These Stories are dedicated to:
My wife Marci and my three children Saundra, Jessica, and Jimmy – Thank you for believing in me!
And to the rest of my chosen family – may they learn to recognize the truth in all that I write!
The ˇ of Skinny & Fuzz
My name is Johnny McDunn, and I have the good fortune to have made it to my 40th birthday in decent condition. But, I suspect that if I were a used car, my children would try to sell me “as is.” That’s just the kind of kids they are. Speaking of children, I have some! Three of them to be exact and I also have a wonderful wife.
“Wait a minute” You might be thinking, “He didn’t have a term of endearment for his children in that statement!”
There is a perfectly good reason for calling my wife “wonderful” and not adding an adjective for my children. It’s because they’re not “wonderful,” not by a long shot. They’re “incorrigible” is what they are! But I love’em – may the Lord help me!
“Why are they incorrigible?” you ask.
Ok, I’ll tell you!
They’ve been corrupted by a couple of relatives with some seriously creative reputations in their own right. But that’s a part of the story that you’ll just have to wait to read. This story begins last month.
Less than thirty days ago, I reached that milestone mentioned earlier (of which I do not really wish to speak of further) and my children gave me a series of presents. You see, we’ve been living in Idaho for a number of years now, and I have a love / hate relationship with it. I love to hate the cold. So this year, the kids bought me a helmet. You know, one of those fancy snow-machine helmets that “protect hard things in your path from being damaged by your head while you’re out riding a tracked motorcycle with no discernible method of steering at 40 mph over a snowy mountain cornice with a fifty foot drop off on the other side that you can’t see until you get there” (whew!) – Yes, THAT kind of helmet.
I knew the helmet was an ominous sign, and I protested loudly about the lack of consideration for my age. My family merely snickered and presented me with my second present – a snowmobile. Like I didn’t see that one coming! This wasn’t a normal snow machine though. It differed in one major way – it was ancient. I mean really old. I think they found it in a museum or something. But, I smiled and laughed it off.
We all knew I wasn’t going out in the 10 degree weather to ride the stupid thing, even if it would run.
You see, snowmobiles are dangerous.
There, I’ve said it. It’s true. If you’ve ever ridden one, especially if you’re close to my age, you’d be nodding your head vigorously in agreement. Did I say dangerous? I think deadly would be a better word. Kind of like horses are deadly. I don’t like to go near either one. Sadly, that too is another story!
I looked over to the table where my helmet now sat, and saw what the kids gave me this time LAST year – A bulky, thick, warm set of Carhart brand coveralls that coincidentally match the color of my new helmet’s paint scheme, including the bull’s eye pattern painted in pink on the rear of the helmet. This was quite funny because the coverall’s had an arrow pointing upwards towards my head sewn into the back, in pink thread no less.
Last year I wondered aloud what the arrow meant, but the kids only snickered. It should be evident that these kids are very creative, and have a good sense of planning. I hoped this would serve them well in prison, but probably not.
I, however, knew my children weren’t done yet, and as I patiently waited, they presented me, with great fanfare I might add, an itinerary for an all expense (except for the necessary casket of course) paid trip to the not-so-sunny resort of my choice in Bear Lake Idaho. I was encouraged by this part of the present because I immediately began dreaming of a heated pool, a spa with a high quality massage therapist, a big screen television in a five-star room, a room-service selection created by pizza hut, and a good book from my favorite author.
But, not to be discouraged by the smile on my face and the dreamy look in my eyes, my children provided some clarification.
You see, there’s only one resort in Bear Lake Idaho, so there was little to confuse the issue when I mentioned the heated pool and the masseuse. That is if you don’t count the hyperventilation caused by an acute hysterical spasm that sounded much like laughter from my children.
The little poisonous urchins then clarified that the trip was a “winter wonderland package,” which included downhill skiing, ice fishing, ice-skating, and snowmobiling in the back woods of Idaho. I couldn’t restrain my enthusiasm and said “Great! This is just what I’ve always wanted!”
Oh I was jumping for joy at being given a chance to retire early – maybe it would be permanent! That thought created another dreamy look on my face causing my children to convulse with panic in a desperate desire to crush any semblance of happiness in my life.
I couldn’t help but think that an early dirt nap would solve most of my problems. After all, what awaits me in the hereafter surely would be warm, right? I mean, heaven MUST include a thermostat option – right?
But I digress. As I said earlier, I have a love hate relationship with Idaho. I LOVE to HATE the cold. That’s because I’m from Phoenix where cold is a relative term defined by the proper functioning of the air conditioning unit in your car. So, going outside, on purpose, into the cold, is something that I don’t normally do without good reason. A burning house comes to mind, but even that wouldn’t be all that difficult to do, as it would be relatively warm by the fire.
