This is the first winter I’ve hated since I retired 3 years ago. I don’t remember the winters before then (more like I don’t want to). The first retirement winter I was alone as the wife hadn’t retired yet and I hadn’t re-found Ranger yet. I got lotsa projects done that I’d been saving up for this very occasion. The days were bright and cheery. Just the right temperature to cool off a guy who’d been working inside. The second winter, I was anticipating the wife joining me AND halfway through I hunted Ranger down. Between the wife, the Ranger, and wonderful weather, I needed both hands to count the number of times a week we made 5 to 8 km walks during the next Winter. We discovered new territory, parks, and conservation areas. It was the whole reason the wife and I retired early.
Then came the abominable meteorological train wreck that describes the winter of 2013/2014. It started out colder than … there are so many to choose from aren’t there? Iron bridge fasteners, copper & zinc alloyed simian sex organs, witches or even nun’s mammary support garments (interestingly enough, copper & zinc composition as well). But then, it warmed up enough to provide us with a devastating ice storm before spending the next few weeks dumping 4 ft of snow on us and then … back to the copper/zinc alloys. So, this winter has been either, too cold, too slippery, too windy, too snowy, or just downright dangerous from falling trees.
That leaves Ranger and I severely strapped for activities. After the first huge snow dump, we went cruising and photographing. The next get together was to initiate his new TV. Ranger recently got a cell phone, an ATM card, and then he went hog wild and got a big screen TV. There’s no controlling him! He’s bursting into the 21st century with an eye to madness.
Then, he went too far. He crossed the line. He invited me over, and tricked me into a game of crokinole !
You gotta understand. I’d rather have my ears stapled to a chronically flatulent pachyderm’s ass, face in, than play crokinole. To me, crokinole is in the same unholy realm as scrabble. Crokinole was a sentence of cruel and unusual punishment. It was what I ashamedly resorted to on rainy evenings (of which there were plenty) at my parent’s cottage as a teenager. Instead of partying with my friends, getting drunk, getting laid … getting drunk and laid, I was sitting in limbo bruising the tender nail bed of my most expressive finger. Flicking what was otherwise known as a “checker” across a board with a hole in the center ringed by posts that seriously needed to be yanked out, burned, and pissed on! The damned game was annoyance enough without the frickin’ posts !
And all this … with my Mom, Dad and sisters !!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooo !
Ranger casually mentioned that his sister wanted a board so she bought one, and then they found another, or they found one, and bought another or maybe it was, uhhhhh. Sorry, the instant he said the word crokinole, my brain went numb, (kinda like a deer in the car headlights), and I didn’t understand anything after that. Anyway, it was too cold, or icy, or dangerous, or windy, or some damned thing when we got together a coupla weeks ago, so he suggested we just make a day inside, shooting the breeze. Shooting the breeze MY ASS !! I knew he had one of those liaisons of Lucifer, that unholy harbinger of horrors, that siren of Satan, that Baskerville bastard of boards … in there somewhere.
I softly knocked on the apartment door and waited. I heard him call “It’s open, come on in”. Yes, I thought to myself, that’s exactly what I’d expect him to say. I opened the door and cautiously glanced about. “Heay Bushwhacker, how ya bin ?” he asked as he poured a coupla coffees. “Well it’s so cold I heard a Kee-Kee bird out in the yard” I told him. “A what?” he frowned. “A Kee-Kee bird. You know, it goes Kee – Kee – Kee – Kee – Kee-rist it’s cold !” I explained. He smiled as he remembered the old joke from last Winter and invited me to help myself to milk and sugar for my coffee. I did so, and we took seats at the dining room table. We discussed what we’d done since the last week, current events, complaints, accident reports on the 401 and how glad we are not to have to drive to work anymore.
Now, Ranger and I are used to being on the trail, making observations and such. So just sitting around a table sucking back coffees, doesn’t do it for very long. I was just about to suggest we take a little cruise when I realized … I’d let my guard down and he’d sensed it !! With a quick twist, he grabbed the crokinole board and, feigning innocence, asked “Well, shall we play a game of crokinole ?” I panicked and froze. If I got cornered, my plan was to leap to my death from the balcony, but now I was trapped ! Besides, Ranger’s apartment is on the second floor. I likely wouldn’t even chip a frickin’ tooth from that dizzying height. Perhaps the snow woulda broke my fall instead of my tooth, and I could’ve made good an escape. Change my name, drift from town to town. Ride the rails, looking for part-time work and cheap accommodations. Just keep moving on.
But all was lost now, so I quietly resigned myself to my fate and chose the white checkers. Ranger apologized for not knowing the rules. It didn’t matter to me. I was about to play:
Ranger insisted I start as “Guests go first” he assured me. The only “first” I desired was to first, leap off a balcony on the 6th floor. That ought to do it. I placed the checker on the edge of the board and suddenly heard the sound of rain on a pine roof, the pungent scent of wet woodsmoke assaulted my nostrils, an intense sensation of dread and foreboding overcame me in waves of unspeakable boredom. It was the late 60’s and I was at the cottage again !
Quickly re-grasping reality, I flicked the checker … and damn-near dropped it right in the center hole ! Ranger let out with a “Whoa ! You can’t do that”. Brandishing a checker he explained “This is Frank, he’s trained to boot your guy outa the center hole and fill it for him”. Then he flicked Frank who immediately hit a post, bounced around awhile, glanced off my checker and promptly flung himself off the board and landed somewhere behind Ranger. “I hate to tell you this Ranger, but I suspect Frank’s an Ass hole” I pointed out as Ranger searched the room for Frank. Then I quietly pushed my checker into the center hole, and waited. Ranger returned (with Frank in shackles) and sincerely thought Frank had pushed my checker into the hole. “Oh no ! A pocket shot !” Is that for real ?” I sometimes wonder what he’d do if I said yes when he asks questions like that. I suppose he’d believe me ‘cause he knows I wouldn’t lie to him anyway. Not because I’m noble or nuthin’ like that. I just don’t give a damn enough, to lie about anything. Lying’s too much like work. Ya gotta remember what the lie was, and how it’ll interact and affect what’s known to be the truth. You gotta think fast, on your feet. Too much trouble for me, I’ll take the lazy man’s way out thank you.
So, I confess and remove the checker, and the game ends. Now we’re laughing ‘cause we can’t remember whose turn it is to go first. The game only takes 4 minutes to play, but we can’t remember. Being the mathematical wizards we are, it doesn’t occur to us that the guy who runs outa checkers first, obviously flicked first. Once we figured that out, we started to forget who ran outa checkers first, after adding up the score (which might take 4 minutes as well). So, we made up rules as we went along, laughing, name calling, helping each other out with difficult shots, chasing checkers about the room, talkin’ nonsense, and having a good time. Once again Ranger has tricked me to the positive. I’ll never love crokinole, but I’ll admit to liking it now (though I’d really rather be exploring).
I often end these posts stating that time spent on a trail with a friend is the most valuable time one can spend anywhere. Well, when it’s just plain ugly out on the trails, time spent with a friend, anywhere, is time well spent.