I awoke suddenly to the sound of a door slammed shut and Bear's booming voice - "Rise my sleeping uglys,, I got coffee" but that wasn't enough, he kicked me in the shoulder, then tightly rolled up a local attraction/area guide into a baton-like shape and whacked Flip none-too soft upon his forehead - "Get the F#Ck up !"
Managing to growl with a dry throat I promptly informed him - "Already up, you damned ogre, isn't there a lonely road you should be haunting ?" Rising to a sitting position, I first looked at the motel alarm clock/radio, it was 7:12, much too early to be kicked out of my sweet sodden slumber. I guess that last big slug of rum had whomped me but good. Looking past the hulking brute, I saw three steaming styrofoam cups on our small motel table. Slightly hung-over, stiff, but otherwise in good spirits I rose from my nest and made way to the coffee while thanking Bear for his thoughtfulness. He had hit the Motel Office's courtesy pot and I for one was happy he did, even though it tasted abit watered-down. Better than naught as we always say.
"Get up Flippy" Bear called in a much softer voice.
"Ya gotta be smacking people in the head ?" Flip asked as he swung around to sit.
"Smacking ?" Bear laughed - "Why that was a wake-up kiss my sleeping ugly, now come, get ye some coffee before it cools"
As those thick gold curtains blocked out all outside light, Flip taking his coffee wanted to know - "What's it like outside ?"
"There's the door, take a look fer yerself " Bear suggested as he poured more powder creamer into his cup.
Opening our door Flip and I gazed out at a magnificent vista, the Sun peaking over a distant mountain ridge. The morning was cool, but otherwise refreshing at this new day's start. I was also glad to see Mitch and R.W.'s bikes parked beside Bear's SUV.
"A fine day indeed" Flip stated as we seated ourselves on some lounge chairs right outside the room.
The Colony House courtesy coffee and a couple of cigarettes lent me enough gumption for a good morning shit and invigorating shower.
Upon exiting our bathroom, Flip rushed past me as he had urgent business to take care of as well.
Feeling alot better after my shower I flicked through the channels attempting to find some weather reports.
Finally I located a 24 hour weather channel with local updates, but what annoyed The Great Bear much more than I, was the Kenny 'G-ish' background music.
"Fuck man, come on, you saw the weather when ya sat outside for coffee, so turn that shit off before rip it out of the dresser, bolts-n-all and throw it through that window !" I knew it was no idle threat as Bear really hated what he called - puzzy jazz.
"Besides,," he added - "I'm gonna call R.W.'s room and check on their condition"
"Probably still passed out" I said - "Them jerkwads better be ready to go when we are, cause neither one of them knows the way to Moomaw"
"Damn right they better be ready, now shhhhhhhhh, I'm calling" Bear picked up the phone dialing 0 as we didn't know their room number. Reaching the motel office, Bear got connected to our companions room.
After letting it ring a good several times, Bear hung up and said - "Might as well check on these jerkwads. Wanna go with me ?"
"Why not,, got nothing better to do,, no telling how long it's gonna take for Flip to squeeze-out a turd and wash off the funk" Not bothering to put on shoes I followed Bear out the door and around the corner.
Bear's hammer-paw banging brought no answer from within, but the door was unlocked so we walked right in and immediately were met by the stench of vomit, but it was not overwhelming as someone had cleaned up abit, but not all that much. The stench did not go good with the woman laying on the bed, fully clothed and as motionless as fresh death.
"Wonder who she is ?" I asked taking notice of a good many empty beer cans scattered about.
"I don't know" Bear returned - "But she smells like puke" Leaning in to take a closer look he stated "Well at least she is alive, I hear gurgling " Going to inspect their bathroom, I almost stepped barefooted into a puddle of spew on the green motel carpet. Their toilet was streaked with the foul 'up-chuck'.
"Someone got sick " I informed Bear.
