This sunday’s Foxtrot cracked me up pretty good. Although I’m a little saddened Dave and I didn’t try it first.

My friend Dave and I have known each other probably since kindergarten sunday school, but not officially since 3rd grade by my reckoning. Since then, with a few exceptions, we inseperable until going our seperate ways to college and life and such. We still remain fantastic friends, but distance makes our exploits far less frequent. Our families are probably quite content with that.

Our exploits of youth were hardly legendary. They were probably quite normal by any rural adolescent standard of finding stuff to do. But I remember them fondly, and would like to hit some of the highlights. My mom, rest her soul, probably now knows in full detail how stupid we really were. My grandparents don’t yet, but should be heartened to know how relatively unscathed I made it through some pretty stupid episodes. So here is a small(ish) sampling –

  • The missing flashlight We dropped a flashlight that his father had some bizarre love for in a snow drift. The remarkable part wasn’t losing it, it was trying to find it, in the dark, while LEAVING THE SNOWBLOWER RUNNING. The snowblower found it.

  • Weapon fascination Sharpening welding rods and making our own “ninja stars”. The ninja stars all sucked horribly, but the sharpened welding rods were pretty bad ass. There are plenty of holes in the garage and neighbor’s barn to witness our impressive markmanship.

  • Power tools The standard sharpening mechanism was a big ‘ol power grinder. The kind permanently attached to a workbench, with two spinning wheels of death. One day I reached over to turn it off, but hit the grinder. Not the wheel side, which would have hurt but threw my hand off and probably not amounted to much. But the wire brush side, which ripped through the flesh on my finger far faster than I could pull it away. We immediately rushed to the bathroom to tend to the wound, and made the inspired decision to tell no one. I still have the scar on my right thumb to prove it.

  • Bikes, pt1 Like many kids our age in that town, we were eventually drawn to the mini-lake that always formed in Central Park during the spring thaw. It was especially cool because it was deep enough to submerge up to your waist or chest in, but the bottom was mostly road and hard ground and you could ride your bike through it. It also covered the campground, which had lots of dips and rises in it. I had recently broken my arm (while riding a bike), and was wearing a cast. But I was no dummy, I had a bread bag over the cast! Riding one armed up hills through water! Which, we learned years later, was part melted snow, mostly backed up sewer water. Eeeeeeeeeew.

  • Bikes, pt2 Middle of the night (or 9p, which are mostly indistinguishable back home) and he and I are heading home. I was riding a fairly new ten speed that I hadn’t, evidently, fully gotten the hang of. We were hauling ass on Main Street towards the fire station, which has a little bit of a downhill slope to it and gives you a good head of steam. About halfway to the intersection, across which traffic doesn’t stop, we saw headlights. I slammed on my brakes full force, front and back, and immediately flipped over, head first, onto some very unforgiving concrete. Dave had stopped like a normal person but was in nearly as much agony as I was from trying (unsuccessfully) to stop from laughing like a hyena at my plight. Thanks buddy.

  • Bikes, pt3 My astute readers will notice a trend here. This is, as far as I recall, the dumbest of our bike escapades. Maybe not – our dumbest was probably the many hours we spent planning a marvelous bicycle trip halfway across the state to Scenic state park. Many years later I would pass that state park while driving, and I was already tired just from driving that far. But this is certainly our most harrowing with greatest chance for injury, though. Within the bicycle theme, that is.

    Our hometown had a river winding through it, which provided about the only hills in town and much of the wooded area. In one of these areas we discovered great trails for biking, and even better ones for what can only be called “careening”. The trail was many feet long, and at a pretty steep incline. At the very bottom of the hill it crossed another path (danger point #1) and a few feet after that was a speed bump in the form of a big tree trunk (danger point #2, objective #1). Our goal was to go as fast as humanly possible down the hill, hit the speed bump at maximum speed, get as much air time as possible (objective #2) and most importantly, manage to stay on the bike during landing (danger point #3, objective #3). I was pretty good in the speed and air time department, but absolutely horrible at the smooth landing. I don’t believe I ever stuck a landing.

    The next trail over was far more perilous, but even our limited survival instinct kept us mostly away from it. It was a trail much like the first, without the few feet of trail on the other side. The goal there was to fly down the hill like a bat out of hell and turn 90 degrees at the bottom to continue on the path. I tried, once, and failed, once, crashing with gusto into branches, bushes and other unpleasant sharp things.

  • Breaking and entering Easily the stupidest thing we did, by any standard. Broke into an abandoned grain elevator and explored, then turned it into a fort for a while. We did no damage, but had no illusions that what we were doing was right.

  • Cars He worked the pedals from the driver side, I shifted and sometimes steered from the passenger side. Near pants full moment in the parking lot of a construction site for our new church, when we did a donut that went a little over the top.

