Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Case Of The Foamy Bats

Call me. I'm under "A. Dick For Hire".

It was a dark and stormy night when I got the call.

I had just finished retrieving a pair of conjoined Siamese cats who had somehow gotten separated from each other and then from their owner.

That owner was an elderly collector of rare books and odd cats. He never went out himself and had no idea how his cats had come apart or where they'd gone afterward. Once free of each other the cats hightailed it off in opposite directions.

Cats. You know the story.

All I had to do was drag a sardine around the neighborhood on a string and after a couple of minutes I had more cats than I could count.

I picked the two best looking ones and delivered them to my antiquarian friend. He looked happy. I must have guessed right. Or he was ready for new cats.

Either way it was all over pretty fast, so I didn't bother charging him. I just shook his hand, wished him a more interesting life, and headed back to the office after brushing the fur off my tie.

When I got to the office the phone was ringing off the hook. I answered it. On the other end of the line was a woman. I could tell by the voice.

Her name was Craft, Jo-Ann Craft. She ran a shop. A fabric shop. One that also sold hobby supplies. The kinds of hobby supplies that appeal to people. The kind of people who buy zippers and buttons.

Jo-Ann had problems.

She had bats.

Rabid bats.

Dead rabid bats.

Bats had been turning up in her shop lately and she wanted to know where they came from. And how to get rid of them. She asked if I could investigate.

I said sure, that's what I do.

I'm Richard A. Dick, but I go by my middle initial: "A. Dick For Hire". It's on my business card.

Shortly after entering Jo-Ann's fabric shop I noticed something odd. Dusty tracks on the linoleum.

The tracks led straight to the bins of ripstop nylon, and then they looped around to the thread department, ending with a flyby of the cash register after skimming the Halloween display.

I asked Jo-Ann if she'd seen any odd customers lately. She said they were all odd, so I asked about any odd customers that were new.

She remembered one. A guy. He had lots of hair, all over, and had a thing for the outdoor fabrics. And he was dusty.

I had a hunch so I decided to wait, and see this guy.

Before long there he was. You couldn't miss him. I was pretty sure I was on to something.

I went over to talk.

When I introduced myself he said his name was Maggot, Dirty Maggot. That was his trail name. His real name was Joe Periwinkle, but on the trail he was Dirty Maggot. He was what they call a "thru-hiker".

He looked the part. Whatever that was.

He looked like he hadn't had a bath in years, or changed his clothes either. And had no idea what a fixed address was.

While I stood there and shot the breeze, trying to get a fix on his m.o., I noticed something. Right away I saw a couple of spiders jump ship and scuttle off. They went straight for the lace trimmings and burrowed in.

Then there was a small avalanche of dust. Several of them. I was afraid that if all the dust fell off this guy, he'd be standing there naked.

And that was one sightseeing tour I didn't want to be on.

So I told him that the owner, Jo-Ann Craft, had been having a few odd problems over by the Halloween supplies.

Then I popped the question.

How about him?

Ever been over there?

Sure, he said. He was thinking of decorating the tent for his girlfriend, Snake. But he hadn't decided anything for sure, so he cruised by there every time he was in the store.

Despite all this he seemed like a decent enough guy.

We strolled over and stood in front of the cotton ball spiders and cardboard ghouls. Just as we turned away again I saw something move. In his hair.

It was a bat.

It fluttered out of his dreadlocks and attacked some crepe paper bats hanging from the ceiling. Tore them up pretty bad too. Then it fell down the wall behind the display. After that everything was quiet except for a few flecks of foam drifting in the air.

I was sure I had my man.

"Buddy," I said, "Here's my advice. Hiking season is over. Get a haircut. Take a bath. Lose the bats."

After he left the store I talked to Jo-Ann again.

I said if she locked the door when she saw him coming she'd be done with the rabid bats.

She seemed grateful to have the mystery solved, but then she did a funny thing.

She went and stood by the door, and watched Mr. Maggot hike back down the road.

