I wasn’t going to write anything, I didn’t write anything. This is the first of it I’ve written.
I was my usual, edgy self Thursday morning. The night before we ate sushi, the maguro and the sake both so…not just good…better than good: exquisite. I had two of the big Sapporo, from glass though they are better out of those cold, impenetrable cans. From there to Walgreens. I bought a six-cans of Modus and a twelve of Kraftig. The plastic six-ring holding the Modus cans together failed and two of the six Modus skittered across the floor. My instinct was to exclaim, “I’m not drunk!” B will want me to say Walgreens was her idea, and it was. Dierbergs, earlier, had been a warm beer can fail. For camping I want to start out with warm cans. If you have more than about one-and-a-half your expected first-night’s volume of beer taking up room in your cooler you aren’t packing the cooler efficiently, I have realized.
We got stuck in traffic just east of Maritz on 44. Even with my drive to and fro Illfallon…and a visit to LA and its vicinity recently…this was the worst traffic event I’ve been caught in in years. We were listening to the In This League fantasy baseball podcast. I looked into the cars of the people around us. I mean, really, what else is there to look at. The traffic started moving once we were past 141. I had to go to the bathroom.
Having to turn around only once we parked at the LaBarque Creek Conservation area south of Eureka (109 to FF to F to Doc Sargent Road). The sign was barely a sign, faded, hand-shaped, the final turn onto Valley Drive. There’s a loop trail there. Park, go across the drive/road to where the trail starts, a spur leading you out to the loop itself. The loop was at least three miles. We walked alongside a creek for the first several minutes, LaBarque Creek. Then it was rolling woods, a fairly constant up and down. At one point we flushed a large bird from some brush. I thought it was a turkey because it flew so heavy. There was a lot of rock along the trail, rock bed I’d call it, flatter rock. The trail itself was not rocky except in a few places. We stopped for a moment where a tributary to the creek fell and slid peacefully over an unusually smooth continuous rock face. It was sunny and increasingly warm. We each shed two layers, down to t-shirts. We needed the water we brought. We saw only one other hiker, a lip-pierced woman on the spur as we were headed back to the car. Hers must have been the Civic coupe with Kentucky plates. How does someone from Kentucky find that trail?
My thoughts quickly then turned to Culver’s. We headed there by going back under 44 on 109 and hitting the Eureka access road. I didn’t like the spot I pulled into. I had to go contortionist to get out without banging my door against an old Buick, the kind my dad drove at one point. I calmed down a little when I saw the faded blue tie in the backseat. Or maybe the car was faded, its windows dusty, and tie was actually a normal color. I really don’t know. We went into Culver’s and killed it, though. I had a double deluxe, no onion, got some fries (something I had strongly considered not doing….) I had one of B’s chicken tenders and some of her cheese curds. I refilled my water multiple times, interacting minimally but adequately with the friendly Culver’s employees who took our order or brought our food, asked how the meal was, cleaned the exit double-door windows as I walked out to the car only to change from my boots into my sandals. When I came back in the person said to me, “Hello, welcome to Culver’s.” And I was thinking, “I didn’t ever really leave. I’ve been here, I was here, I am here right now. Don’t you recognize me?”
B got a butterscotch sundae. I helped her crush it. That’s really the point where our visit went from just a “hit”, as in “We hit Culver’s on the way down” to more of a crushing as in, “Yeah, we f*cking crushed it, too.” I don’t really talk like that, but I kind of like writing that way.
The drive from there seemed shorter and more piecemeal than before. To St. James on 44 is nothing. Road work is going to begin along 68 in St. James today, Monday, April 20, 2015. It’s the stretch from Vienna to the Farm on 42 that I still don’t appreciate—it feels long and I want it to end. I want to drive it slow but there’s always someone on my ass ruining my roll. It curves. It goes up and down. I drove it as fast this time as ever. I had a full-sized pickup and a small delivery truck right on me for virtually all of 42. There were stretches where I thought, Well, I can do this part faster than they can. But I’d do the stretch, do it good and I’d have gained only a smidge on the trucks, looking at them still right there in the rearview mirror. They were in a hurry to get to Iberia I guess. I lost them only when I took the left on TT. To Adler (rock road), to Redbird, across the creek and there is the Farm, so green, and old, and windswept and august and .
We walked down to the amphitheater, the fairgrounds, the grotto…what is the name for the place where we have the fire? Someone had had a fire there since I had been there in January.
We tried to set up our tent where we had done so in January (for just one night) and before that last fall—at the near end of the long shed, to the left of the road leading up to the pasture gate. But the wasps—mud daubers—were so insistent at examining every aspect of what we did. We moved, they followed us. The sun and the color of the early spring clearly motivated them because they were much more subdued as the weekend played out in cloudy fashion on Friday and Saturday. Still, they persisted even then as a nuisance over by the house—their commune—nearly the whole time we were there.
