Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Definitions: Cone

This is from the Latin word "conus", meaning a wedge, or a peak, or basically anything unnecessarily pointy.

If you sleep on the ground then a cone can be a pine cone, a fir cone, a spruce cone, a twig, a stone, a shard of bark, a piece of glass, a rusty nail, teeth of a dead animal, or anything that keeps you from getting the rest you need, no matter how thick your sleeping pad is.

If you happen to sleep on unnoticed animal poo, well that stuff will not keep you awake the first night because it is so soft. (Mmmm, soft.) But you will find it the next day and just the thought of it will prevent you from sleeping for the next few nights. At least.

You get extra points if you manage to pack up in the morning without realizing that your new poo buddy is there, and then get the stuff smeared all over the inside of your pack and everything you carry there.

You get lifetime champion status points if you put your pack in some nice soft poo while setting up camp after sundown and then use your pack under your knees all night, and triple lifetime champion status bonus points if you do this while using a backpacking hammock, and manage to smear poo all over the inside of the hammock, the outside of your sleeping bag, your jammies, and of course have it all over your pack too.

Guess who did that once?


We few, we grumpy few, we rumply-hat geezers say to you Effort or Eff it. No sniveling then.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Definitions: Bug Tent

(1) A bug tent is the place you dump your least favorite hiking companions, in hopes that overnight they will eat each other so you no longer have to hear them, see them, or deal with the idiot things they do to bug you all day. Or if not that, you hope that hordes of wild insects will take care of them for you. And sometimes that works out.

(2) A bug tent is a doll-sized tent to accommodate your pet cockroach Tina, so she can come backpacking with you. Which is what you've always wanted. Because that's the kind of person you are. Kind. And creepy. Which is why your trail name is Bugger. Which is yet another reason why everyone keeps far, far, far away from you. Far.

(3) A bug tent is a refuge from the most ravenous, persistent, and least predictable predators out there, most of which can fly, and all of which have more legs than you do, and use them to run ever so fast, and show ferocious persistence in homing in on your tasty, deliciously-salted flesh.

Typically, this sort of tent is just like a regular tent but without a rain fly, and consists of mesh strung over a frame. And it may be a regular tent from which you have temporarily removed the rain fly.

It can also be a frameless but well-architected mesh bag hanging under a tarp or a purpose-made job fitting inside a single-walled tarp tent. Mostly these meshy things are used for overnight sleeps on clear nights, but can also serve as places to eat meals safe from the nippy ones.

On slow days some people enjoy sitting inside their bug tents and pulling the little probing mosquito beaks off the heads of those critters as they relentlessly poke and poke through the mesh, hungry for blood.

(4) The last refuge for the bug-crazed, i.e., backpackers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Definitions: Animal Unit

(1) This is another meat-in-a-box type of bureaucratic definition which stands in for one cow, one horse, five sheep, five goats, or four reindeer, provided they are all more than six months old. Six months in cow years means you're old enough to go into a bar and drink brew and moo without your parents. But if you're a reindeer you have to go in groups of four, I guess.

Who comes up with this crap?

(2) Or an animal unit could be your hiking partner, if you haven't yet gotten past the point of tolerance for his annoying habits and dismembered him. If you have already done this (the dismembering thing), then let's say just for fun and a more complete feeling of accomplishment that each piece counts as a separate unit, no matter how old they are, or what they smell like now, which couldn't be worse than how your hiking partner smelled before you converted him into kit form, right? It happens.

Footnote: In the interests of political correctness, equality, basic fairness, gender interchangeability, and all the rest, let's say that as used above, the terms "him", "they", "cow", "horse", "sheep", "goat(s)", "reindeer", "parents", and "bureaucrat" may be taken to refer to arbitrary units consisting of female, male, indeterminate, multiple, shifting, and who-the-screaming-fork-cares gender identifications, made either self-referentially by that specific meat-unit or applied to them, hem, hir, he, zhe, zer, she, (s)he, "s/he", hse, that, they, those, them, etc. by others. Are we OK with that? (If not, then you can always bark at the dark on nights with no moon.)

