Pack your camping gear, food, clothes, and a body bag.
My old goal for life was to tramp New Zealand and golf Scotland. The new goal involves keeping my Dad out of jail or being eaten by bears.
Retirement travel by car and plane worried me, but my parents now own an RV. I should be reassured when they take my Aunt Mim and Uncle Keg with them. I’m not. The men will be in the slammer for doing stupid stuff, the women for attempted murder of men who do stupid stuff. This means way too much bail money.
My Dad’s from ‘old school’ where food found in the wild was yours for the taking. This is fine if you have an Aunt Dorothy who owns a farm and hands you a bushel basket to pick apples.
But the National Park system sees things differently. Permits, some with fees, are required to harvest certain wild items, fruit, fish, and firewood. Some parks allow visitors to consume a reasonable amount of fruit during their visit, one or two apples a day.
My Dad put a tarp under a tree to catch his apple harvest. Mom caught him before he shook the tree. Dad’s reasoning was that he could eat an apple pie in one day.
“You could if you want to experience a coma with your blood sugar over nine hundred.” Mom said.
Parks have other rules about their vegetation and wildlife too, like leave them alone.
“Tell your kid about the time you threw an ax at a rabbit.” Mom said.
“It was a hatchet. Rabbit makes good stew.”
“We had steak in the refrigerator.”
“I was thinking rabbit stew.”
“No, you weren’t thinking.”
My Dad’s gathering tendencies stem from being the youngest of eight kids in a time of never enough and hand-me-downs.
I have no idea why he and Uncle Keg pick leaves. You can’t eat them. The leaves are stuffed into tree identification books. Leaf picking is also a no-no.
“Exceptions are made for corporations to come in and take what they want from the land. It’s not like I’m tearing off mountain tops or destroying waterways with spillage and toxic waste.” Dad said. “John Audubon and Lewis and Clark collected specimens.”
I’ll pass on opening Dad’s bird book.
“What if everyone took a leaf?” Mom said.
All leaves would be tucked into books and if I get to retire and tour National Parks, all I’ll see are big sticks. Who wants deforestation, usually caused by gypsy moths, to instead be attributed to their Dad?
“And besides, you know better.” Mom, ninja earth guardian, strikes. As a kid, I never got away with anything either.
Dad and Uncle Keg now use a camera to record and study nature. This would be great if nature didn’t include bears. Marine biologists use chum to attract sharks when conducting research. Scientists have really big boats, something called a shark cage, and absolutely no common sense.
“Are you feeding bears?” I ask my Dad.
“Hell no, I’m not stupid. Keg usually smells like bacon. Bears just show up.”
Most people lock themselves in their camper or car. They don’t grab a camera and follow the beast. Geez, what’s my Mom pack for camping, food, clothes, a body bag?
Mom and Aunt Mim are tired of babysitting their wayward husbands. The women propose putting their men in a field called stupid and wrapping the field with a fence.
Government budget cuts will prohibit construction of husband corrals in National Parks just as a sluggish economy prohibits bail money. For my sanity and Dad’s safety, Mom better think about luring my father into a shark cage with rabbit stew and an apple pie.
Published in Funny Times-August 2014