The Fifth Annual Weenie Man Expedition

(Continued from previous page.)

I hurried up the trail to where Mark was working the fish. Eventually, it appeared as if the fish had gotten off his line, and he carefully swung his line out of the stream.

"Oh, man! Did it get away?" I asked.

"Naw, man. Look!"

Mark's monster fish.
Mark's monster fish.

There, in the palm of Mark's hand, was the cutest little baby trout you'd ever want to see. Fiercely guarding his own little stretch of the stream, this crazy little predator had attacked Mark's lure. And, the lure was almost bigger than he was. We laughed and laughed.

"I ought to use the little sucker as bait!" Mark laughed.

By late that afternoon, it was becoming apparent that something was amiss. A warm breeze had begun to blow from the south. Clouds began to build. They would occasionally block the sun as they raced high over the mountains.

Gary releases another fine trout.
Gary releases another fine trout.

That night, around the campfire, one of the Weenie Men asked Rob and I to repeat the last forecast we had heard before leaving civilization. We both reported that a high pressure system had been predicted to move down out of the north, clearing skies, and steering the hurricane down in the Gulf in a westerly direction. I glanced at my barometer.

That's right. I glanced at my barometer. Being one of the more weenie of the Weenie Men, and a true gadget nerd at heart, I always wore a watch that, amongst other things, plotted the barometric pressure over the past 12 hours. I looked at the graph displayed. I was not pleased with what it showed.

Rather than showing a nice, gentle rise in barometric pressure, as had been predicted by the weatherman, the graph on my watch displayed a frighteningly steep drop. It resembled a drawing of a waterfall.

"Boys, this doesn't look so good." I announced to the others. Each of them, after examining the graph in the flickering campfire light, agreed with my conclusion.

Sure enough, around 3:00 the following morning, the sound of rain could be heard. It grew in intensity until it had surpassed the volume of our tents flapping in the fresh breeze.

The next morning, the Weenie Men stumbled out of their tents and took refuge from the rain under the tarp. After a quiet round of breakfast coffee, Gary began to put on his waders, in preparation for another day's fishing.

"Aren't you guys going to get ready?" he asked.

"Nope," replied Rob.

"What for?" asked Mark. "So I can catch another killer trout like I caught yesterday?"

I was quite surprised by the responses of my normally gung-ho fishermen brethren. I was also quite relieved, because I didn't want to be the only one who stayed behind under the tarp.

"Me either." I said. "I'm staying right here under this tarp."

Gary, rightfully disgusted with the rest of us, headed off into the rain for another day of fishing. To his credit, and in spite of the fact that the driving rain would oftentimes drown his flies, sinking them below the surface of the ever-rising stream, he managed to catch a trout or two over the course of this miserable day.

In the meantime, the rest of us Weenie Men stayed put under the tarp. Every two hours, on the hour, all activity would cease as we gathered around my watch for the latest barometric pressure reading. As always, it would drop, signaling a further deterioration in the weather. We would slink back to our soggy positions under the tarp. We whiled away the hours carving sticks, munching, napping (at least those equipped with evil chairs), and offering predictions as to Gary's fishing success. Mark was kind enough to share his Immodium. We all took a dose in hopes of avoiding the exercise of burning toilet paper in this horrendous weather. My classic harmonica rendition of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head was not well received.

However, we all agreed that a rainy day in the Smokies still beat the hell out of a sunny day back at the office.

That night, we held the traditional Pâté Siorée. Come to think of it, it didn't exactly follow tradition since, due to Michael's absence, we had no pâté. However, we did clang the ceremonial pâté tin in Michael's honor. It was a solemn occasion, for this was the first time any member of the Order of the Tarp had missed a Weenie Man Expedition.

"Here's to Michael!" I said, raising my voice above the din of the rain, and my Chevis in salute.

"Yeah," said Gary, "Here's to Michael. I hope it's raining like hell in Geneva!"

"And his roof leaks!" Rob chimed in.

These toasts continued to escalate as the rain poured down upon us. We eventually wished everything from venereal disease to Swiss nuclear holocaust on our missing Fire Master.

That night, as it continued to rain, a new sound began to emerge. At first, it was just a far-away hiss. Slowly, grew to a full-fledged roar. It was the sound of our dear old friend, the gentle little Eagle Creek. Our sweet little child of a creek was howling as it grew into a mean-spirited, raspy-throated, teenager of a river. By morning, it was playing its music so loud that it was difficult to sleep.

That morning, Rob and I emerged from our tent, put on our rain suits, and wandered down to take a look at the creek. We were not pleased by what we saw. The huge boulders where we normally sat to pump our drinking water were gone - complete submerged! The stream had turned from crystal clear to an angry color of brown. It was hissing and spitting as it carried huge pieces of timber quickly downstream toward Fontana Lake.

"Man!" Rob said. "We'd better get out of here!"

"I just hope we can!" I replied.