  • The summer of tennis and blizzards This doesn’t fall into the same category as the other stuff, but I still look back in amazement and wonder how we ever did it. Summer before our Senior year of high school we both had pretty good jobs, but nothing much to spend the loot on. So every single day we went out and played tennis for a few hours. Then we went to pizza hut and each ate a pizza. Then we went to dairy queen and ate a blizzard. I still have a healthy enough appetite, but just writing about that makes me ill.

  • Sleepin’ in the Rain For a few summers we pitched a tent 2 or 4 nights a week in Dave’s backyard. It was a pretty cool way to spend the summer, let me tell you. One night the wind was buffeting the tent and rain tarp around as if it was going to shread it. Most important, the flapping was keeping us up. “How important can it be?” we asked ourselves. Weighing in with our considerable 12 or 13 years of meteorological experience, we decided to take it off. A few hours later, as the sky opened up with a deluge of, to a 12 year old, biblical proportion, we learned just how important it was. Not having much of a backup plan or wanting to wake the house to illustrate our stupidity, we “slept” through it, eventually lying in the 2 inches that had collected in the tent. It took 3 or 4 days for the sleeping bags to dry.

  • Sleepin’ in the cold Among our grandiose plans of being great outdoorsman, we entertained thoughts of using the snowmobiles to take us into the real backwoods and do some winter camping (just to be clear, my hometown is 90 miles south of Canada in MN. We know winter.) In preparation we thought we’d try sleeping outside in the backyard, in the family camper without heat. So we headed out in full snowsuits and who knows how many blankets, and had a pretty fun evening. We learned what you learn in winter survival class, that once you’re in an enclosed space (like a snow cave) it actually heats up pretty nicely. So with the 3 of us (our friend Kevin was there for this one), we warmed it up pretty thoroughly. By bedtime we were out of the snow suits and into the sleeping bags, but it was still too warm to even fall asleep. So we opened up all the windows! That cooled it down to perfect sleeping temperature and we quickly nodded off. And woke up the next morning and it was 10 below! With our snowsuits many feet away! Man that was cold.

  • Breaking and entering, pt2 Speaking of Kevin, I can’t remember how many times he locked himself out of his house. Nor can I count how many times he kicked in his back door to get back in.

  • Just entering, pt3 We decided on a lark to drive to the Twin Cities to go to a baseball game. It was pretty late when the plan hatched, and involved leaving at about 3 the next morning. My non-morning-ness is not a new phenomenon, so of course I was dead to the world when they pulled up to pick get me. The only life from the house was my alarm clock blaring into the street and over my head. Dave hopped onto our porch, onto the roof, and into my bedroom window. I then heard, in as soft and soothing a tone as he could manage, “Please don’t hit me. I’m not a burglar. This is Dave. It’s time to go.”

  • Capstone Ah, the capstone to our hair brained ideas. We were, legally anyway, adults by now. Capable, one would hope, of excercising better judgement.

    The plan was simple. Take a canoe up the river to the neighboring town a scant 15 miles away. What a great trip to take with an old friend while back from college. Both of us had some amount of canoeing experience from camps and trips, and were quite looking forward to a day of nature.

    The execution left, well, something to be desired. For starters, we didn’t sleep the night before, spending the night playing ToeJam and Earl. If one must stay up all night before a full day of physical exertion, that’s definitely a good way to do it. Overall, though, not the best plan.

    So we embarked from the landing dock, and quickly realized canoeing was far too much work on no sleep. And it was a beautiful day! And the river flowed anyway, let it do the work for us! We’ve got it made, we are brilliant!

    Two geological factors escaped us at the time. First, the river didn’t flow so much as it meandered. Sometimes when I’m walking my pace is so slow the momentum fails to carry me forward and I have to think to myself “Hey, keep moving.” This river was like that, almost as if you had to slap it ocassaionally and say “Giddy up!” We were not, in other words, being thrown down class 5 rapids. Secondly, the river is very old, and very windy. Old rivers tend to loop back on themselves if enough time passes, much as this same river has done in our own town at Aunt Polly’s Slough. So what was 15 miles of highway driving was more like 496 nautical miles, give or take a few.

    So we plodded along at glacial speeds over epic distances, not really caring or noticing for the first few hours exactly how screwed we were. After a few hours of floating we passed a structure that we were pretty sure was barely on the outskirts of town. Slowly, after that, we actually dipped our oars in the water. Eventually, as the sun dipped lower but our desination seemed not nearer, we picked up the pace.

    Unfortunately, our slow pace with pitiful supplies is not the height of our folly. That moment would be when, early in the trip, we decided it would be a good idea to take our shirts off. Nice day in the summer, cloudless sky, sun off the water, what better plan could there be?

    Eventually, after 12 or 16 hours, we did make landfall at our destination. Very tired, very hungry, and very red. I’m sure Dave’s parents still occassionally laugh themselves to sleep picturing our bedraggled hides limping up the river bank to the safety of their car and the tastiness of their water.