So, when the time came to take the trip to Bear Lake, I was highly set against it. But, as I said earlier, my wife IS wonderful, and her persuasive abilities were only partially responsible for my upcoming sprint from the warm house to the truck. I was further convinced to make the journey because I wanted to show off my new gadget. Yes, I’m a gadget guy. In this case, I proudly used my new remote starting system, conveniently purchased while out shopping for an anniversary present for my wife only the week before, to bring the temperature in my truck up to a comfortable level.
When I came home with my new gadget and showed my wife, who instantly headed for the cast iron frying pan, I quickly told her “Having the ability to start the truck and modify the environmental controls from a hundred yards makes my arthritis more manageable.”
Well, that IS what the salesman said when he sold it to me!
The look of exasperation on her face was evident as she turned and walked away. It was strange, but I thought I heard something like “midget” but I know that can’t be true because I’m almost six feet tall – or maybe it was “Idiot” – not sure, I do have some hearing problems.
I stood in my bedroom window, which just happens to be closest to my driveway, adjusting the heater setting on my truck, when my brothers-in-law arrived with their wives for the trip. I was adjusting the heat setting with the remote control because I couldn’t see any sign that the truck cab was warming up. Their wives said later that I looked like an old balding dog staring out the window drooling over a dropped bone from the back of a meat wagon. Whatever that means!
So, I hurriedly put on my coveralls, and waddled into the living room where I heard “it’s always so hot though.”
It seems I had walked in on the tail end of a religious conversation, and not willing to open that can of worms just before taking a long trip, I asked “is everyone ready?”
There were five people looking at me with something in their eyes that indicated they had just seen a vision of the end of the world given to them by an angel of the Lord Almighty.
“Why are you all wearing shorts and flip-flops?” I asked in all innocence. “I mean, it IS winter, isn’t it?”
I suggested we take some hot chocolate with us, but this suggestion wasn’t met with the enthusiasm I expected. There was however, a sudden pain in my shin that wasn’t there before, and I suspect my wife had something to do with it because she was hopping around on one foot holding her toe. SEE, Flip-flops aren’t appropriate attire for winter wear, now are they!
To top it off, something had happened to the heater in my truck. When we finally got in, it was freezing. It was strange though, because no sooner had I demanded we not leave on a trip like this if the truck was going to give us problems, that my brothers-in-law, Skinny and Fuzz, were demanding I “pop the hood” so they could have a look. They’ve always been good mechanics and they had my heater working in a matter of seconds!
Off we went. Strangely, after stopping at a rest area about ten miles out, the heater in my truck went out again while I was checking directions on my GPS with the coordinates on the large map located in the rest area. I wanted to confirm the “Tom-Tom” street map system installed in my truck was working properly and we weren’t being directed to some remote mountain pass in Canada instead of Bear Lake.
Misreading the glances exchanged between the others in the cab for concern, I concluded aloud, “I guess the new starting unit must be shorting out my electrical system or something. I’ll get it fixed when we get back.”
When we finally got to the, I kid you not “Winter Wonderland” resort in Bear Lake, I was hardly finished unpacking my clothes when I was whisked off to the ski hill for some ‘moonlight’ skiing. In case you’ve never been skiing by moonlight, there is considerable skill involved. Not only do you have to keep from falling down on a mountain you can’t even see, but you have to dodge your family who seem to have only two speeds where skiing is involved – fast and faster!
Lucky I handed out the radio’s that I rented for everyone before we left the ski shop, because I think they all were quite concerned about getting lost.
My wife reminded me to “Use the GPS and mark the location of the lodge before you get on the lift, ok dear?”
“I will,” I replied, “Not that I really need it. I mean, my sense of direction is impeccable.”
She replied something that sounded like “Wal-Mart,” but she knows that isn’t fair – that store was huge!
About an hour and a half later, I ran into my wife getting ready to get on the lift again when I squeezed in next to her.
“This is my third run” she said, “How many times have you been down the hill?”
“Once” I replied.
“Once, what’s wrong? Is your arthritis acting up again?”
“Nope” I replied, “I crashed and lost my night vision goggles about fifteen minutes in, and I haven’t been able to find’em”.
“You brought your night vision goggles with you?”
“Of course, how else do you expect me to get down this hill at night?”
Just then Skinny and Fuzz slid into line for the ski lift boasting they had seen some dummy skiing in night vision goggles, but they had fixed his wagon by snatching them while he was picking himself out of a tree half way up the hill.
“Guess he can’t see with’em or without’em can he?” Fuzz chuckled between gasps of air.
“I mean, there’s no stars out, so night vision won’t work anyways, didn’t anyone tell him that?” replied Skinny.