Examples from way back...

I love hir so tenderly that hir spottes, her blemishes and hir warts are deare unto me. -- "The Story of Paris", by Thomas Okey (Possibly a farm animal aficionado, but who can say? And is that a bad thing? What?)

She loked in the glasse, and was greatly displeased with hir self. -- Shakespeare (Citation uncertain, and did hse have reason to be "displeased with hir self" or was it some unfortunate artifact of the repressive culture zhe lived in? Etc.)

And I ioon (John) saigh the hooli citee ierusalim newe comynge doun fro heuene maad redi of god as a wyf ourned to hir husbonde. -- "The White Rose of Langley", by Emily Sarah Holt (Who was possibly and/or probably a womon.)

For more, see "Animal Unit Month", if you can stand more, whenever it was, will, or should have been posted.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Definitions: Bear Encounter

(1) When Harvey went for a walk that evening he was in for a surprise.

The sun had just set, and way over on the other side, near the horizon, the full moon was just starting its trip up into the sky.

The day had been warm but not really hot, and the evening air was calm, still warm, and heavy with the fragrance of many early summer blossoms.

Harvey felt good. Harvey felt at home. Harvey was at home. Harvey lived in the woods. Harvey liked the peace and quiet there. On an evening like this, just after supper but before bedtime, well, that was a good time to go for a walk.

Not a long walk. A short walk. Just enough. And then to bed.

Harvey felt really, really good. This would be fine. A little way down the path Harvey heard the happy sound of the little happy creek. His very own little happy creek. His little clear cool clean friend where he could always go for an invigorating drink of fresh icy water. The happy splashy creek, his friend.

Harvey came to the creek and continued along the path beside it, happy as could be. This was a fine evening, no doubt about that. Harvey thought that he would walk down to the bend in the creek, and then to the next bend beyond that. There he would have a drink, and turn around and walk home again, where he would climb into his bed and sleep a sound and contented sleep.

Life was good, but.

Just beyond the first bend Harvey heard a strange sound, a sound he had never heard before. The sound sounded like an animal, a strange animal making a strange sound. Harvey was not sure what to do so he kept walking. He wanted to see what this strange animal was, but he was not sure what he would do if he saw it.

So Harvey kept walking, but more slowly.

Before long Harvey saw the animal. It was a strange animal indeed.

Ah! It was many animals. Yes.

One animal with several friends, perhaps. They were all the same kind of animal, one that Harvey had never seen before.

They were sitting in a circle, something that normal animals never did, or almost never. Anyway, Harvey had never seen animals do that. And in the middle of the circle was another strange sight. There was a small pile of wood and it made a light, and something else (Harvey did not know what) stood right above the pile, on top of it.

It looked like streaming long feathers standing straight and waving at the sky but it was not a bird and it was not a bird's feathers and though the feathers kept waving and almost flying they never seemed to go anywhere. And they were very, very bright feathers, of many colors.

Harvey had never in his whole life seen a thing like this.

And then Harvey smelled food. He thought it was food. And if it was food, well the food smelled good.

The food smelled a smell that Harvey had never smelled before. It was a fine smell.

Harvey did not know until then that food could smell so strange and yet so wonderful. Harvey could not help himself. He had to go see.

Even though Harvey had already eaten he had to go see this food and see why it smelled so good, and maybe get a bite. Perhaps?

Harvey was not sure what the new animals would do but he thought they looked kind. Maybe they could all be friends. Harvey liked having friends. Maybe these new animals would invite him to have a bite or two. Harvey hoped so.

So Harvey walked on and drew closer. As he got closer and closer he got a better and better view of the new and strange animals visiting his yard. They were exceedingly strange animals.

