This is part of the story of a motorcycle road trip I made with some Navy buddies a couple years ago….
Some small pieces of the story have been changed so I don’t get one of my friends’ panties in a big ole bunch.
And just so’s I can preserve what ever small amount of dignity I can muster from even having been there for all that.
A couple of my friends and I found ourselves dragging our buddy ‘Top’ out of the Cherokee Casino,
…. after he had a slight disagreement with them over whose responsibility it was to pay for him holding the losing hand in poker —
From Top’s perspective, it was the casino’s tough luck that he lost.
From the Casino’s, it was more like :
We got your money, now get out.
He din’t wanna go.
But from OUR perspective,
The idea of us all getting locked up by the Cherokee Police Department for even knowing/hanging around with such a knucklehead was completely harshing our mellow…
So, we semi-forcibly extricated our buddy Top from said premises–
with the last vestiges of his pride and money–
……… and we exited stage left, and stat like.
It seemed logical enough that the local constabulary had already been notified of Top’s little temper tantrum,
– and as soon as they were finished charging up their taser guns,
they would be on their way,
to see just who it was that needed a good lesson in manners.
And heaven knows, we all do.
But, Top’s crazy enough already …
…. Paraquat and Agent Orange can have that effect on people…
and, any high voltage might send his mind completely into lala land..
Delaware Dave had just gotten released from 30 days in the hole for some drunken temper tantrum at a toll booth on the Jersey Turnpike…
And none of the rest of us really looked forward to a tour of the area in the back of a brand new Crown Vic, either.
So we buzzed off.
Our plan now was to head for the large piece of property Brick Face and his ex-wife own near Bryson City,
…. set up camp and kinda figure out what we wanted to do from there….
This property has been owned by Brick Face’s family for generations..
…. and when he and his wife were getting separated
(I don’t think they ever finished all the paperwork on the actual dee-vorce…) ,
… they had an agreement written up that she could keep the beautiful and spacious double wide trailer with the kiddie-pool turned hot-tub and the customized built in gun safe….
Brick Face could continue to use the property, but not the house.
The house was, like, off limits.
That didn’t bother Brick Face, though…
He had a coupla bikes,
an old pickup and his tools —
stashed away safely in the barn on “his side” of the property —
(about 1000 wooded, mountainous acres or so);
….. and he was quite content with the arrangement.
Of course, if he ever wanted anything out of that barn,
I have no idea how’d he get at it,
……. since it was so crammed full of stuff,
there wasn’t room for a chipmunk in the rafters.
Ah well…. onward.
So, he called his ex-wife Martha to let her know he was coming……
…………………… or at least, I guess he called her.
Certainly, she was expecting him.
‘Cause as we rode up the long gravel road leading to the property,
she was walking down, accompanied by a doofy looking dude,
….. and a considerably shortened —
(and probably illegally shortened, I might add) shotgun.
Its always nice to feel welcome, ya know?
Anyhoo, as I said, she was expecting HIM–
….. but apparently NOT him and 5 of his crazy friends.
I don’t guess she wasn’t all that happy to see ANY of us…..
……………… but, especially not me.
I guess I oughta explain that Martha Mae and I have …. errrr….. let’s say a history.
She doesn’t like me, my face, my mother, my motorcycle, my heritage, my friends–
……. or anything else that has anything with any trace of my DNA in or on it.
Now, you, as perfectly rational and reasonable person might be askin’:
How could anybody dislike such a wonderful, kind, sweet, utterly charming individual such as myself???
Well, I got no idea.
But if you ask her, she’ll tell you some cock n bull stories about:
– a harrowing ride on the back of my bike through the Parrot Lounge,
or how I’m a bad influence, and always getting Brick Face in trouble,
or how I hassled her daddy so bad at the airport one time he missed his flight,
or how I called her a “pirates dream” cause of her sunken chest,
or how I carry my smelly old gym bag everywhere I go,
or any one of a number of other stories to which, I, under my rights under the Fifth Amendment,
— have no response other than “having no recollection”.
She also says I pinched her butt in the kitchen one time.
Which I couldn’t have done,
—– cause no one’s seen her butt in 30 some years.
The girl’s got NO butt. True story.
How can anyone live without a butt?
Again, I have no idea.
