(To do a “Full Reid” means to greet the creek with your face. Read on.)
I was down in Louisiana at Barksdale Air Force Base for schoolin’. The Air Force really believed in edumakin’ us, ’cause they could say “Its not our fault he did that, we trained him to these exacting standards.”
I had gone out on our daily run. Nothing stressful, just a couple of miles when I felt my back going south. Old war wound, don’cha know. Knew it was gonna be a bad one and it was. Got hauled to the base hospital by one of my classmates. When I finally was able to claw my way to the reception desk, the NCO behind the counter bypassed the request for a wheelchair and called for a gurney. Evidently, the muscles in my back had spasmed so bad, there was a waterfall effect, i.e. every muscle from my forehead to my ankles had spasmed. I’m told I kinda looked like some weird death camp survivor with a great tan.
Once I’m done with docs, I learn I get to have physical therapy every afternoon. This takes me out of class, but I’m able to make up the lessons with recorded material. What happens is I go to my 45 minutes of PT and then I have a boat rented on the base lake on a weekly basis (grand total of 27 dollars a week, gas included). I fly fish till dark then go back and study. I get to know the lake pretty well and catch a crap load of fish.
One Saturday, one of my classmates asks to come along. He’s a bait chucker, but we all have our faults (well, except me–I’m practically perfect in every way). Lake was huge, full of cypress trees and alligators. We needed to unwind and relax and that big chunk of water was a good place to do it. We did some fishing, catching loads of bass and bluegill. Even got an alligator to chase my lure. This was August in Louisiana, so it was hotter than the exhaust of a Missouri bootlegger’s Chevy. We had just a little liquid refreshment with us, for medicinal purposes don’cha know.
One of the sights on the water was the hornets nests hanging from every other cypress tree. These things were as big as basketballs. If you didn’t see them, you could always hear them. The buzz went right to your bone like the whine of a dentist’s drill.
As I said, we’d had just a bit of liquid refreshment and my partner convinces me of the hilariously funny idea of knocking one of these things into the water with an oar. The concept was that I would run the motor and he would smack the nest.
Well, the malted beverage thought long and hard on that one. Did I ever tell you that malted beverage decision making is primarily based on the easiest sound a human can make? That is “shure.” The little “good” angel on my shoulder had long since passed out and fallen down the back of my pants.
So, after much cogitation, I idled the boat in towards one nicely placed nest. My partner stands up in the boat, oar in hand and I’m on the throttle. He’s got a swing like a juiced-up ex-San Francisco Giant. He goes into the windup, I twist the throttle hard, the boat jumps forward, my buddy falls back into the boat mid-swing, misses the nest and… the engine stalls. Hmm, the boat drifts under the nest and bumps into the tree, stopping. I guess my driving skills had deteriorated in the heat. The engine is flooded and the nest is two feet over our heads.
We quietly used the oar to push against the tree to drift away from the nest. This is rather hard to do when you’re flattening yourself in the bottom of the boat and moving at the speed of a three-toed sloth on Quaaludes. We did NOT wanna do anything that would piss off the wasps with a dead engine on the boat.
So, on the second pass, I decide to change tactics. We’re going in at speed and I’ll gun it after the hit. I head in doing about 3 knots (that was “at speed” in this boat), my partner swings the oar and hits a home run (a six pointer for the cricket fans). I gun the motor for all its got and, ..and …. it stalled again. So, there we were, calmly assessing the situation. The nest had exploded like a Martin automatic reel fighting a 150lb tarpon. The hornets, to say the least, were perturbed. The fish, on the other hand, were having a blast. All this food hitting the water at one time caused a feeding frenzy. I thought about casting a line in the middle of the fray (for about 13 nanoseconds) and started pulling on the motor cord. It wasn’t working. Just as the hornets had formed into squadrons and made one of those big, black cartoon arrows in the air, the motor coughed to life. My partner was expressing (most vociferously) his desire to find another place to fish, namely in Alaska. I GENTLY raised the rpm’s and put the engine in forward.
We casually vacated the area and had a wonderful discourse on whether we should further deplete our medicinal supply or revert back to our shared Christian Scientist and Mormon roots. Modern medicine won out.