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
“Breaking news out of Idaho falls!” the news anchor reported, “Let’s go to a live report by Star Johnson – Star, take it away.”
“Thank you Phil, That’s right, we have breaking news of a job-site incident where a man fell while installing a metal roof on one of those extravagant Island Park cabins today,” the reporter said into his microphone with authority.
“We’re standing outside of the main hospital awaiting word of the man’s condition, but preliminarily reports, by an obviously shaken witness, indicate that the man’s safety rope severed on the exposed metal at the crest of the roofline, sending him sliding down the metal roof as if on ski’s. Upon reaching the edge of the roofline, the man plummeted at least 30 feet. It is further reported, that the man hit a tree on his descent from the roof, and that upon impact with the ground, lost consciousness for at least 30 seconds. We expect a news conference shortly to update us on the man’s condition. Back to you in the studio.”
“Thanks Star, we’ll break for station identification, and return to you live when the news conference begins.”
That wasn’t the first time I’d seen a news conference of this kind. In fact, it’s a pretty common occurrence in my family, because one whole half of the family is pert near indestructible. Why, just last winter one member of my family was riding one of those “dangerous” snowmobiles when he collided with a six-point buck out in the backcountry of Idaho, somewhere near the bustling town of Bone. The news crew arrived before the ambulance and shot video showing a highly confused deer strapped to the hood of a snowmobile. The video further shows the arrival of EMT’s, who surveyed the damaged snowmobile, the look of fear, fury, and disgust on the victims face (whom they decided to take to the nearest veterinary hospital), and the shocked bystander passed out in the snow with a bulls-eye symbol painted on his half buried helmet.
Apparently, the EMT’s decided my brother-in-law (Skinny) was uninjured, and they left him to argue with the fish and game warden over the intricacies of law pertaining to the taking of a deer (outside of hunting season) that had the impertinence to demand a ride on his snowmobile.
I know these examples of indestructibility seem to be far-fetched, but it’s my firm testimony, in front of witnesses and all, that there are indeed several people in my family who are indestructible. It’s not that I mean that they don’t break – because they don’t – but what I really mean is that they never, ever, get hurt. Believe me, I have tried to show them that they aren’t going to live forever, but they always seem to prove me wrong. In fact, I believe these people WILL live forever. I believe they’ll have the distinction of being the only people, outside the scriptures, who won’t experience a physical death. There is simply nothing in this world hard enough to break them!
Specifically, I would like to introduce two perfect examples of indestructibility. Skinny and Fuzz.
Skinny’s real name is Bobby, and Fuzz’s real name is Donny. Let me describe them this way – have you ever seen a pet owner who looks just like their pet? Need I go further? Skinny weighs about 110 pounds all soaking wet, and Fuzz is – well – hairy. But don’t let that skew your understanding of these two malcontents. I am a city boy. Born and raised in one of the warmest cities in the country. These two are country country-boys. They love horses, hunting, fishing, shooting, roping, back-woods camping (well, you get the idea). Their favorite past-time is messing with city boys. I have an unfortunate knack for bringing this phenomenon about in spades when these two are around.
My name being Johnny McDunn has been a source of never ending amusement for them. Go to the bathroom and it’s “are you McDone in the Johnny yet?” “Go to a McMovie lately?” They came to visit us in California in the middle of winter one year. I was cold. They seemed to be enjoying the weather and wearing t-shirts and shorts. Their favorite way to address me is “Hey McCityBoy!” For example, during their visit I heard them yelling “Hey McCityBoy, dare me to jump in that swimming pool!”
“Ok” I replied “I dare you to jump in the pool.”
“You got any money?” was the usual reply. I did and they did!
I have spent many years hearing, “Hey McCityBoy dare me to…”, Usually ending up with my wallet a little lighter and more proof that they don’t break (as if I needed it). Just last year, while on our trip to raft the Middle-Fork of the Salmon River, these two found a lashed together raft made of old logs. “Hey McCiiiityBoy” resulted in me losing 50 Bucks. But this one was worth it because even they had a hard time with that stunt. One year, I had them surfing down the highway riding a snowmobile trailer while I drove. I only partially paid because the deal was they couldn’t fall off. They successfully argued that my hitting the brakes wasn’t fair. But dodging or braking is required when one sees a pot hole the size of Texas in the road. It’s all good fun though. That being said, these two country hooligans have a keen ability to get into tough situations, and the only one who gets hurt is . . . ME!
I’m not kidding here. For example, a couple of years ago I went on a hunting trip with Fuzz. We took a string of horses deep into the Idaho woods, and came out with a string of horses, several cracked ribs, a sore butt, and a broken rifle stock. Ok, ok, “I” came out with the cracked ribs, sore butt, and broken rifle stock, but as usual, Fuzz came out further ahead than when he went in. It turns out that HE had a spare rifle stock in need of some parts at a reasonable price.