"No sh!t,, open that f#(king door and let some air in here"
Flicking on a few more lights I got a better look at this un-conscious woman. She appeared in her early thirties with hair the color of old rust some of which was plastered together with puke. there were also splatters of spew on her sweater and jeans as well. Yesterday sometime she was no doubt a comely looking woman, but now she lay a foul mess. Hopefully by having her clothing and boots still on was a sign that our two motorcycle riding companions did not violate her in any way while she lay passed out cold.
"Would ya stop gawking at that mess and open the damned door ?" Bear demanded.
"I thought your kind could hold their breath for long periods " I said while opening the door. Both us were very much surprised to see Mitch and R.W. just outside each holding a coffee and danish.
"Hey where did ja get the danish ?" I inquired
"Motel office" Mitch replied - "They just put em out"
Bear pushed me through the door in his dash for fresh air growling - "How can you jerkwads eat with that stench ?"
We let the place air-out a few good minutes before walking back in.
"I see you've met Brenda" R.W. introduced Bear and I to his guest.
"Oh yes" I confirmed - "She was just telling Bear and me all about herself "
More blunt and to the point The Great Bear asked where Brenda came from. I could tell he was getting somewhat ticked -off and no doubt saw this as a delay in our plans of leaving before nine. R.W. informed us that he and Mitch had met her at the lounge. "Then we ran into her again at the store"
Taking another good look at Brenda I said - "Not a bad looking and fine figure of a woman"
"Once cleaned up" Bear added as he lit-up a cigarette.
"Not too bad looking last night, but drunker than a Skunk" R.W. then went on to recount how Mitch got them thrown out of the bar and how Brenda was asked to leave for just associating these two.
"Mitch got you thrown out of a bar ?" Bear asked in jest.
"No not Mitch !" I laughed still remembering the time about 5 years ago when he got both of us kicked out of a York County drinking hole before even finishing our first beers. Through past experience Bear had learned as well, Mitch was someone not to go out on the town for a night with. Mitch had a habit of blurting out statements that most normal folk would find offensive. I was quite curious to find out - "What the hell did he do this time ?"
With a sh!t-eating grin Mitch replied - "I offered the nice lady a seat" Then with a sour look of disgust he added - "She rudely refused my hospitality"
"Yeah because you told her she could sit on your face" R.W. stated, then continued his account of how the lounge was filled to the brim with standing room only. Mitch and R.W. were lucky enough to swoop in on a two seat table. "This nice looking chick came sashaying in b!tching because there was no place to sit,, then Mitch came out of his mouth with some dumb sh!t"
"I was a perfect gentleman" Mitch argued.
I found out a short time later that the young lady whom Mitch offered a seat to was the owner's little sister and the food and beverage manager's girlfriend. "Enough of y'all's monkey shining" Bear growled and then inquired again about the woman on their bed.
"We can leave her here to wake up later" Mitch suggested only to have R.W remind him that since the room was in his name he feared this woman may be the type who would walk out with something.
Mitch laughed and asked - "What the hell is she gonna take ? Everything is bolted down ! Even the damned television remote"
"There's always the towels" I said while looking at a pile of them, puke soaked in the corner - "Damnation ! She must of been a real spewer"
"Projectile upchucking" Then Mitch went into more detail - "If I hadn't of ducked, she would of barfed all over me"
"Shot over his head,, a real gusher" R.W. added. To back up his story he showed me their puke fouled gold curtains.
"Regardless,," Bear said yanking us back to the problem we faced - "Y'all just can't leave her for housekeeping to clean up, which brings to mind, If I were you two, I'd leave a hefty tip for the maids"
R.W. informed us he had tried to get her up, but she wouldn't budge.
"Dead drunk" Mitch chuckled, then tapped the toe of her western boot to which she farted.
Bear growled - "Oh that's just lovely !" Turning about he walked out of the room cursing at every stride.
R.W. stated that we would probably have to wait until Brenda awakened from her coma-like slumber. I asked him in no friendly manner - "And how long do ye think that's gonna take, tonight sometime ? Check-out is at 11:00, but Bear want's to get this party moving within an hour or less"
"Less !" Bear growled upon re-entering this fetid den. In his paw he held a styrofoam cup which looked to be filled with ice and water which our huge companion proceeded to pour on the woman's head.
