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Camping With Barley the Last Chapter
Day four started a little slow. It was overcast and rainy, and with the moisture in the air, it didn’t taqke long to turn the tent into a sweatbox. Bailey and I decided it was time for a swim. As long as there is no lightening, swimming in the rain can be fun. When the drops are big enough, I like to go under the water and look at the surface. It’s a cool effect; but then again, I am easily amused. I explained what I was looking at to Bailey, so he figured he would give it a go. I watched as he went under water and looked up; he had his eyes closed; he also said it looked cool. I asked him about having his eyes closed. He told me it was better if he squinted because the drops were hitting his eyes; there was no need to push the issue. Especially with the smile I was trying to conceal. It was nice to have the beach to ourselves. I don’t know why more people don’t swim in the rain; heck, you don’t even have to dry off.
The rain finally subsided after a few rounds of War, the card game, and we were off to do some fishing. We paddled the canoe across the small lake to a small cove. I have had great luck catching fish after a gentle rain and this afternoon was going to prove no different. In fact, Bailey hooked into a dandy bass. We had just gotten to our destination, when Bailey’s bobber disappeared in a hurry. It caught him off guard. His eyes got big when he felt the weight; his excitement nearly made him forget what to do next. As the fish fought for survival, my grandson fought for conquest. The look of sheer determination on his face was priceless, until the bass broke the surface. Determination was quickly replaced by awe. He looked at me as if to ask “Is this okay?” It took Bailey about 60 seconds to land the fish. When it hit the bottom of the canoe, I could actually feel his relief. And that relief changed into something else completely when I informed him he had to remove the hook. Needless to say, Bailey’s fish was the highlight of the trip. After showing it to everyone he knew at the campground, he felt it was the perfect entrée for that evening’s meal. When I mentioned releasing it, I thought he was going to cry. It was delicious.
For the rest of the evening, Barley and the little red-haired kid found ways to amuse themselves. The best of it was listening to Bailey recount the moments of his epic struggle. I had no idea of the epic struggle that would play itself out in a few hours.
Then it Happened
I’m not sure what formula had brought us to this point. Bailey was tired; it was obvious. But falling asleep was the last thing he wanted to do. After struggling with Bailey for what seemed two hours, in a game of barter-and-trade we had reached an impasse. His will had outpaced my wit and devoured my bargaining chips. I had reached the point of having to play the I’m-bigger-than-you card. It was a bluff, pure and simple; even I didn’t believe it.
“You will go to the tent, or I will put you in it.” That statement was closely followed by the ever-popular “I have had enough.” Apparently Bailey disagreed, because I found myself dodging the remnants of the juice box that had been used earlier as a bribe.
“No!” was his reply.
After recovering from my evasive maneuver, I looked at him in disbelief and said, without raising my voice “Why you little…” Drawing on all my reserves, and remembering the target of the next words, the best I could muster was “…snot head.” It was brilliant. I came up with two four letter words, neither of which could get me in trouble with mom; not so with Bailey. Apparently I had crossed the line.
I offer this quick disclaimer. All the accounts I am about to recall are real; I haven’t even changed the names to protect the innocent. This narration may not be suitable for all audiences.
Bailey’s lower lip immediately gained twenty pounds and became severely pronounced. His face curled up as if someone had pulled a drawstring encircling it. I had seen this before; but something was odd – different. There was a brief silence, verging on an awkward silence, before a sound began a gradual crescendo; his mouth began to open in direct proportion to the volume. If you’ve ever been camping, on a weekday in a small park, you’ll understand the silence. Yes, there are crickets and frogs and things, but the littlest out-of-place noise seems magnified. This only served to heighten the experience.
The sound that came out of his mouth can only be described as that of a cat; a cat being peeled – slowly. It was mesmerizing. It was the oral equivalent of a train wreck; I wanted to stop it, but I had to listen. I can picture the beasts of the forest stopped, striking poses of curiosity while they struggle with their fight or flight impulses.
I snapped out of my trance and quickly transported him to the Blazer and shut the doors, hoping the windows wouldn’t succumb to the other-worldly emanations. I tried to calm him down, to no avail. He then screamed the words “I want to go home!” without ever closing his mouth; I’m not even sure he was breathing at this point. It went on like this for about ten minutes, and then he fell asleep.
Day Five: The Morning After
I am usually an early riser, and today was no different. I went outside and got things ready for breakfast and to go fishing. I figured Bailey would get up and go about life as if nothing had happened the night before. I was wrong. When he exited the tent, he had his backpack on his shoulder. I asked him about going fishing, and he asked me if I remembered what he said last night. I nodded and knew the trip was over. No other significant events took place after that except when loading the canoe; my paint job needed some character.
Bailey (aka Barley) and I have had many memorable trips since then. This trip will always occupy a special spot in my heart. I cherish those memories and I can’t wait to make more.