They were long and thin and used only their hind legs and had odd wrinkly pelts that flapped around as the animals moved. Harvey knew all the animals in his woods and there were none like these.

Not a one.

These animals were very strange, and loud. They made loud and strange sounds, odd sounds, sounds that other animals would never think of making, or would want to make.

Most animals were quiet, but not these.

These animals jumped around a lot too, one or another of them. Odd indeed, odder and odder, but they did not look dangerous, really. So.

Harvey was puzzled, and unsure, but the food smelled so good that he thought he would invite himself in and see what happened. If they shared their food with him, he thought, then maybe tomorrow he could share some of his food with them. Harvey knew where the best, tenderest grasses stood, and where the ground squirrels were easy to catch. And where the honey grew.

He could share some honey. Surely they would want that. Wouldn't they? They would!

So Harvey kept walking, very quietly, for though his feet were large and flat they were soft on their bottoms, and Harvey had four of them to spread his weight around, and he always walked carefully so as not to hurt the earth.

Then Harvey came to the last shrub between the path and the new animals visiting his home, and he stepped off the path and out from behind that shrub and looked at the animals gathered before him. He was sure that they would all be friends together soon.

He hoped so.

Harvey stepped forward, drawn by the smell of food. The food was all on sticks, and it looked a bit like the pods of cattail plants but sideways somehow, all glistening and looking delightfully oily and rich.

And the smell! The smell! The aroma!

Harvey could not believe how good it all smelled and he began to drool.

This will be fine, he thought as he stepped forward.

But Harvey got a shock. Something happened. Something surprising.

The animals there, the new ones, all jumped up from their circle and stood right up on their hind legs. All of them. Every one of them.

Some of them dropped their sticks. Some of them made loud noises. One of them shrieked and ran away.

Harvey did not like the sounds at all. Harvey was doubtful, but he hoped that they were welcoming him in their own odd way, so he stepped forward and bit the piece of food closest to him, on the stick on the ground, to show that he accepted their offer of friendship.

The flavor was incredible! Amazing! Harvey had never tasted anything at all like that. It was warm and soft and spicy. And good!

So many spices, so many flavors all mixed together, so much better than ground squirrel, Harvey thought. So! Much! Better! Oh, this would be fun!

Harvey thought he would like some more. But the circle of animals seemed upset. They had all pulled away from Harvey, and as Harvey stepped toward the next morsel some of the new animals picked up big shiny things and made an awful noise.

Awful! Nasty! Banging! Noise!

Then one of these animals threw a stone and hit Harvey on the shoulder.

A stone! Thrown! At Harvey! And it hit! And it hurt!

Harvey had never seen such a thing happen. Harvey did not know that stones could be picked up, or thrown, or that they could hurt so much.

Ow! Harvey did not like this any more.

Luckily he got the second piece of food before the whole situation became painful, but after that, well, it got painful.

The odd upright animals were all throwing things, or banging on things and screeching dreadfully. Harvey was not sure if they were in pain, or dying of hunger, or delighted to see him in some very strange way, but the sounds were not pleasant, and neither was it pleasant to be pelted by stones. And branches and clods of earth, which were now raining down on him as well.

Harvey thought that maybe they were not delighted to see him after all.

Then one of the strange visitors to Harvey's yard picked up a piece of wood from the bright feathery pile they had been sitting around, and this stick or branch or whatever was bright on one end and had one of those strange long feathers swirling around it and the animal threw all that at Harvey, and it hit. OW! It hit Harvey.



Harvey got a hard bite on his ear and it hurt! A lot! And it kept hurting!

The thing was a bit of a tree branch, but it was bright and hot on one end, somehow like the sun, and it bit him!

This was not good at all, Harvey thought.

The evening had started so pleasantly, so wonderfully, so calm and fine, and Harvey had only wanted to take a short, quiet walk before bed. Harvey had not wanted this. The intruders in his yard, the smell of food, the bright biting thing, the screeching, the noise, the banging, the stones.

