It wasn’t until I’d done the calculation 3 times, 3 different ways that I blurted out “Holy Crap Ranger the last time we were here, I wasn’t even 40 years old! What the Hell happened? How does a guy lose two decades like that?” As Ranger started the mental calculations to cross-check mine, the answer to my question came to me. From the relative sanity-preserving distance of 3 years retirement, I recalled the 14 hour days, the 7 day work weeks, the ruined Christmas’s, the wasted holidays, the 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 am phone calls, the sleepless nights worrying whether I’d made the right million dollar decision, compensating for lazy peers and incompetent superiors, drowsy-eyed Hwy 401 forays through blizzards in the middle of the night after too few hours rest, the total lack of respect or recognition for accomplishments, and so on, seemingly ad infinitum.
“Oh yeah, never mind” I told Ranger. “I remember now”.
You know something sad ? Of my 30 year career, I cumulatively enjoyed about 3 years of it. Mostly due to the multitude of A-Holes I had to put up with. Now, you wanna hear something funny ? I’ve kept a written record from day ONE. I’m still trying to finish it up, though I probably never will. From the ridiculous, through the disgusting, to the sublime, I got it all recorded, names, places, incidents, idiosyncrasies, and just plain idiocy. I pull it out from time to time and read it to the Wife. We laugh ‘til we can’t breathe. However, there are some parts I don’t read aloud. Some things just never get funny.
Anyway, I digress. So Ranger and I are wandering around this bridge reminiscing about the last time we’d hiked the Hogback trail over the Pigeon River. I reminded him of our canoe trip down that same river over 20 years earlier. He remembered the peaceful serenity, the wind swept river, wildlife skulking amongst the tangle of driftwood statuettes on the shoreline, the banks of cattails, the curl of water around gentle paddle strokes. Holding communion with Nature he recalled.
I on the other hand, remember snickering and giggling as we tried to quietly and nonchalantly maneuver closer to shore, and that sunbathing girl. The same girl who appeared to be sunbathing in the nude. She caught sight of us (more likely heard us snorting and shushing each other, and snorting some more) and she left as the voices behind the patch of cattails shouted “damn-it” in unison and burst into laughter. Then Ranger starts yodeling.
God help us all.
He liked yodeling. ‘Course, he was the only one, who liked his yodeling. Please note, I didn’t say he was any good at it, I just said he liked it. The horrifying and ungodly wailing scared up a young couple on the opposite bank who also vacated the area (great place for spotting wildlife eh?). If they’d have just stayed where they were, we’d never have known they were there. Kinda like chipmunks or red squirrels that start shooting off their little rat yaps when you’re within 100 feet of one. If they’d just shut the hell up, you’d never even know they were there. I guess that’s better ‘n a grouse, waiting ‘til you damn-near step on it before it goes off like a cruise missile, scaring the livin’ crap outa ya. By the way, I’m ashamed to admit, I recently realized that what I’ve been calling a partridge all my Life is actually a grouse. I’ve never seen a partridge. Bloody embarrassing I can tell you. Kinda like when I realized that I’ve never seen a pickerel in my Life either. Those really were walleyes I’d been arguing were pickerel. The only thing I hate more than being wrong, is having been wrong, for years.
As we continued upstream, it became rather apparent the prime shoreline real estate, was behind us. The river became congested with driftwood, snags, deadheads, and rocks. The shore was obscured by a solid screen of impenetrable cattails. We finally came upon a fallen tree spanning the navigable waterway and docked up against it. We discussed climbing over it, but to what advantage ? There’d only be another one soon enough. Ranger remembers leaving a memento on the tree, but couldn’t recall what it was. We were quite sure we’d return some day to retrieve it. I’d never have believed more than 2 decades would pass before we returned to the bridge, unable to even canoe the river again. This time I pushed a quarter into a crack in the bridge as a memento. Ranger joked about returning in another 20 years to retrieve it. I intend to hold him to that.
I assumed Ranger and I would never canoe again as he now resides in an apartment, and my property is too covered in gardens to store a canoe. However, the wife and I talked to a fellow at Sail Outdoor Store, and they have kayak demonstrations in the Spring, and they even rent them by the day. Ranger and I have discussed (off & on) testing out kayaks for near 20 years. I think this’ll be our opportunity to assess one. They come in all kinds of variable designs, functions, shapes, and sizes now. The ones I looked at hanging on the wall at Sail were very reasonably priced too. Some of the “one-man” ones were so compact, I could store it in my truck box. Ranger could keep one in his unused dining room (along with his trail bike in the Winter). So, 2 Old Guys Walking could diversify into 2 Old Guys Kayaking. Then, maybe the Pigeon River will echo to the sound of Ranger’s yodeling once again.
God help us all.