My wife held my hand knowing I was highly upset with the two wisenheimers. I mean, they were the ones who sold me the dang goggles in the first place. But they’ve always been that way. Always sellin’ me something I don’t know how to use. Why, just last year they sold me a wood splitter a friend of theirs wanted to get rid of, promising me I’d get a lot of use out of it. They were deaf to the idea that I didn’t even own a wood stove, and my wife quit warning’ me off years ago. Fortunately, that thing did have its uses. I mean, I haven’t had to go out in the mountains to help the others split wood with an axe in a year.
“Give me back my goggles ya dummies, and quit goofin around!” I snapped. Either they didn’t hear me, or they didn’t understand, because at that moment they had both slipped and fell on the snow and were howling in pain.
Now, I like to sleep in when I’m on vacation, but apparently we had to be outside and ready to go snowmobiling at 6:30 “AM” the next day. So I set my alarm after dinner and was dead to the world in just a few minutes. I mean, I’ve always had an ability to go to sleep quickly, That’s one of the things I learned in the Navy, but the next thing I knew there was a loud bang on my door, and Skinny and Fuzz were yelling at me to hurry up. I opened the door and found them fully dressed in Carhart coveralls, bunny boots, winter coats, and holding three fishing poles.
I let those two know exactly what I thought about ice fishing – at night – But they weren’t having any of it. They said we had to get everything in while we could because our stay in the resort wasn’t going to last forever. “Besides” they said, “you’ll finally have a chance to try that fish finder you bought from us last year.”
Not ready to be distracted from their reason for waking me up, I asked, “What do you mean our stay isn’t going to last forever, we can go the day after tomorrow?”
“We didn’t tell you?” Skinny asked, “We only have the lodge for one night!”
Three hours later, I sat in the hot tub thawing out from a small dip in the lake. Apparently there’s some kind of rule saying that the first time you catch a fish while ice fishing, you have to jump in to show your respect to the fish. Skinny explained it to me in terms I could understand from my hunting days. He reminded me that I had to gut the first elk, deer, bear, rabbit, or any other animal when taken on my first hunting trip for that type of game. The rule apparently applied not only to what “I” was able to shoot, but to what “anyone” shot on my first hunting trip for that type of game. I mean, I’ve gutted more animals in the last few years than anyone I know, so I figured this was no different.
But, those two ought to have their lungs checked out when we get home, because Just like the time when I gutted that skunk while hunting for badgers, the two of them seemed to have had an asthma or panic attack when I jumped in the lake, and they had a real hard time pulling me back out. Their eyes were watery and they complained that their stomach’s hurt, which seems to explain the howls of pain I heard from them while I was under water.
I finally got to bed about two in the morning, but I woke up several times fighting off a sneaky suspicion that I had been talked into jumping into the freezing water for no reason at all. My wife keeps telling me not to let those two talk me into doing things like that anymore. But she doesn’t understand the way of the mountain man like I do. At least, that’s what Skinny and Fuzz keep telling me!
The snowmobile trip was fun, even though I had to stop to help others up after they had fallen off their snow machines when they got too close to me. It seems accidents are kind of normal at Bear Lake, because everyone seems to crash a lot. I’m kind of concerned about the air up there! Because, I mean, every time I would get near them to see if they’re ok, most of their eyes were all watery, and their stomach’s seemed to be in pain, but there were never any serious injuries.
I did seem to attract a lot of attention from people carrying around cameras though, and I feel pretty good about that. I always like a little extra attention, don’t you? One group of Vietnamese snowmobilers stopped me to ask about the arrow and target symbol on my coat and helmet. Skinny always seemed to have an answer for these kinds of questions, and he told them quite seriously that they were there to help in case of an avalanche, but I couldn’t keep a straight face and the Vietnamese left muttering something that sounded a lot like “Di-Di” and “Dinky Dau” or something like that.
I later found out my picture had been published in the local newspaper for the oldest snowmobile seen in thirty years at the lodge. It sort of reminded me of when we used the old Navy raft to float down the Snake River. Apparently, no-one had a seen anything with a boiler since the train was rerouted.
But, I felt they should have used a different picture. I mean, it wasn’t very nice of them to show me from a rear view with what my family had done to me. They had put a special tail light cover that showed the word “AIM” whenever I hit the brakes. Combine that with the arrow pointing to the bull’s eye symbol on my helmet, and I was finally able to explain why it seemed snowballs were constantly flying around my head.
Well, we got home without further incident, though my heater didn’t start working until we got to the house. Darn thing is tricky!
Skinny and Fuzz both said they had a good time and so did their wives. I thanked the wives for coming – I really like them, they are great people! – But Skinny and Fuzz? – Well let’s just say they have an adventurous and mischievous side that takes some getting used to.