She woke up, took a good look at Bear and issued a horrible Harpy-like scream.
Atop the bed on her hands and knees, Brenda looked like a She Panther at bay. Her wild eyes took in the rest of us and she slashed foul motel room air with yet another bloodcurdling shriek.
"Sh!t, man !! can't you do something to calm her down ?" Bear roared.
Mitch weighing in on this troubled situation suggested - "She might be a whack job"
Hopefully that wasn't the case. Perhaps this was only the initial shock or bewilderment of waking up suddenly out of a sodden slumber in a unfamiliar environment and then seeing a huge shaggy man-brute looming over her.
Bear and I decided to split this scene leaving our two traveling companions to calm this woman down. Looking over his shoulder The Great Bear said in parting - "We're heading out in about a half and hour, so handle this"
I was getting a little ticked-off myself as none of this would of happened if Mitch and R.W. would of stayed-put last night. With our long patronage here at The Colony House, we didn't need this kind of mess to ruin our good relationship with motel management.
Flip's time in the bathroom allowed enough time for Mitch and R.W. to jar this lost woman's memory of last night's expelling events. We all later learned that up until yesterday Brenda was a married woman who happen to get a tip that her husband along with his secretary were carrying on in the same hotel that our friends found her in. She caught him between acts as he was exiting the room for some ice. Following a rather unpleasant encounter and perhaps a moment of overpowering clarity, Brenda cleaned out a bank account, then booked a room at that very same hotel. Her anger diluted with bar drinks and now on the rebound, Brenda's inhibitions were washed away with the savage rain storm raging outside, along with a massive amount of alcohol she had consumed. She no doubt mingled abit and had no problem at all hooking up with two wild, long haired Heathen travelers.
Perhaps it was a good thing Brenda got sick, who knows what would of happened if she had not.
Having no desire to breakfast in Waynesboro, especially after discovering Brenda's husband was not only the owner of a large car dealership, but a city councilman as well. We were on the road by 9:00AM.
West past Staunton then South passing Lexington and Clifton Forge, we managed to arrive at Covington around 11:45. It was another 20 or so miles North to Moomaw up a rural state road, but first we needed provisions. Having supplied-up at the grocery and liquor stores, Bear's rented SUV was jam-packed. Flip, already squeezed between provisions had to travel with a full grocery bag in his lap. No worse than 2 cases of beer on the floor board where my feet should be. Following ten miles of such crowded travel conditions we stopped at The Bait Place, a well known outdoor sporting goods store and halfway point twixt Covington and Moomaw. It was also the closest place to purchase bait, tackle, cigarettes, ice and more beer if need be. Here we stocked up on live crickets, night crawlers, red wigglers, new lures, hooks, line and bobbers. I even bought another case of heady highland ale that was not available anywhere else. This would ride upon my lap for the next 10 miles.
Behind this establishment, an outdoor archery range, where local men women and children sent there shafts with accuracy into life sized game animal targets. They are very fond of bow and blackpowder hunting here and near abouts. Wild and rugged as this land, these were the kind of folk who stood a chance if or when the SHTF.
We and especially Bear watched with great interest as a tall, big boned, strawberry blonde haired lass put arrow after arrow into a large model-like target of a Black Bear. Anyone could of been kill-shots.
"I'd chase that one across a few good creeks" Bear stated, catching a smile from the young lady as she pulled arrows from her target. "I suspect she would chase you across a good few creeks and up and down the Jackson River Valley" I returned.
Ha ! we managed to secure our old camping site atop Morris Hill without a problem and by 3:00 camp was all but made. Just like last year and a good few before, we got up here not long after Spring opening. With the exception of a couple of pop-up campers, one other tenting party and a small camper trailer Morris Hill was almost vacant allowing us abit of privacy along with safe distance away from normal folk.
With ale and beer chilling we opted for a cold screwdriver as there was plenty of orange juice.