Well, that seemed to be the end of the story. Another case solved and I even managed to make a profit. Rabid bats are bad for business, so Jo-Ann was glad to toss a few bills my way.

I didn't see her again after that, until one day.

I was in the neighborhood.

So I dropped in.

Guess what?

No, not more bats. The bats were gone. For good.

But I was met by a pleasant young gentleman who seemed to recognize me. "Joe," he said, "I'm Joe. You probably don't recognize me."

He was right. I didn't.

I've see a lot of guys named Joe in my time but this appeared to be a new one.

Cleaned up, he had no resemblance to the former Mr. Dirty Maggot. Dirty Maggot was now Joe Periwinkle, and he was working at the store. He and Jo-Ann had fallen in love too.

His former girlfriend Snake had slithered back to college when he got tidied up. Something about selling out, I guess. He said she's working on Wall Street now.

Joe has a new life too.

He and Jo-Ann are planning to go backpacking soon. She got him interested in business and he got her interested in dirt.

Another match made in heaven.

And free of bats.

Just one of those stories you run into.

If you're a Dick like me. Give me a call. Just check the phone book for "A. Dick For Hire".


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Camping Made Easy

Do you know how????

Number One: Where to camp?

Though it can be exotic and fun, most of us are not quite sure about the whole "camping" idea.

Say you drive to a forest camp ground. OK so far, but what then?

You may expect to find an expanse of clean pavement and modern facilities, but few so-called camp grounds are this well equipped, even in today's world, and expect you to put your tent somewhere in the dirt.

Try to adjust by slowly easing off the pavement. Allow plenty of time to avoid vertigo or panic episodes. Eventually you will overcome your revulsion.

Now once you are past the "yuck" factor and are ready to put up your tent on dirt, things get easier. (True!)

One step that "pros" use is locating a "Park Ranger", a kind of hired help. These are the ones wearing uniforms. Your "Park Ranger" will gladly offer you a selection of camp sites for perusal. Take your time and don't be shy about asking for an upgrade. Rangers are there to serve you.

Once you have your site you are ready to start camping, like in olden times.

What to look out for.

Forest water is not house-broken. It can be unreliable. Rain even in faraway mountains can make the water near you rise up and do strange things. Stay well back from it. Do not touch anything but bottled water.

Dead things may be present. Like trees and stuff. They are also known to fall on people, especially while changing clothes in their tents, for some reason. If you smell a bad thing, it may also be dead. If you have had a pet, you probably know about this. So if you find a dead thing, even a bush, ask your Ranger to tend to it immediately.

Wandering hungry animals are a sign that lazy camp ground staff did not feed them properly. Well-fed animals won't come and bother you. Your Ranger can verify that all animals will be back in their cages by nightfall.

Putting up your tent.

Some use the location of the latrine as a factor in siting a tent. Since this is not a topic we like to think about, we will avoid it.

Preferably you will be in a nice meadow with soft grass. If the grass is too high you have a problem so trample it flat, then start a big fire.

The fire will be cheery and show which way the wind is blowing because things "down wind" will start burning from the sparks. Put your tent on the other side.

Ideally you should have practiced putting up your tent at home, but this is not practical in most apartments, so leave yourself plenty of time. Pound those big nail things into the ground and then put the rod things inside the special things sewn into the tent and pretty soon you are done. It couldn't be easier, really.

Finally, just to be safe in case some of the animals forgot to go back in their cages, start another fire, but far away from your tent. This is where you will cook to "throw them off the scent". (Animals are dumb.)

Cooking is easier than at home because camping food comes in colorful pouches. After supper throw a rope over a tree and "hang" your food and dirty dishes to keep other campers from being tempted.

Relax and enjoy the wilderness.

It's probably getting dark by now, so put on your gortecks camping sweater and break out the booze.

