On one of my fishing expeditions to Isle Royale, my three companions and I had four continuous days of hard, freezing rain with plenty of sleet. It was hard to remain cheerful, and I should have expected mutiny.
Unlike my companions, I came prepared for bad weather. I had a rain poncho. While they cowered in our two small tents, I sat by the campfire. True, it was lonely at times on that first day, but I consoled myself by noting that I was warm and dry. During the infrequent breaks in the weather, my companions would come out to cheer me up.
On one of these breaks, my friend Van noticed that my poncho had islets and snaps in it so that it could be converted into an emergency tarp. He wanted to know how long I had known that my poncho could be turned into a tarp. There were hints of treason in his voice, so I lied and said I was just now sharing that joyous discovery with him.
Although I think I could have called for a vote on the matter, the Three Mutineers, as I began to think of them, declared themselves in consensus, and converted my poncho into a tarp. This they arranged over a spot in front of the campfire. By crowding together and standing motionless, all four of us could stay dry. There we stood for the next three days with breaks only for a little soggy sleeping.
Right away, I noticed the water dripping from the hole in the tarp where my neck used to be. The hood of the poncho also collected rainwater and sleet. The Gang of Three decided we had to all take turns experiencing the misery of standing under that leaky spot in the tarp.
On my first shift on neck hole duty, I decided to dig out my rather old-fashioned but rainproof, broad brimmed hat. It unfurled to create plenty of shelter from the leaky ceiling. Putting it on my head drew some critical gaze from The Three Bolsheviki and, thinking I would need to defend my fashion choice, I recalled the tag line in the catalog when I ordered the hat: “Keep dry and your fashion critics awed with this round brim, waterproof bucket hat, crushable and packable for easy travel, yet with a simple, classic and charming design.”
Shortly thereafter, the job benefits for all shift workers doing neck hole duty increased sharply to include a somewhat unfashionable, waterproof bucket hat formerly owned by a deposed member of the ruling classes.
I had been careful the first three nights when preparing to crawl into my damp sleeping bag to disconnect the nine-volt batteries from my wool-lined, electric socks. I did not want to get a jolt of electricity in the middle of the night. In the dim light, Van watched me take out the batteries as if he had never seen such a thing as electric socks.
“Are those socks heated?” he asked.
“Yes, but, when it is damp out, I sometimes take the batteries out because …” but I stopped because he was suddenly dreadfully quiet and staring at me like a freezing, blood crazed anarchist. I decided right then that I would not tell him about my Toasty-Toes foot warmers.
Just then, we both realized there was indeed a dim light coming from outside the tent. When we peeked outside, the moon shone in a clear sky and my heated socks-made with virgin alpaca wool with LED display to show low and high settings, good to minus forty, and available in either forest green or ivory white-were, thankfully, forgotten.
Rhinelander District Library Director Ed Hughes is available at (715) 365-1070. To comment on this story, see below.