This whole wooded hill top was awash in green, new Spring foliage along with a riot of colorful blossom as the Dogwoods, Sourwoods, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons were in bloom. Behind and below us, Lake Moomaw. Although it could not be seen through the dense growth, we could smell Moomaw's clear, cold water on every updraft. To our West, The Jackson River meandered through this hilly valley. South of our location and truly a mysterious place, was Oliver Mountain. According to my topographical map there was suppose to be a large hollow-like rift atop this ridge with a stream running through. Remote, sheltered with a good supply of freshwater, Oliver mountain seem the perfect habitat for whatever it was that rummaged about our camp 2 years ago. We could barely see this ridge looming through the thick leafy boughs. Even though there were no encounters with this creature last Spring, we found ourselves constantly on the lookout and our slumbering shallow.
Everyone either lacking sleep or burned out from the road would remain in camp tonight, drinking, feasting or relaxing with the Whoodee. Besides no one needed to ask Bear about going down and casting lines, as he wasn't driving anywhere else this day. Tomorrow morning held a better promise of good fishing. Flip had just about finished lashing the last tarp cord to a Tree when we hear a terrible growling in camp. It was our stomachs with Bear's being the loudest. "Enough of this !" He roared and proceeded to ready our Weber Grill. In scant time Bear had coals blazing then set about prepping some very thick Porterhouse steaks. Flip wasted little time getting some spuds cut up as to make camp taters while I stood guard with my vodka and orange juice.
"Shirking work again are ye ?" Flip hissed like a Turkey Vulture.
"I'm standing watch !"
"What are ye gonna do, splash any un-invited intruder with your screwdriver ?"
"Told ye, I'm standing guard"
"Bullsh!t ! You could get some beans started"
Laughing, then offering him a re-fill, I promptly informed Flip - "You are the beans and taters man, and I am the home guard, we must carry ourselves accordingly"
Flip sneered and returned - "Which means you, along with Mitch and R.W. get to drink and f#(k-off while I'm stuck making side dishes”
"I bought the potato salad" R.W. reminded the Birdman - "We can have that instead of camp taters"
Flip would hear none of that. His camp taters were not only a traditional dish, but tasty fare as well.Soon the aroma of charcoal grilled meat drifted about our Heathen Camp reminding me that I had missed both breakfast and lunch. Grilled for individual taste that varied from R.W's almost raw to Flip's burnt blackened crisp, Bear placed a platter of steaks next to the beans and taters. With vittles before us we dug in like famished Hyenas. There was much lip-smacking tinged with our dinner time conversation.
In a rush yesterday morning Bear had forgot to pack his prized drinking horn and was somewhat at a loss without it. Flip had lent him a bright purple plastic thermo-mug which was not at all befitting for The Great Bear. At least it was brand new and keep beverage cold or hot. All the same R.W felt he had lend a comment - "That's a real nice mug you have there Bear, that color really shows off your bloodshot eyes" Just when R.W. was about to open his mouth again, Bear bared his teeth and growled - "How about I make a drinking cup out of your skull ?"
"That would f#(k-up a Saturday evening" Mitch added while gnawing the last shreds of meat off a steak bone.
Flip was the last to finish as he had to hack-saw his burnt cinder into bite-size pieces. R.W. suggested he take a hammer, pound it into powder and snort it - "It'll go straight to the brain, man. Meat rush baby !" We tended to mess with Flip about his overly well done meat.
This being Bear, Coon and Skunk country, cleaning up was a must. Cookware got washed at the campground spicket and just as he did last year, Bear cleaned out his grill. All refuse was deposed in the new Bear-proof dumpster. Coolers and ice chests containing foodstuffs were secured in Bear's SUV. Other measures were taken as well. Flip splashed abit of special pepper sauce around the outside of our camp, while I hung a few fetish objects from low branches. For any un-invited visitor who felt compelled to count I scattered dry rice grains about the ground and leaned a straw broom against a Tree between our tents.
"Just what the hell are you Kats doing ?" Mitch inquired as he had been watching us making precautionary preparations.
"Just keeping away the blood suckers" There was something in Flip's voice that hit a nerve and prompted me to scan my surroundings.
"Vampires ?" Mitch laughed.
Taking no offense to his mirthful disbelief, I enlightened him abit - "Vampyres, Azeman, Sukuyans, Churells, Soul Eaters, they exist and thank goodness such encounters are not at all uncommon, especially when far from home. Broom straws, rice grains, some of them will stop and count such things before attempting any foul acts"
"You're pulling my leg, right ?"
"Ask R.W. about what shashayed into our camp in human form back in 86"
"Don't worry Mitch" Bear said - "Every time we go camping something weird happens. Stick around, you'll see"
"Come on Bear!” Mitch laughed - “You goof-balls are too weird enough already to expect any more"
"Bigfoot, giant birds, albino midgets, essence eating vampires and a yard long Salamander down in the Jackson, pretty damned weird if you ask me" Bear returned while pouring a beer.
Flip making light of it all reminded us - "And we got til Tuesday morning, who knows what's gonna happen" Hearing that I knocked hard upon our table.
We all drank out of cups and mugs as the Park Rangers frowned down upon visible alcohol containers. Actually we were not suppose to have booze here, but would not be bothered as long as liquor and beer bottles remained out of sight. Of course we had to be somewhat cool, not upset the other campers and keep the noise down after 10:00PM QUIET TIME. This we did not fret over as the closest camping neighbors were out of earshot of our usual racket. Besides our wild appearance and strange trappings all in all we were good campers, never once being asked to leave a campground. At the State and Federal campgrounds this time of year there was little to worry about.
"Well since we're in for the evening, I'll get a fire going" Flip announced although it was only late afternoon. With little effort he had a decent kindling blaze in the fire pit. We always brought in our own firewood as it beat the hell out of foraging for dry fuel, especially at a campground. With kindling blazing and Oak catching
Flip suggested we burn one.
"Lets" R.W. agreed already somewhat buzzed on alcohol.
Mitch, sparking his butane lighter gleefully added - "Fire it up Flippy ! Lets get exhilarated ! Remembering it was the Birdman's turn to load or twist one up I suggested he do something as the time had come. Flip looked at us all with dark, beady Shrew-like eyes, rose and made way to his tent. In this dimming pre-Dusk, late afternoon light we could barely see the lantern glow inside, through tent fabric. Head tilted as if oddly struck, Mitch stated - "Guess we're not invited"
"Be out in a minute !" Flip shouted out, but it was more like 5 until he emerged holding a large, finger-sized twisted bone. Mitch was swift in lending butane flame to this well-crafted Fatty. Drawing upon it, Flip struggled to hold it all in as he passed this # on. As Mitch took one, a whirling swirl of smoke jetted out from it's glowing end and brushed past Bear's nose. He couldn't help not taking a little whiff. Coming to me, I hit it hard and immediately felt my poor abused lungs expand like a party balloon. I fought not to cough it out. Flip's Whoodee had a nice taste and I could feel it's effect soon after exhaling. "Good Whoodee !" I proclaimed pushing out the last wisp of smoke from my strained wind bags.
"It should be, I paid a pretty penny for that shit" The Birdman informed us. I was just surprised to see 'The Pin Joint Master' roll up such a big one instead of the usual toothpick size bones that he was known for.
Being a big # it went around the four of us several good times. More than once, forgetting Bear didn't partake, Mitch attempted to pass it his way - "Get that sh!t out of my face, man !" But something in his eyes told me that Bear really wanted some, but would not oblige to this need for weed.
Snuffing out a stubby, stained-brown roach the four of us found ourselves in a state of altered, dream-like consciousness. Light as a unattached strand of Spiderweb aloft in the soft breeze, this green wooded hill top took on a whole different appearance and for a few minutes our bloodshot eyes scanned these beautiful surroundings. I was lost in my substance addled ponderings and having a very good time, until Bear, deep in his cups loudly demanded - "Music!" Activating our Boombox Flip dialed through the various stations that were coming in. N.P.R., Classical, Rap, Country Western and some soft oldies station where for some reason he paused for Marie Osmond's - 'Paper Roses'. Goofing abit on Miss Osmond's sugary but sad song Mitch issued a loud "BOO-HOOOO" to which Flip, R.W. and I feigned a good cry until Bear demanded we stop this nonsense and turn Marie off or - "I'll toss this BoomBox into the fire !" Something told me he wasn't bluffing.
