Adventures of the Weenie Men
The First Annual Weenie Man Portrait
The First Annual Weenie Man Portrait
(Left to right: Rob, Gary, Fred, and Michael)

It all began innocently enough, back in 1991.

I was slacking off in my office, perusing the latest copy of Backpacker Magazine, when Gary Edwards, as was his custom, dropped by to assist me in slacking off. He spotted the magazine and immediately asked, "Hey, you a backpacker?"

Well, back then, Gary was the new guy around the office. I didn't want to tell him that it had been years (and many belt notches) since I'd last been on the trails. So, poking my chest out a bit, and mustering my most manly tone of voice, I nonchalantly replied, "Sure. Just been reading here about winter camping. Damn shame it doesn't snow enough around here to build a snow cave."

The conversation continued, escalating as conversations may when two manly men get together. Next thing I knew we had both agreed that we should round up a couple of other engineers from around the office and head out into the great outdoors. We would backpack far into the forest, catch trout for supper, drink straight liquor, defecate in the woods, and do all the manly things great outdoorsmen like ourselves enjoyed doing.

Clearly, things had gotten completely out of hand.

Gary and I immediately began the task of recruiting fellow Southern outdoorsmen to accompany us on this great adventure. The task was not quite as simple as we had first envisioned. The other engineers (pretty smart guys) weren't exactly lining up to take part. However, after several weeks of trying, we did manage to pressure two recruits into accompanying us on our great expedition.

The first recruit was Rob Rierson. I knew Rob was one hell of a bass fisherman, and might well be a great asset in the woods, 30 miles from the closest McFish sandwich. "Sure", he said, "I'll try catching some of those out-of-species fish." Rob had one other feature that made him a prime recruit. He actually owned a pair of hiking boots, purchased back when he was sixteen years old. And, he owned a backpack.

Our only other recruit was Michael Warren. We knew Michael was a hunter, and thus must have spent at least some time in the woods (albeit always within walking distance of a honey bun and a thermos of hot coffee back at the truck). Michael also had one other outstanding quality. He owned a fly rod, and actually knew how to use it. Should some interloper come upon us on the stream, we could allow Michael to skillfully cast a fly while the rest of us observed, as if critiquing his form. He'd make us all look good. A prime recruit, indeed.

Over the course of the next several weeks, we discussed the destination for our expedition. Michael wanted a place with good trout streams. I, being concerned over Michael's propensity for carrying firearms and his less than perfect eyesight, voted for a firearm-banning National Park. (No need in making this trip any more dangerous than it had already become.) Gary liked the idea of both. Rob just wanted us to make up our minds. Finally, it was decided. We would hike the Eagle Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Before long, we had formulated a plan. We would meet at Fontana Dock on October 3rd at 11:30 am. We would take two cars: Gary and Michael in the let's-stop-for-breakfast, let's-stop-by-the-tackle-shop, my-wife-doesn't-allow-smoking, let's-stop-for-souvenirs car, and Rob and me in the non-stop, let's-just-get-there, we'll-smoke-big-old-stogies truck. (Rob and I reasoned that we could get an extra two hours sleep that morning and still beat our comrades to the dock.) We would pay to have the Fontana Dock guys shuttle us across Fontana Lake to the mouth of Eagle Creek, dump us off, and return to pick us up October 6. We would spend four glorious days in the isolation of the Great Smoky Mountains.

And so, the adventure began. As Official Recording Secretary of The Weenie Men (Order of the Tarp), I have documented these great expeditions: