Monday, July 3, 2023

Damn It, That Elk Is Dead Jim


There are a lot of good things about being a grandfather, but one of the best is being able to relate the events you have lived over the course of a lifetime. Grandchildren often find them entertaining and you get a chance for a little one-on-one time while being the hero. It occurred to me while I was telling me stories that my life is been separated into different segments. Depending on the age of the grandchild, I pick which segment from which I choose the story being told. One story I recently told tell was from the segment of my life where I was heavily in involved with Boy Scouting.

I was lucky enough to be involved in the Scouting community that was very active. We camped at least once a month, and then did additional trips and adventures throughout the year and summer camp. One of those adventures was a canoe trip down a segment of a river. As near as I can recall, there were seven canoes, each with three scouts. A scoutmaster was in the lead canoe and one at the tail end to keep an eye on everybody. During the day, we would swap positions with the person sitting in the middle of the canoe getting a break while the scouts for an aft did the paddling.

The scenery was mostly boring for a kid. Lots of trees. Occasionally we would see a deer or some other wildlife in the woods near the shore, but they would dart away as soon as our noisy crew got near to them. One of the more interesting things we passed was a dead elk that was near the shore. Looking back, it must've been dead a few days, as it was severely bloated and that was why it was floating instead of being underwater. It wasn't moving along the river with us because it was caught up in some trees which were also in the river along the bank.

Everybody stared at the carcass as we floated past. Most of the canoes were off to one side, so we weren't ever closer than ten or fifteen feet as we slowed for a bit to look before paddling on. As we meandered on downriver, we suddenly heard the voice of the scoutmaster who was bringing up the rear of our crew yell out "Don't you dare. Get away from there." Looking over our shoulders, we could see that one canoe had broken ranks and was paddling toward the dead elk. He continued to yell, and they continued to ignore him until their canoe was parallel to the carcass. Then, the stupidest thing I think I've ever seen in my entire life happened. The scout in the middle of the boat grabbed a spare canoe paddle and raised it over his head, aiming at the body of the elk. The scoutmaster's final plea of "NO!" echoed down the river as the paddle was brought down with force onto the abdomen of the elk.

Never before, and certainly never since, have I ever seen anything like it. The carcass of the elk exploded as the pent-up air from its decay was suddenly released. I swear you could almost see the green funk rolling down the river as the smell of the rotting carcass set upon us. We all stared in disbelief. The three scouts in the canoe were then treated to a torrent of decayed flesh, and maggots fell like rain upon them. The look on their faces went from disbelief to disgust as they realized what had happened. Being so close to the smell, their reaction was instantaneous, and they all puked in unison. Because it came upon them so suddenly, they didn't have time to lean over the edge of the boat. As the disgusting rain of insect larva and rotten meat slowed, all three of them stood up at once, and flailed as they tried to brush the disgusting mess off.

There is a reason you never stand up in a canoe. That rationale becomes even more clear when everyone in the canoe stands up at once and in short order the canoe capsized. They landed in the water, surrounded by everything they were trying to escape.

We had enough people to help with the rescue, which avoided an even worse situation. None of the three ever lived the incident down, as it was retold every time any of them showed up around the campfire where any witness of the event was also present. The story became more exaggerated over time, and eventually including the dead elk seeking revenge for its desecration.

When I get to tell one of these stories, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have had a life that was full of interesting things like that to pass on. It is great to entertain them for a few minutes as we sat around a table playing Uno. However, I sincerely hope none of them ever whack a bloated dead elk with a canoe paddle while passing it by, but that they will have the opportunity to do so just the same.


No comments:

Post a Comment