Fiddling with the FM dial, Flip located a decent Classic Rock station out of Roanoke. Smoked-up and quaffing deeply, our over-all mood was good. We cracked some old jokes and shared any new ones that had been heard since the last camping trip. As The Grateful Dead’s ’Trucking’ began to play, Mitch who's sense of humor was often twisted and sometimes un-called for, jolted my memory by his recollection of the time back in the mid-80s when R.W., my cousin Charlie and I went with him to see what he called - "Head Deads"
Boldly young in years, we were all too eager to see these strange and colorful folk.
The Grateful Dead were in town playing a 3 show, all weekend gig at the Hampton Coliseum with all hotel/motels along a good stretch of Mercury Boulevard packed to the gills with their 'Dead Head' fans. Taking off on foot from where Mitch had parked at Coliseum Mall, we carefully crossed Mercury to where their main encampment was located. Before we even got to the other side of the highway there were plenty of these people to be seen. Crossing the road we found ourselves in a vast colorful, nomadic Pseudo-Hippy gathering. Everywhere we looked there were tie-dyed Tshirts and other bright swirly garments, trappings and banners. As it had been sprinkling outside, many of these folk wore Mexican-like hooded pull-overs, either woven from wool or hemp. I did find it quite odd looking at a good many young white people sporting dreadlocks as the only ones I'd ever seen wearing their hair in such a fashion were some of the Black West Indian folk who lived and worked around the Williamsburg area. I remember Mitch telling one whose face was painted like a Mime - "It's ok man, I understand, I dig, and it's alright" Venturing near a motel, Charlie caught the scent of Whoodee and wasted no time in bumming some. Instead of giving up a single bone, some Kat wearing a red, white and blue tie-dyed sweatshirt reached into his van only to pull out a handfull of buds from a large black Hefty Brand Trashbag. Taking this gift Charlie asked - "Can you lay some on my cousin also ?" Which he kindly did. We had a devil of a time finding something to put all this Whoodee in. Mitch and R.W. got a handfull as well. We thanked the generous Hippy and pushed on through the crowded parking lot.
Cramming all of his in an old fast food bag he found on the ground, Mitch showed us a sheet of Mr. Natural blotter acid that the 'Whoodee Man' also gave in gift. In short time we were smoked-up and tripping pretty good. Swirling and whirling all about us, a mass of smiling, brightly colored and somewhat smelly people. This being the outer edge of our old stomping grounds we considered the Whoodee and trips as tribute of sorts. We walked among them like Native Chieftains. We were like Kestrels flitting about a vast herd of happy livestock, waiting for the Grasshoppers to jump. Although in a elevated state none of us were really expecting to be this damp Friday afternoon, we had ourselves a grand time, that is until Mitch spotted a crowd of Head Deads over at the motel next door. Tripping his brains out, Charlie mentioned something about the asphalt parking lot feeling like foam rubber under his feet as we followed Mitch over to that large compacted gathering. We pushed our way to the front of this throng. With substance addled eyes I attempted to focus on what all the commotion was about. For awhile everyone sounded like buzzing Bees, but I then heard someone shout - "Come on, Sun-Drop, please come down !"
Somehow a brightly garbed young man had gained access to the motel's second floor roof and was now on the edge flapping his arms like a fledgling Redwing Blackbird. It wasn't that long of a drop, but landing on the sidewalk from such a height would no doubt prove to be a painful, bone shattering experience. Right next to my ear the young lady screamed again - "Come on down Sun-Drop, please get down from there ! Sparkle Noodle and I love you ! Don't do this !!" With that others joined in calling this whacked-out Head Dead down. Already several of them were running into the building when Mitch lifted his voice above the crowd - "Go ahead mutha-f#(ka,, you can fly !"
