Christopherson Column: Not all creatures are great
Humans love to get away. We’re overworked, over-stressed and over-everything’ed, and when we get a chance we like to escape that burdensome reality, if only temporarily, by getting away.
My wife and I wanted to get away, and we figured that in order to maximize our desired isolation, our best strategy would be to dig out the tent, sleeping bags and other camping gear and head off to the north woods, right after Labor Day.
You want natural, not-forced social distancing? Camp at Lake Bronson State Park two days after Labor Day. Looking at a map of the park and making our reservation over the phone a few days before our trip, my wife asked which tenting sites were available.
“All of them,” the park staff member said.
We had the entire park to ourselves. While there were a couple big RVs parked right by the lake, as far as campsites go for tenters, this was a COVID no-spreader event.
As I lead in to the primary focus of our camping experience, I’m taken back to my Our Savior’s Lutheran Church Missouri Synod upbringing, and a song we’d sing in Sunday School:
“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small...
“All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”
• We saw several deer. So we did what we always do when we cross paths with deer in a non-hunting situation. We offered greetings of “Hello!” and “Good morning!” As usual, the deer looked at us, perplexed, then looked at a each other, concluded that humans are dorky, and bounded away.
• Our second day, we rode our bikes on the grassy trail system winding through the park’s gorgeous prairie and came across a mask-clad guy with a walking stick so impressive that it made me really want a walking stick even though I was riding a bike.
“Which way are you going up there?” he said, pointing toward where he’d just come from. “Left or right?”
We hadn’t decided, I said.
“Well, there’s a bear close to the trail off to the right, so be careful,” he said.
So we rode to the trail intersection and paused. You know what I wanted to do. The same male gene that spurs men to walk into the front yard to watch funnel clouds approach while the women and children take shelter in the basement is the same gene – Or is it a mutated chromosome? – that makes a man want to approach dangerous animals because he thinks they’ll really like him, never dream of hurting him, and let him pet them.
I glanced hopefully at my wife and was met with a thousand-mile stare. We went left.
• As we sat around the fire on our first afternoon, in the distance we could hear what sounded like a group of young adults having fun on the water or maybe around a campfire. They were screaming, yelling, shrieking and laughing. They were making such a racket I started to wonder if they were messing with us, and that it was possible we were unknowingly the stars of a snuff film and that this loud, almost feral-sounding mob would soon be coming to terrorize us. Was it Jason Vorhees and all of his zombie-fied victims from all those Friday the 13th flicks?
That night around 1 a.m., as we bundled up in our chilly tent under a billion stars, we were startled awake by a noise that for a second convinced me that the group of wild screaming people were in fact coming for us on a mission of barbaric savagery.
But it was a pack of howling wolves. It was a surreal, spectacular moment; and, no, I didn’t feel the urge to find them so I could pet them and frolick in the moonlight with them.
• And, oh, those flies...
I’m assuming the park was busy over Labor Day weekend and the swarms of flies had their fill and then some. But then it was a ghost town, until we showed up, and I’m convinced every fly in Kittson County converged on our campsite. In less than an hour, with a rolled-up towel, I must have killed hundreds on our picnic table, but they kept coming. We coated ourselves with bug repellant and crowded close to the fire to keep them off us, but they’re flies. Everything about them is vile and disgusting.
But vile was an understatement when I went to the pickup – with its windows partially open – to get something and observed a sea of flies crawling on everything and filling the cab with their buzzing. I rolled down all the windows all the way and proceeded to flail wildly in the cab, waving my towel like a madman. Soon after, I declared my efforts a success and rolled up the windows.
The next morning, we packed up and headed home. A few miles down the road, I said something to my wife about the astonishing number of flies I’d shooed out of the truck, and then her eyes caught a glimpse of something and she looked like she’d just laid eyes on the pack of killer hyena-zombie-people lurking in the pickup bed, armed with baseball bats with 20-penny nails jutting out.
It was the cab’s ceiling, which was crawling with flies too many to count. I pulled my hat from my head, she grabbed a towel, I rolled down all four windows, and we proceeded to go berserk on that germ-infested swarm, while at the same time I tried not to roll the Sierra. How we must have looked to vehicles we met on the highway.
All things bright and beautiful? All things wise and wonderful? Flies? Seriously, God? Dude!