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Prior to loading my van with empty aluminum cans, I squeezed in a greenhorn Grant Countian for their first unique adventure into the isolated Canadian wilderness. The greenhorn had me stop at an ATM machine to pick up cash for the trip. My son and I had to snicker about the incident.
We crossed the border at Port Huron, breezed through Sarnia, Ontario, and made our first stop deep into the northland. The greenhorn ordered a horseburger and fries. (When in the Canadian wilderness, never ask what kind of meat you are eating unless you really want to know.)
"Do you want gravy?" the waitress said.
"Why would I want gravy?" replied the greenhorn.
The waitress slowly pulled a fish filet knife halfway out of the sheath on her belt and let it drop back in.
The greenhorn then asked for "cat-chup," (catsup, ketchup),
"Why don't you just let me erp all over it," the waitress said while walking away. Then she returned with the roadkill burger and fries covered in gravy. Before the greenhorn could speak she pulled out the filet knife and pointed it to a sign on the broken tabletop jukebox. The sign read, "There ain't another restaurant for 943 kilometers so you don't get it your way. The Management."
The greenhorn walked up to the cigar box cash register with the intent to pay with American money. Seems someone said this could be done and, indeed, in years past either Canadian or American currency was accepted. However, this is 2008 and li'l Bush has been president for eight years.
He handed the waitress the money and immediately laughter erupted. The laughter spread throughout the restaurant with my son and I among the loudest.
"If I had a couple dozen of these dollars I could maybe re-line a cabinet shelf," the waitress said, wiping away happy tears.
My son and I quickly came to the rescue of the greenhorn. We paid off his $7.45 bill plus 35-cent tip by handing over 78 empty aluminum cans. We gave her three more cans as an extra tip.
Holding an empty Save-A-Lot root beer can, the waitress said, "Now this is worth something."
Our cabin was far removed from the busy world. Cell phones could not get a signal. No television or radio waves intruded and there was a void of people and things associated with people. Wildlife was everywhere.
We gave porcupines and the skunk that lived under the cabin lots of space. On a hike in the thick woods, we came across a momma grouse that didn't seem to think twice about our size as she placed herself between us and her chicks and attacked our feet.
Giant brown herons towered above the landscape. One dropping could kill a man without a hat. "A brown heron would be a good symbol for the conservatives," I said.
Fishing was good. We caught fish that could remove fingers or a hand in one bite. I would put my hand into their gills and into the back of their mouths and make a fist so that I would avoid the teeth. Then I would strong-arm the behemoth into the boat. We would have to go to shore because the boat could only hold one fish and us at a time. The boats were only 16 feet long.
One moonless dark night, I was in a cabin about 50 yards from the second cabin. I heard a ruckus and someone scream out, "bear...bear!"
I threw on my Speedos and ran toward the noise. All I could see was a light coming from the cabin. I was in a full run when I smashed full bodied into what seemed like the back of a hairy sailor. The collision bounced me back about 3 yards. My eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness and vision was being restored to me.
My collision had been with a 7-foot black bear but, instead of showing anger and aggression, the bear gave me an expression of fear. I couldn't be sure but I think the bear actually took its paw, protruded a finger and pointed down.
There between us moved the skunk that looked very annoyed.
The bear indicated that she had been on the receiving end of this particular skunk varmint and was praying upon my sympathies to not make any sudden moves or do anything humanly stupid.
I turned and ran like heck as I heard the "speeeew" and the chagrined and highly disappointed roar of the bear. If I could have interpreted the growling cry I think it would have said, "Why? Why did you do this to me?"
On one occasion, out on the water, we came across another human. An old man in another small boat slowly approached us as we rode upon three-foot waves.
"Hey," he yelled when he was near. "I'm from Ohio. Where are you from?"
"Kentucky," we said.
"Well, do you have any toilet paper?" he asked.
"Let me check my tackle box," said the greenhorn to the confused look on my son's face.
"Nope," said the greenhorn, "But we have minnows."
My son and my own expressions showed deeper confusion.
"Darn," said the man from Ohio as he motored over the watery horizon.
I looked at my son and said, "I have no idea how to use this in a column."
(Ken Stone is publisher of the Grant County News. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 824-3343.)