'Oh holy sh!t !' I thought - "He didn't say that'
"Fly Sun-Drop, Fly ! Fly far ! Fly away !"
Just as Sun-Drop was ready to leap off, helpful hands pulled him away from the ledge. After that things got kind of ugly. We looked around at the hundreds of displeased faces. They probably didn't appreciate Mitch's words as their angry eyes bore holes into us, or tried to anyway.
Charlie, R.W., Mitch and I stood back to back forming a very small defensive square, but to our relief there was no rushing onslaught. They just hurled lame insults at us until we left.
Pouring himself an ale, Mitch said - "Oh how very damned rude those Head Deads were! I had confidence in Sun-Drop ! I'm sure he could of flew over the Hampton Coliseum if he wanted"
"You're damn lucky that stinky crowd didn't pelt us with their body cheeze" I told him while lighting up a Winston - “Glad it wasn't a group of religious fanatics or we would of been torn to shreds”
Yes Mitch could be a riot at times often running the risk of getting not only himself, but those around him as well into precarious predicaments. I anticipated scant trouble out of him up here though. Instead my thoughts were of tomorrow down at either lake or river. Even Bear, who did not care much for fishing, always enjoyed casting line into the Jackson.
Through luck coupled along with what skill we possessed, there would be Trout in the skillet tomorrow evening.
Dusk bade the Sun a lengthy farewell as it journeyed Westward and we cheered on Night's certain arrival. I raised my mug in thanks for allowing us such a place to enjoy. Following my cheer, Bear raised his in honor of all here and those we've known who could not or would not sit by our campfire. We quaffed deeply and recalled a few more fond memories knowing all the while that these modern times were eating away at us.
A good several of our band had forsaken the old ways only to join the growing number of fenced-in domesticated human livestock. Shearing off their long Heathen locks, they traded Nature's true sight and sound for man’s written words. For some, their outlooks and mannerisms had become rudely dogmatic having naught to do with us. When our paths did cross, we were either treated with scorn or else shunned. They had become like the rest of the bleating Sheep, under the ever watchful eye of shepherds who happen to have a taste for mutton. Those of us still roaming beyond the fence remained Fishers, Foxes, Wildcats, Wolves and Bears. However 'the fence' was ever pushing us further back into a wilder state or in some cases, trapping us within.
"Poker anyone ?" Flip had produced his deck of cards.
"You must feel lucky this evening" I returned with a chuckle, but ceased as not to shoo away my own. Mitch and R.W. wanted in, but The Great Bear remained silent, inspecting the new lures he had bought earlier. Flip asked if he was going to play, but Bear took a long quaff, then replied - "You guys go ahead, I'm sitting out on this one" At the risk of having his head chewed off Flip wanted to know why.
"Cause I ain't" Was Bear's short response.
Bear finished his beer, poured himself another, then grimaced at the purple plastic mug - "Because I don't have my lucky drinking horn"
Cutting him a sharp look, I asked - "Lucky ?"
"That's right, it's my lucky gambling charm"
"Since when has it gave you luck ?"
Somewhat flustered Bear returned -"When ?"
"Sh!t man, every time you have brought it along, you still got cleaned out" I sorely reminded him.
Flip dared a few more words - "Never know Bear, purple may just be your lucky color"
With his stormy grey eyes hard upon that purple plastic mug for a long half minute, Bear suddenly raised it aloft then proceeded to drain the contents. Following a low rumbling belch, he said - "Alright deal me in"
Indeed Purple must of been Bear's lucky color as he had cleaned me out of my gambling coin. Both Flip and got out when the other three began to toss down paper money. With a 'can't lose' attitude that has been the bane of many gamblers Mitch and R.W applied themselves to take down The Great Bear, but there was no sign of his winning streak coming to a end. Before any Alexander Hamiltons came out, Mitch and R.W. saw fit to fold for the evening. Bear displayed sneering look of disgust tinged with the haughtiness of short-lived victory, he raked in his winnings and called us all chickensh!ts. Counting his take aloud, just to rub it in, Bear had won 37 dollars and 15 cents, not bad considering our standard nickel ante. Stuffing his winnings into a zip-lock sandwich bag with a sh!t eating grin, he inquired - "Same time, same place tomorrow boys ?"
