The Third Annual Weenie Man Expedition

(Continued from previous page.)

The following day was, of course, one of the most spectacularly beautiful days ever witnessed in the Smokies. As Rob and I enjoyed our hike up the mountain, we spotted Michael fishing the stream.

"Yo, Weenie Man!" I called out to Michael.

He spotted us, and came slowly hobbling out of the stream. He could barely walk.

"Boy, Michael, I hope I don't get sunburned today", I said, looking up at the bright sun and shooting a quick wink in Rob's direction.

"Yep. Glad I brought along my sunscreen", Rob chimed in with a grin. "Oh, by the way - how was the walk in yesterday?"

"You assholes already know how it was!", Michael yelled. "It rained like hell!"

Howling with laughter, Rob and I left Michael to hobble back down to the stream, and proceeded with our hike. A short while later we arrived at our campsite and were greeted by Gary and Mark. Mark handed me a cold beer, and Rob his favorite brand of root beer. It was heavenly. That's when Gary confessed to his beer-hiding prank.

Fishing spectator.
Fishing spectator.

"Yeah, yesterday, when we finally made it up here, Mark offered Michael and me a beer", he explained. "Michael and I looked at each other and though that Mark had caught us. Then he opens up his cooler and gives each of us an ice-cold beer. I couldn't believe he carried that heavy-ass cooler just for us. I gotta tell you, I almost felt bad about hiding those beers in his pack."

"Yeah, almost," said Mark. "I should have just sat down and drank all of them right in front of you."

Rob and I berated Gary, enjoyed our refreshments, and began to set up camp. Mark, ever the hardware designer, proudly showed the Rig Master a food-hanging contraption he had designed.

"Not bad for a rookie", Rob said, as he studied the rig.

"Hey", I asked, "is that not encroachment on the Rig Master's domain?"

"Oh, I don't mind a little assistance from a rookie," Rob replied. "But, I'll bet he didn't bring along one of these!", he said, as he produced a large tarp from his pack.

"Yeah," I said. "What did you guys do about the rain last night?" Then I spotted the unused fire ring. "God, I can't believe it! You slackers didn't even build a fire last night, did you?"

"It was so miserable eating supper in the rain last night. When we finished, we just went to bed," Gary admitted.

"Well, you can relax, boys," Rob said. "The Rig Man has arrived."

Before long, Rob had, using several miles of rope, rigged up a fine tarp over the eating area.

That night, the Weenie Men returned to their usual rituals. I, as Light Master, provided a candle lantern for the eating area and hung the ceremonial pâté can. The Fire Master built a campfire. The Bartender provided refreshments. When time came to hang our food for the night, the Rig Master stepped in.

This year, since I was, after all, the Light Master, I had purchased a Petzl head lamp. It was a nifty little contraption, and allowed me to shine a powerful beam of light without having to use either of my hands to hold a flashlight. I figured that this would lessen the chance of me misplacing my cigar or my bottle of Chevis, which normally occupied both my hands. What I had not figured on was the fact that, even in the darkness, one of the Weenie Men would discover the floral design on the headband of the lamp.

"Damn, Bean! You look like a San Francisco coal miner!" Michael announced. This brought howling laughter from the other Weenie Men. It wasn't long before they were all examining the lamp and adding their comments.

"I'm not so sure I want to be peeing in the woods with you around!" said Gary.

"At least we don't have to share a tent with him!" Mark added.

"Yeah. I'm glad my sleeping bag has a full length zipper!" Rob replied.

This was a decidedly disappointing turn of events for me. This year, in an attempt to reduce the amount of abuse heaped on me for my use of Tupperware to store my food, I had purchased a manly-looking bear-proof food container. All for naught. The head lamp brought me even more abuse. I have since been particularly careful in my selection of camping gear.