She took one hard look at us, as we putted/slid up to her through the ten inch deep gravel, and then glanced over to her goofus-doofus new boyfriend –
….. with a look like she just saw the guy in the White Nightgown.
Why the shotgun?
Again, as I say so many times whenever I’m talking about Martha Mae…
I have no idea.
Amongst the noise of V-twin engines and crunching gravel,
I couldn’t make out the initial explanation, when Brick Face asked the same very obvious question—
… but I later learned that there had been a big bear trying to gain access to the trailer,
and she and ‘Two-Fer’ —-
(that became her boyfriend’s new nickname –
I dunno what his real name was,
but I thought this one I gave him was especially appropriate,
…. cause he’s only got two teeth on the top front.)
….. had been concerned for Brick Face’s safety.
She went on to say that is wonderful to see us all (oh, and “HI Chris!!!”) , and that she hoped that we’d make ourselves comfy over by the barn.
Two-Fer said nothing,
….. he was too busy trying (unsuccessfully) to look intimidating.
Like if Brick Face wanted to,
….he couldn’t blow that guy outta there with a sneeze.
As I slid through the gravel past the weasel,
… I noticed he didnt have a butt either.
Probably matched his spine.
We continued to climb the hill and turned toward the barn,
……… and the yellow roof of the outhouse.
I guess you could call it an outhouse, cause it was OUT, and it was once sorta shaped like a house.
But if you were looking for walls, you were gonna be in for a disappointment.
The last hurricane, (which didn’t come nowhere near the place), had supposedly blown the walls down, and no one had had the spare time to repair it.
So, if you wanted privacy or a warm place to read, well, you’d have to ‘head’ for the house-
— but it was out…, I mean… , off-limits.
Under the joist of what remained of the roof was a stack of last year’s newspapers…..
– I’m sure Mister Whipple would have been appalled, but you use what you got.
The area where we were gonna set up tents was nice, flat, and had a nice layer of pine needles all around…
…….. a couple inches of that stuff under your bag and you’ll sleep like a baby.
There was also a granite fire ring, which would work for cooking and warmth…
— a good thing, because as the light was fading, the temp had started to drop noticeably.
I had almost forgotten the cold until I saw Martha Mae in that thin t-shirt.
Nippy, ain’t it?
(hey- didn’t I use that joke already?)
Oh well, so much for Martha Mae’s best feature.
(…. and they were kinda friendly looking, I admit … )
We got set up pretty quick.
My cheap-ass 50’s-era pup tent is absolutely nothing fancy, but one thing you say about it-
— it’s easy to put up.
I’ve been using one like it since I was a Boy Scout…
They call it a ‘pup’ tent because there’s just enough room for a puppy.
But I make do, man.
And aside from the obvious limitations when it comes to having company over, it works fine, in dry weather.
I’ve made some modifications to it for wet weather, but it’d be better all around if it just stays dry.
I was busy reminding the Weather Gods of that fact…
– – when someone finally got the idea to check the state of our provisions.
Lessee….. I’m thinking…. a case of beer and some trail mix.
Well, that oughta hold us for the night.
Wait…. whatdayamean…… NO BEER?
There had been a case of beer stashed away in Brick Face’s trike, but some party or parties unknown had been clandestinely dippin’ into the beer stash apparently, during the various stops for gas, oil, more trail mix, Top, and that horrible lunch in Cherokee.
Can’t do without beer.
It’s the Breakfast of Champions.
Me, I couldn’t care less.
I had my secret stash of Gatorade mix.
I don’t drink that yeasty stuff anymore.
Ever since that Motorhead concert in Atlanta…….
— when I got ‘removed’ because I was carryin on back stage without a pass —
What can I say…
I thought I was Lemmy.
I coulda passed for him, too…
I was just as incoherent.
But this state of beerlessness would not be permitted to stand fer long.
A hunting party of volunteers was immediately drafted to arrange for additional
supplies of brewery fresh product from the local convenience store.
They had a long list of what everybody wanted…
– all kinds of beers, some of which I never even heard of.
These were the same choosy palettes that had killed off that case of High Life like it was champagne, and not just the “champagne of beers”.
What these intrepid volunteers didn’t realize-
– and what Brick Face had somehow forgotten to tell ‘em–
was that Swain County was one of those charming anachronisms of the Old South-
—— a dry County.
