The First Annual Weenie Man Expedition

(Continued from previous page.)

After several hours of fishing, the sun began to set, and we all gathered back at camp for supper. We fired up a couple of little backpacking stoves and proceeded to prepare our freeze-dried meals. As we sat around enjoying a hot meal after a strenuous day of hiking and fishing, Rob remarked, "Man, this beef stroganoff is pretty tasty."

"Tasty!?", Michael yelled. "This shit tastes like Laotian throw-up! I can't believe you assholes talked me into buying this crap."

Needless to say, this would be the last year Mr. Warren would bring freeze-dried food.

Gary and Michael enjoy a fine meal of Laotian throw-up.
Gary and Michael enjoy a fine meal of Laotian throw-up.

As darkness settled in, we gathered firewood, and Michael soon had a fine campfire crackling before us. We began what would soon become a nightly ritual - hauling water up from the creek and boiling it to make it safe for drinking. Michael became quite irate at the rest of us for refusing to put our "prissy pots" on a grate he had brought along to put over the fire. We argued that we did not wish to cover our pots with soot as long as we had plenty of fuel for our stoves. Michael would stoke the fire to a point where his little metal grate would glow bright red, its metal bars twisting and contorting in the intense heat. He could boil up a sooty pot of smoky tasting water in no time flat.

As the water boiling ritual proceeded, I rigged up several chemical light sticks so we could see what we were doing. Gary returned from the darkness with a small bottle of Jack Daniels for himself and Michael, a bottle of Chevis Regal for me, and a root beer for Rob. This we deemed by all to be an outstanding act of kindness, given that liquids are such an ungodly heavy item to carry in one's backpack. Rob went to his food cache and returned with a monstrously large bag of chocolate chip and M&M cookies, big enough to feed all of us and half of Swain County. He said that his girlfriend Rita (who was later to become his wife) had prepared them. Even though they weighed a ton, he didn't have the heart to leave any at home. They were delicious, and we were all quite pleased that he'd been strong enough to carry them. He also offered up fine Dominican cigars for all who cared to partake.

As the libation flowed, and the conversation and laughter increased, it was decided that a fine band of campers such as ourselves should have official titles. Gary, quite naturally, was deemed "The Bartender". The title for Michael was a toss-up between "Rain God", for his ability to predict the weather, and "Fire Master", for his campfire building skills. As unpredicted inclement weather set in a few days later, the Fire Master title stuck. Rob, for his expertise in rigging up hoists for our food, and for coming equipped with miles of rope, was deemed the "Rig Master" (or "Rigman", for short). I, for apparent lack of any other redeeming quality, was given the title "Light Master" (with ancillary duties as the "Official Recording Secretary").

And so it was. The Bartender, Fire Master, Rig Master, and Light Master all sat staring at the campfire, spinning tales of the day's trout fishing exploits.

At some point during this night, one of our band coined the phrase "Weenie Men", perfectly describing our collective ineptitude at this backpacking and trout catching stuff. Perhaps it was due to our refusal to get our cooking pots sooty. Maybe it was due my use of Tupperware as camping gear. It could have been due to Gary's near-death rock-on-a-rope experience. Maybe it was due to Michael's complete disdain of freeze-dried food and constant lagging on the trail. It could have been due to Rob's monster bag of girlfriend cookies. In any event, "Weenie Man" was a fitting description for each of us, and the label has stuck for all these years. Fortunately for the person responsible for coining this phrase, its exact origins are lost to history.

As the campfire began to die, and the night's ration of liquor and cigars ran low, we Weenie Men decided to retire for the night. Rob strategically placed a large stick at the door of our tent, for use in poking any marauding bears that might visit our camp during the night. Gary and Michael headed off toward their tent. Michael was armed with cutlery of every description, also ready for any trouble-making bears. With visions of attacking bears dancing in our head, we were slowly lulled to sleep by the sounds of Eagle Creek splashing down the mountain.

About 3:00 in the morning, something jarred me from my sleep. "Grrrrrrrr!", followed by several seconds of deafening silence, then "Grrrrrrrrr!" again. I looked over at Rob. He too had been awakened by the sound.

"Man, did you hear that?", I whispered.

"Yeah", Rob answered. "Wonder what it is?"

We lay awake in our dark tent, straining to hear further signs of an intruder. Seconds later, there was another "Grrrrrrrr, grrrr, grrrr". Every few seconds, the sound would come again from the darkness of the woods.