Later that night, we learned that Mark's wife was responsible for selecting a great deal of the food he had brought along on the trip. She had gotten into the spirit of things, actually allowing Mark to come along on the trip, and had done most of the shopping for him. Mark hadn't had the heart to refuse to bring along any of the items she had selected. One item, in particular, entertained the Weenie Men to no end. It was Jiffy Pop. Now, while Jiffy Pop may perform well on the stovetop, it is clear that its inventors never envisioned its use on a roaring campfire. True, a few kernels were heard to pop, but then, quite suddenly, it erupted into a flaming inferno. It produced blazingly bright, multicolored-colored flames nearly three feet tall before totally destroying itself. The Weenie Men commended Mark on his selection of entertainment, and requested that he bring Jiffy Pop on all future Weenie Man outings.

Jiffy Pop, beginning to blaze.
Jiffy Pop, beginning to blaze.

It was decided that Mark should be given, like the rest of us, an official Weenie Man title. For his brute strength in toting a 70-pound pack, a fishing rod, and a cooler, he was deemed the Load Master. Of course, the original Weenie Men, wishing to retain some mark of distinction for having participated in every single expedition, had to come up with some sort of group name to differentiate themselves from the common Weenie Man, like Mark. The need to come up with some name that might be used on tee shirts, ball caps, coffee mugs, and the likes, was also recognized. One doesn't quite feel comfortable gallivanting about the woods attired in a tee shirt reading "Weenie Man". Thus, the "Exalted Brothers of the Fraternal Order of the Tarp", or just "Order of the Tarp" for short, was born. And yes, there now exist official Order of the Tarp fishing caps and coffee mugs.

Early each morning (OK, actually around 9:00), the Weenie Men come crawling groggily from their tents. Mark was particularly groggy, given the fact he was getting almost no sleep at all. The combination of unusually cold nights and his sopping-wet boy scout sleeping bag were not very conducive to restful sleep. Minutes later, each morning, the hissing of little backpacking stoves can be heard, as the morning coffee and tea is prepared. A short time later, one of the Weenie Men will rise, go retrieve his little plastic spade, and announce, quite remorsefully, that "it's time climb the hill". All the other Weenie Men nod knowingly. They know what a trip up the hill means.

In your younger years, you might have referred to this task as "making number two", or, perhaps a "B.M.". Any Weenie Man worth his salt will fight it with all his might. I have personally witnessed shameful abuses of Immodium and other medications, all in a futile attempt to avoid climbing the hill.

For those of you who have never made a trip up the hill, imagine this scenario. It is time to go. At first, you try to fight the urge. This is sometimes successful. More often than not, however, this battle will be futile. You also know that should it actually be time, you mustn't tarry too long, for there are many hurdles awaiting you. First, you must actually climb the hill. Normally, this would be a relatively benign task. But, if you've unsuccessfully fought the urge and wasted some of your precious time, it can involve frighteningly quick footwork, all while tightly clenching muscles not meant to be clenched for extended periods of time. Once the mountain has been scaled, you must next take your little spade and dig a trench. (Remember, your drinking water comes from the creek at the bottom of the hill.) This trench digging requires bending over while still maintaining a tight clench on the aforementioned muscles. Finally, relief is at hand. But even this relief is not without its perils. You must squat. Sometimes, you must squat for extended periods of time. This can elicit heartfelt prayers that trembling leg muscles do not fail before the task is done. Then there's the toilet paper. If it's dry, it is one of the most prized possessions of any Weenie Man. It is handled with far more care than a $500 fly rod. The finale is accomplished by setting the toilet paper ablaze, then burying all traces of the task. I'd prefer napalm to the smell of toilet paper burning in the morning. Now, imagine accomplishing all of this in a 35-degree, pouring rain. Clearly, "climbing the hill" is a task despised by Weenie Men one and all.

This year, one of the Weenie Men made a most wonderful discovery. Far up the hill, way back in the woods, an old spackle bucket was found. In the bottom of the bucket, a hole had been cut. The Weenie Men knew in a flash what fine purpose this device was meant to serve. The Weenie Men would, for years to come, speak fondly of "The Bucket". It was a sad day on one of the more recent Weenie Man expeditions when it was discovered that some interloper had stolen the bucket. Shame on anyone who would steal a man's toilet seat.