Ingredients for Camping Drinks:

  • Alcohol - Tequila, Vodka, or Gin
  • Juice - Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Coca-Cola, or Kool-Aid
  • Syrup - Maple Syrup is traditional for campers, but Karo or Mrs. Butterworth's is OK, or some Jam
  • Salt - (In case you sweated too much while getting your tent to work.)

Combine the ingredients and drink.

Traditionally, camping drinks are stirred with a stick of jerky. If this does not soften the jerky enough so you can eat it, try relieving the boredom by using it to stage sword fights. This is handy because if the alcohol and altitude go to your head, it is much harder to kill or maim any of your friends with jerky sticks than real swords (speaking from experience).

When the booze runs out it's time for bed. Luckily you drove here, so you can crawl into the back of your SUV, roll out your sleeping bag, and have a cozy night safe from all the kooks out there in the woods. Keep a loaded gun under your pillow, of course.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two Old Guys Lost On The Knob

Doing what they do best.

Shortly after the rescue...

Jim: Well, what the damn hell. I don't know how we ended up lost.

John: I believe it was when you decided to go left. That was the point right there, you ask me. I told you "Don't go left." Did you listen to me? No.

Jim: You old coot! I been hiking that mountain for 30, 40 years, and I don't make wrong turns. There ain't no turn up there I ain't been over a hundred times. Put on your glasses, man.

John: Where's the map? Let's have a looksee. Let me get my glasses on and I'll show you. Hey now look at this here. There it is, right there. See the junction? See one trail goes left and one goes right? If you'd a listened to me we would a been home yesterday for supper.

Jim: You can't prove nothin if you're flat out wrong, no matter how hard you talk it. Every time I look, there you are fumbling with those damn glasses and a map. That's probly what did it. You got us turned around.

John: Now here on the map it says on the left, here, right here it says this trail leads to Gobblers Knob and you said don't pay no nevermind to the map because you knew it was the way to Noble Knob. That's what you said, and look what happened. I almost froze my butt off last night because of that.

Jim: You know it didn't happen that way. You can't fool me. You had that map upside down again. I learned the difference between Gobblers Knob and Noble Nob while you were still pooping in your diapers. You went and got me confused. All that fussing around and stopping to take pictures and all, rattling that damn map of yours you keep pulling out every two minutes.

John: Now I distinctly remember you said go left. Insisted, you did. And that was it. I had the map out right in front of your nose, and my compass too, but no you was too smart for that. You didn't need no map you said. You didn't need no map because you been coming up here all your life. So there we was then, lost, and it's getting dark. Now that was a pisser.

Jim: Well I brought the whiskey, didn't I? We couldn't a made it without that. I pretty near saved your cussed fuzzy old tail, I guess, and now what? You act like this?

John: Damn right straight, you old fool. Whiskey or no, you would a froze up solid if I hadn't a had my emergency blanket with me. I should a let you go wander off and then you would a seen. Don't think I had a whole bunch a fun wrapped up with you in that thing all night, listening to you snore. I didn't even get a wink of sleep.

Jim: What the hell? I didn't sleep a full minute all night. I just dozed off now and then from boredom sitting there next you mumbling about stuff, all wrapped up in that crinkly damn thing. All that whining you got into about how you missed your wife and wishing you'd a stayed home and all. Maybe I should a kept walking. We could a got home sooner, dark or no.

John: Sure. Right. In the dark. You make enough wrong turns in broad daylight for a whole troop of boy scouts. I'd like to see you find your way to the end of your own driveway after dark. And without my helpful map skills. And I had the flashlight too.

Jim: Piss.

John: Here, have another donut you old fart. Earl here brought enough so's even you can't eat em all.

Jim: I got a little taste of whiskey left. Want some?

John: You held out on me? We could a died without enough whiskey for warmth. What kind of friend are you?

Jim: Well, if it came to that, I wanted us to go out in style, so I saved a bit. Where's your cup then?

John: Right here. Don't short me this time, you old cuss.

Jim: Piss.

More: Missing Hikers Found Safe Near Rainier

Monday, October 10, 2011


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