"No thanks" Flip laughed - "You're too much of a card sharp for me"
The sore loser he was, R.W. offered to finance Flip or anyone else willing to play and take Bear down tomorrow night. "Tomorrow is a different day,," R.W. hissed - "And luck may just turn her back on you"
"Put yer money up, you perfumed dandy !" Bear growled.
"Tomorrow" R.W. returned with a sinister smile.
Reveling in his victory Bear called for The Shenandoah Wonder to be un-corked, which we gave him the honor. Filling our cups before his he called for a toast - "To The Shenandoah ! To Virginia !" We clashed mugs and had ourselves a good slug. It spread down through my insides like a warming, friendly fire while Mitch never having sampled 'The Wonder' before declared - "This is a very fine spirits ! Extending his cup he requested another. Pouring another good measure in our cups, The Great Bear went on to praise his plastic mug - "This is my lucky charm !" To which Flip reminded him - "Hey man, that mug cost me five bucks !"
While Bear went into his winnings I asked - "You paid 5 bucks for that ?" The Birdman nodded his narrow head yes as Bear plopped down a new shiny quarter on our table. "Well here's 25 cents"
"What's that for ?"
"Paying for my lucky mug"
Flip shot Bear a puzzled look and said - "I'll take that as a down payment, but I'll be needing another four 75"
"Down payment ? Oh no my dear Flippy,, that quarter is your profit"
"My profit ? What the hell are ye talking about ??"
"I've already paid you your five bucks, Flippy" Bear said with a smile.
Dark Crow-like eyes darting about, Flip appeared very much puzzled by Bear's last remark. As the Birdman strove to make sense of those words Bear lit up a cigarette, blew smoke in his confused face and added - "Well Flippy you may have to dig deep in that Whoodee befuddled brain of yours,,"
"Whoodee befuddled indeed to pay 5 bucks for that piece of crap !" Mitch laughed, prompting R.W. and I to join in the mirth. Banging the purple mug hard upon our table to restore order, Bear continued - "I remember it like it happened yesterday,,"
"Remember what ?" The Birdman demanded.
"Yep, still fresh in my mind" Bear chuckled.
"What's still fresh in that mind ?" I laughed.
"Yep, still fresh in my mind, and Jim here, can back me up"
"Leave me out of this sh!t !" I protested as Flip turned to me demanding to know what Bear was talking about. Regarding the Birdman with the smiling grey eyes of one finally having a long-awaited moment, Bear went on - "Yep, just like it was yesterday"
"What the f#(k are you talking about ?!?"
Following a long draught of 'Wonder', Bear replied - "Well Flippy, it was about this time back in the Spring of 74, That Jim and I had just put in 10 bucks apiece, copped an ounce and were in the process of splitting it up under Old Shady, when you came walking down the Big Trail"
Noticing Flip's sudden change of expression, I could see the past yapping hard at his heels.
"Alright keep the damn mug, Bear. I didn't like it anyway" The Birdman hissed with a sneer knowing Bear was in his rights to claim this prized piece as payment due. Being there that day, I had to back Bear's story. After we shared one with Flip that day over twenty years ago, he had asked Bear if he would sell 5 dollars worth. At first The Bear kindly refused, but after Flip offered-up some hard luck storey about having a date and needing some smoke, our huge friend, generous in his pre-jaded youth complied. Bear fronted out a nickel bag to Flip on a promise of payment that following weekend. Needless to say, that weekend was long in coming. Personally I thought Flip was still getting over, because if it would of been anyone else, The Birdman would of been charged going Whoodee rates plus a hefty interest.
Ahh, the days of cheap Whoodee and friendly, easy credit. With that bit of 20 year old business completed we could now kick back and enjoy this beautiful highland evening..