Not completely dry- you could buy beer in Bryson City—
– at the same convenience store behind which Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph was finally caught, scrounging in the dumpster-
—————— but this was SUNDAY night.
no. No. NO.
Well, off they rode into the twilight, in search of the elusive elixir.
Me and BrickFace went looking for firewood.
Mikey and Delaware Dave stayed behind, to work on Mike’s fancy, high dollar, easy-to-assemble tent that ended up taking two hours and some jury-rigged parts to finally come together.
Firewood was easy to find… it was all over the place.
Which is a lucky thing, since the axe was in the barn, and we were too lazy to dig it out.
We had gone about 400 yards up a slope to where some nice hardwoods had fallen, and I had an armload of some really primo firewood- turned – and said something to Brick Face.
No Brick Face.
I looked around… no sign of him.
It was getting darker,
but he was big and ugly enough,
that you would need an awful lotta dark before he’d be hard to see.
And he was nowhere around.
I was about to yell some select obscenity or other,
…. when I smelled something unusual.
As I was trying to place that smell,
I saw something move – high up – sorta behind a tree about 100 feet west of me, between me and the setting sun.
Whatever it was, it was moving the tree around.
And then, I knew what it was.
That thing high up on that tree was the back of one big ole brown bear.
He was paying no attention to me, though.
His back was itchy and he couldnt reach it.
Boy, do I know that feeling.
I know he saw me–
he looked right at me,
…. with a look that was sorta like my daughter used to make when you served her a plate of green bean casserole.
But, I figure, to that bear,
I didn’t look like a particularly better back scratcher than that Hickory tree.
Good news fer me.
I smiled a “nice to see ya, buddy” smile, and backed slowly down the hill.
Well, the last time I saw him, he was still scratching himself.
Long may he scratch.
I got down the hill about 3/4 of the way, before I almost tripped over Brick Face, who was on the ground moaning like a cow with an udder ache.
He had seen the bear, and – without trying to warn his old buddy, of course-
—- had gone tearing down that hill like his ass was on fire.
He had fallen over a huge stump, which had sprained his ankle, put a huge knot on his head,
– and he had also somehow acquired one of the biggest, ugliest looking splinters in his hand that I have ever had the misfortune to see.
I had to make a choice.
Drop my hard-earned firewood, or leave him to freeze.
Remembering how much warning he’d given me upon sighting the bear did not help make my choice any easier, I can tell ya.
I even toyed with the idea of just coming back for him later, once I had gotten a fire going.
Oh hell, I guess I’m just an old softie.
( and of course, we were on his property…… )
I begrudgingly helped him limp on back to the barn, hoping against hope that I’d be able to find my firewood again in all that high grass……..
( I did… with no trouble. Thanks for asking. )
He wanted to continue on to the house, so off we limped.
I banged on the door of the double wide, and Two-Fer opened the door.
“Yeah?”, he asked in a kinda surly manner that made me wanna pull his kidneys out…
He looked like he was fixin’ to just slam the door on us, when Martha Mae stuck her head out —
“What iz….. ”
Well, she took one look at the condition of Brick Face, and she shoved –
and I do mean, –SHOVED–
‘Two Fer’ out of the door and off the step
…… trying to get to her ex.
Two-Fer wasn’t expecting that,
….. and he hit the ground like a bag of mulch.
I laughed, and then told her what had happened.
I showed her the mutant splinter, and told her about the bump and his ankle.
She blamed me, of course.
We helped Brick Face into the house…
Two-Fer came back in, and was grumblin somethin under his breath…..
Martha Mae barked at him to “go home”.
And just like that, he off and went .
I can’t see that the creep had much choice, though.
Any resistance would have been hazardous to his health.
Martha Mae coulda took him easy.
I didn’t see Brick Face for two days after that.
I guess Martha Mae was nursing him back to health.
She was nice enough to inform me- the next morning- that the operation to remove the splinter had been a complete success.
She also brought out some homemade biscuits and ham.
It sure beats trail mix, anyway.
Still, I’m figurin Brick Face was eatin’ much, much better.
Ahhhhh, life —- funny, ain’t it ?
If, by some crazy mis-direction of the fickle finger of fate,
you’re not tired of reading this very long story yet,
there’s plenty more where that came from —
….. for instance, do you wanna see how this whole thing started?
Well, then, read : “On The Road With Your Ole Uncle Nuts“, here.