Far be it from me to suggest that he took me up on that mountain knowing that no self-respecting helicopter pilot would attempt that steep of an incline, because he would be the beneficiary of my demise. However, the new rifle I bought made up for my loss, because it had all the gizmos I needed to be a successful hunter. It had night vision, a 20×50 telescoping lens, multiple caliber capabilities, and a self-loading clip. When buying the thing, I thought for sure it was made of what I’d heard was the newest invention in weapons manufacturing – carbon fiber casting. The thing weighed half of my broken rifle, but the salesman knew he had a tough sale on his hands because when I mentioned the carbon fiber construction, he smiled and said he had no intention of letting that little detail push the price beyond my means.
“After all” Fuzz said, “If family can’t cut ya a deal, then who can?”
I nodded somberly and pulled out my checkbook.
Skinny on the other hand, had taken me out snowmobiling at the St. Anthony sand dunes with Fuzz and a couple of others in tow. Now, I know you all understand my aversion to getting cold, wet, and worn out from dodging snowballs with my special snowmobile attire, but Skinny assured me that the GPS unit I bought from him would keep me from getting lost, and the sand / snow mix would lessen the possibility of injuries from unexpected halts in forward movement.
With all that in mind, I put the hand warmers in my gloves, turned on my battery powered long johns, laced up my military grade snow boots (lovingly referred to as “Bunny Boots”) purchased from the local Army Surplus store, and loaded up my steam powered snowmobile. Off we went.
What Skinny neglected to tell me was that unexpected halts in forward motion while snowmobiling on snow covered sand results in ice hard sand penetrating unspeakable places during the long slow skid across the dunes. This, however, was mitigated by the fact that I didn’t remember the crash after I’d landed at the bottom of the thirty foot dune, but Skinny took some great pictures to help me learn from my mistakes.
Apparently, one is NOT supposed to take a cornice at a high rate of speed unless one understands Einstein’s principle that an object in motion stays in motion. After topping the cornice, my steam powered snowmobile went one direction, and I went in the other.
But, I have to tell you, Skinny and Fuzz have nothing on the one person in the family that has put me in more hairy situations than anyone else – MOM. Now I know where both Skinny AND Fuzz get their ability to navigate deadly terrain and live to tell about it.
The second year I hunted with the family, let’s see – that would have been 1994, we went up to Carey, Idaho, to hunt elk.
Well, knowing everyone as I did, I decided my best bet was to ride along with Mom. I figured this 55 year old would play it safe and stay at the lower elevations. Boy was I wrong. During our ride, I’d realized I had never hunted with Mom before, and that fact alone helped me decide to play “Guide” to impress her.
Now, given the fact that my sense of direction is impeccable, notwithstanding the occasional mishap in places like Wal-Mart, I suggested we side-hill it around the top of a ridge and then wait for the others to push the elk into us. She readily agreed, which now that I think of it, should have given me pause. But, by the time I realized that our angle of travel was generally up, it was too late.
I looked up and saw Mom leaning back in her saddle with what I initially thought was a nap taking position, but I soon realized the descent was so steep that she had to lie flat on the horse. Normally, when going up-hill, the thing to do is lean forward, not back. It just wasn’t possible with the incline we were ascending!
The next thing I know I’m doing the same thing, only my cinch had chosen that particular moment to come loose, and I was left hanging perilously close to the underside of the horse’s belly. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we next ran into a rocky patch where the only option was to jump your horse from rock to rock and hang on for dear life. Unfortunately, on either side of the rocks the horse was nimbly jumping to, was a drop off, and there was NO way to turn the horse around and go back – not that I wanted to go back down that hill we had just climbed either.
On a side note, and I think everyone who has ever ridden a horse will agree with this statement, it is my belief that horses CAN talk to one another.
On multiple occasions, I have had the opportunity to witness this in action. Just last year, I was saddling my very own horse (graciously sold to me by Fuzz!) and couldn’t get her to calm down. It was very early in the morning after an extremely cold night. The horses were all tied to the side of the horse trailer and I was using a headlamp to help me see what I was doing. Every time I tried to put the saddle on the bugger, she would throw a fit. Fuzz walked over and started saddling her like she was a docile animal or something.
Fuzz looked at me, pointed, and said “I’ll do this one, you go saddle mine over there”.
No sooner did I walk up to Fuzz’s horse then he decided to act up. Whinnying and neighing like he’d never been ridden before.
Well, Fuzz finally got them both ready to go, and I loaded myself aboard my own horse for our first adventure together. Fuzz’s horse made a weird sound just as Fuzz handed me the reins and my horse took off like a bolt of lightning. That could have been the streak of my headlamp across the open prairie but I don’t think so. Now I know what those cowboys you see breaking horses go through.
