all day monsoon rain that I experienced while in Arkansas for work. My colleague, however, lives in Missouri, and had been sending me daily updates on whether or not she could drive home or if the flood waters had crossed the highway. Having had plenty of experience with that sort of “Come to Noah, Pass the Ark Please” sog-fest, she felt it only fair that I be the one to drive and learn how to deal with a deluge. The only thing I brought to the table as a rainy day wet road driver was the quaint family game of “Kill the Villagers” that my mom and I invented.
Now, you’ve got to use your imagination for this one…picture all the puddles in the road as enormous lakes surrounded by communities of primitive beings, eking out a precarious existence in their small huts. If it helps your conscience, you can imagine they’re all cannibals. You’ll want to keep that in mind, because the next step is to floor it in your vehicle and drive straight through the middle of the puddle creating an enormous tidal wave that will totally wipe out any cannibalistic villagers. This is only effective if you do this while screaming “KILL THE VILLAGERS!!” at the top of your lungs. This works slightly better in Colorado than Arkansas, the difference being the puddles back home can’t actually stop your car’s forward momentum, due to them being only about 3 inches deep and not actual LAKES, with flotsam and jetsam and wildlife and all.
Anyways, the rain kept falling all that day and into the night; we didn’t even leave work till about 9 pm and it was still chucking it down. The quickest way back to the hotel was a gentle winding road through a soon-to-be subdivision, which we usually took at about 60 mph. Having conceded about 15 mph to the rain, we were swerving wildly, hunting villagers and careening through the night. There was only one other car on the road, coming up in the left lane behind us as we crested a hill and saw one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen (at least in Arkansas, and that’s saying a LOT.) There was a DUCK, swimming down the middle of our lane. Oh yes, it had rained so much that the local wildlife had taken to the streets. So, with no chance to swerve out of our lane, (high curb to the right, car to the left) and no time to brake, we had no choice but to scream bloody murder and drive straight OVER the duck, which was, as you can imagine, fairly put out about the whole thing. Now, before you call the ASPCA all up on me, I didn’t HIT the duck, I straddled it with the tires of the rental car, and it came out just fine on the other end.
We, however, took to calling the rental car Duck Dodgers.
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I returned to Arkansas a month after the duck incident, and spent the evening with a few friends in their backyard. Their back patio is composed of pebbles, and I was happily digging through the rocks, enjoying the feel of the cool stones on my bare feet while drinking wine and listening to the conversation. It was late in the evening, about 10:30 pm, and we were just sitting around, shooting the breeze. As I kicked through the pebbles, I felt something on my foot, and reached down to flick it off. Except…it was a SLUG. A big old squishy slug, crawling up my own personal foot.
I lost it completely. I commenced yelling, which started a chain reaction of screams from my friends, and ended with all the dogs in the neighborhood barking their fool heads off.
Self: chucks slug across lawn while simultaneously leaping on top of chair
JW: falls out of chair entirely
RW: “What the hell? Why are you all screaming?”
Self: “Slimy! Foot! Slimy onna foot! SLUG!!!”
Neighborhood dogs: “BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK”
RW: “really? A slug? Overreacting much? We get those all the TIME around here.”
Self: attempts to gnaw foot off at the ankle
Neighborhood dogs: “BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK”
It took a good fifteen minutes for all the damn dogs to shut up, and after their initial reactions, even JW and Rosie didn’t feel sorry for me. But, come on! A slug? I’ve never even SEEN a slug in Colorado. Maybe I am spoiled, but I sure am grateful. There’s really only one thing to say:
*(with all apologies to folks that may live in Arkansas, or the surrounding areas. I actually think that part of the country is beautiful, gorgeous and green, but damn! Slugs? No thanks.)