It was all too much.

Harvey had hoped at first to find some new friends but this was not looking very good at all, and Harvey turned to go home. Sadly, but he turned. He would just leave.

Harvey was sure that something was wrong here but he did not know what it could be. Obviously something was very wrong, and it seemed that the best thing to do was to go back home. He hoped that everything would be better by morning.

So Harvey turned, and instead of going out to the path, and walking home along it, near his little friend the little icy happy brook, Harvey crossed the trail and plunged into the deep deep dark woods and made a long walk of it, to his home, in silence.

He needed time to think, and some time to settle down.

True, he had gotten a bite of food, and that was good, and he would like some more of that warm and oily spicy food, but his ear hurt where the branch had bitten him back, his pelt was full of dirt, and his feelings were bruised as well.

Badly hurt. Badly, badly hurt.

Harvey had only wanted a snack and some new friends no matter how they looked (Harvey did not care how strange they looked, not at all, for the great wide wonderful world was completely full of strange wonderful things. And surprising friends.) but something had gone wrong and Harvey wanted to get over it, so he took the long way home.

So at least Harvey had a good long walk home.

A good long walk.

By the time Harvey got to his nest he was tired, and had almost forgotten everything that had happened. All was quiet again, and the sky was dark. The moon was way, way up in the sky where it belonged, and the air was beginning to cool the way the night air always cools so wonderfully.

"Good sleeping weather," Harvey thought to himself, "I should sleep well tonight. At least I should sleep well."

He curled up in his nest of grasses and clean dry mosses and fell asleep, feeling only a mild burning around the edge of his left ear, not quite painful, not quite enough to keep him awake, but not pleasant at all.

And then he fell asleep.

And so ended the encounter between the Boy Scouts and the marauding killer bear who savagely attacked them on their very first campout in the woods.

(2) A casual meeting. A short but minor fight. A hostile disagreement, face to face. A confrontation.

(3) A misunderstanding, that's all. It happens. Sometimes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Definitions: Bayou

(1) Your point of view, as imagined by someone else: "Is that OK bayou, then?" Never meant sincerely.

(2) A small but hurtful piece of water. More correctly but less colorfully pronounced as "bay ow". The hurt may be caused by a large number of biting amphibious mud-suckers, over-aggressive mosquitoes, or simply by falling out of a boat onto sharp, pointy sticks, which happen to be quite common in these waters.

(3) Water that is wet but not really happy about it.

This form of water never raises its voice in song, doesn't burble or prance gaily, splashingly, or otherwise, down a sunshine-dappled mountainside covered with mossy boulders and speckled with brilliantly-colored flowers.

This water does not roar mightily or make giant sucking sounds, though some of the things that live in it might. In fact most of them do. Often. During the hours of darkness.

Pretty generally speaking, this is water that is severely, clinically depressed.

Dark, sluggish, barely moving, bayous are as one expert has said "usually located in low-lying areas" unlike your hilltop-dwelling lakes or your cliff-hugging rivers or your artesian wells that just squirt up right out of nowhere and go zooming around all over, making happy cackling sounds.

No, folks, the Choctaw Indians had it right. For them the word was "bayuk", meaning either "a small, sluggish stream" or alternately, as we more highly educated individuals might put it now, a bay of yuk, a pit of muck, a miasma of regret.

Your average bayou is clogged with creepy soft wet plants that you're afraid might follow you home, and is a natural habitat for lots of semi-conscious angry things with strange evil desires and too many legs. Things you might have dreamed of once, but were relieved to find, in the light of day, didn't really exist.

Well, they do exist after all, and lurk in bayous, and they're waiting for you to come for a visit some day, and then they'll show you what "depressed" is all about. Yessir, they just may.

Your education will commence when you hear that sucking sound right behind you, coming your way.

Source: How to talk in the woods.