Fuzz finally caught up with us and was able to instantly calm my nag down by jumping on her back and giving me his horse. I figured his horse had probably gotten it out of its system so I climbed aboard. My old Nag spluttered something and off we went!
The only way I could get on any of these animals, without simulating a professional rodeo bronco-buster, was to have Fuzz lead me around like a pack mule. Fuzz looked at me the next morning as we started the same routine, and asked “Are you using the Elk Scent I brought you?” “Of course I am” I said, “I put it on yesterday morning just before we started saddling the horses. I don’t want to carry that spray bottle around with me!”
He coughed and said “Good, go saddle up. They shouldn’t be nearly as bad as they were yesterday!” Boy was he wrong!
However, on this particular occasion, hunting with my mother-in-law, I believe her horse told my horse to mess with my head a little and stop moving. We were riding along a narrow but flat game trail. Not a twig or branch or other obstacle in sight. I admit, I was dozing off a little, and not paying a lot of attention. Well apparently my horse looked at a little pebble in the path and decided she was going to closely examine it. She went so quickly down to her knees, put her nose actually in the dirt, and watched the rock jiggle as a large thud shook the ground.
Unfortunately, that large thud was me landing on the trail about 3 feet in front of her. She chose that very moment to do a little surprise dance, in which I believed I was about to be trampled to death! But, I ended up looking at her belly while she stood with her head looped around her front leg looking at me like it was entirely my fault. I think she thought I was supposed to stay awake while SHE took a nap!
Mom rode up shortly after and asked “What in the world are you doing down there?”
I had no answer so simply brushed it off by handing her the rock that so fascinated my horse and saying, “I found a cool rock for your collection!”
Well, mom and I finally crested the hill, took the rotor blades off our horses, and settled in to look for any sign of game. I took out a spray bottle and liberally doused myself to mask my scent.
Being courteous I said “would you like to use this scent blocker?” She gave me a funny look and declined! My horse gave me a funny look and moved to the other side of the tree I had tied her to.
Let me describe my mother-in-law. She is feisty, and fearless. She has grey hair and stands no more than 4 foot 11. She is extremely smart and makes everyone toe the line around her. She is also the one who carries all the food! Thankfully, I chose to ride with her, because I was getting hungry.
When I first met her, after marrying her daughter by the way, she offered to take me bear hunting. Thank goodness I declined that little adventure. Anyways, we finally had the elk pushed in on us and she put one down with a single shot. She is impressive!
I offered to gut and clean the elk but Skinny and Fuzz rode up and showed me how to do it. It was getting late and they wanted to get off the hill before the snow moved in for the night.
We were leaving the hill well after dark and mom said, “Just let the horses lead the way, they know where they’re going!” Boy was she right about that. But, after my experiences that day with my horse, I wasn’t feeling all that kindly towards the old girl (yes my horse! To whom did you think I was referring?).
We got back to camp and snow was falling. We didn’t have a fancy trailer or tent to sleep in. Most everyone slept in the horse trailer after hobbling the horses for the night. I chose to sleep in the van where I could try to heat the thing up with my portable heater. I woke up with a large snowshoe imprinted on my backside and the announcement that the eggs (and all my Coca-Cola had frozen). Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods. Mom made it all better by cooking a bunch of back-strap from her elk taken the previous day. Delicious! Skinny and Fuzz however, told me I had to take a bite out of the heart. Mom was nice enough to point out it was frozen and would have to wait until we got home!
In the end, I know Skinny and Fuzz have a good heart and are only razzing me as the newest and most vulnerable member of the family, but it sure would be nice to get another city boy around to help take some of the load. Alas, that was not to be for another 8 years. In that time, I have purchased a shotgun for duck hunting, a camp-trailer for camping, a skeet-thrower to help me learn how to shoot ducks, a new wood burning fireplace for the house, several firearms for target practice, a couple of new horses, a horse-trailer to haul them around and a truck to pull the horse trailer. We also bought a new whitewater rafting boat to replace our Navy Life Raft that seemed to have more holes in it than a screen door. Last year I somehow managed to purchase a new chain saw and a dump trailer to help with the unloading. I have a new float tube, waders, fishing rod and tackle, a jet-ski and a ski-boat. While it seems to be an expensive hobby, I get endless pleasure betting Skinny and Fuzz that they can do things. All of which they are able to do.
Everyone has entertainment costs. Mine just seem to be funding the activities a couple of hooligans with a creative imagination!
As for the skiing accident off the metal roof in Island Park, Skinny suffered no damage and said “All I wanted was a ride in a helicopter. I mean, why not? Insurance paid for it!”