We carried our tent-on-tarp to a different spot and got the tent set up, unfortunately not without some bitchiness from the author. I’d really just rather put up a tent by myself, not because I’m adept at doing so and everyone else is not but because it is somehow very hard and frustrating to erect a tent when two people must be involved. It can be hard to say exactly what you are trying to say and have someone else on the other side of the tent understand you in the way you would expect them to. I get in such a rush to get the tent set up so I can move on to the expanding universe of things I want to do. I get irascible and impossible.
Next we turned to wood. I had eyed a large fallen limb just off the creek as we drove in. I wasn’t sure it was part of the L-V Farm but I figured the Little Tavern was the boundary and at least part of this limb was in the creek. The wood wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped. Some of it was crawling with ants. Ants can be good if they have carved large, flame-alluring holes in an otherwise hard piece of wood. Not so much for a smaller limb piece though. On down Redbird Lane, toward the back entrance, I could see a downed oak limb. I cut it up and B and I hauled some of it back to the fire area.
She pointed out another piece, in from the road a little, a different kind of oak. It was in a brushy area. I’ve seen people go in there when we were playing disc, but I was wary of ticks. Still, I wasn’t enthused by what we had yet found so I went in and it was the best yet. Heavy, the bark a little paler and smoother, the oak bark that almost has a little of a blue-gray sheen. The branch was so heavy and my back was whining. We grabbed a good bit of it, hauling it about 100 yards down Redbird Lane and then a little farther to the fairgrounds.
It was getting later. We figured Eric and Michelle would’ve already been there. Helm was a possibility, per text. I needed a shower bad, damn the circumstances. I needed one after the hike much less the cutting and hauling.
The pump room was waspy. I plugged in that old-style, wiry plug. Then turned the red pipe-knob… screwed around with the cold and hot handles over the bucket… I had them both turned full open. Initially there was nothing but then the water started gushing… turned one handle back off, nothing. I turned the second one back off… stream cut. Go empty the bucket… the pump making all kinds of action sounds, I didn’t know why. Then I went into the house and the kitchen faucet was on, I turned it off, went into the bathroom, water going, four wasps in the window. I killed the water and then the wasps. That’s why the pump was humming… the faucets were all on. I flushed the toilet, maybe not used since January, its water a blue tinge from the anti-freeze.
I took a shower. Dial soap. I thought of, “Don’t you wish everyone used Dial?” I had never showered there before. The stall is dingy. So what. I’m gonna replace that shower curtain though—single shooter. It’s not a very good curtain, it doesn’t cover anything. I’m surprised it wasn’t moldier than what it was but that’s just it—no one uses the shower. I’d heard only ghost stories of people using it. I didn’t need shower shoes. It wasn’t the Bull Durham fungus and algae shower show—fungus and algae need moisture, warmth is good, too. The floor of that shower is dark and dreary but not teeming. I used the Ivory body wash as shampoo. The shower was fantastic.
We might have done our first tick check then, too. It’s Tuesday now and I’m talking about Thursday. This is it. Tonight or never. I stood at our car in my boxers, enjoying the still-light evening, the halcyon evening. It was bliss. If I had heard a car I would have hurriedly gotten clothed. And did once one came along, but it wasn’t anyone we knew.
Someone had left a small collection of kindling, mostly small cedars, down by the fire-ring. I used some of those and some of what we had collected and put a beginning structure on top of four or five medium-sized rocks—to keep my fledgling fire off the ground, using the rocks like fire-dogs, a.k.a. andirons. It helped. I never had to set light to the fire again the rest of the weekend.
Helm got there only a couple of minutes after the fire started, his blue car fighting up the hill past the creek. We were resigning our night to the reality of it being just the two of us—but Helm had come through.
He is among several who sleep in the house. So there was no tent to set up. I went up and greeted him. B was looking after the nascent fire. She came up and said hi. I walked him through what I had done vis-a-vis the water and faucets, to make sure I hadn’t done something wrong. He came down and joined us at the fire. We were heating up the cans we had, Chef Boyardee and Chunky soup. He ate a ripe banana. He must’ve brought his chair down. He had gotten a text from Eric (his cousin) which indicated that Eric was indeed just past Kingdom City and headed this way. It was only a matter of time and even more arrivees would make it a much more than solitary Thursday night.
I said it was Tuesday but it’s not. It’s still just Monday and clearly I’m flagging. I’m not remembering much about Eric and Michelle getting there. It was still awhile before they showed up. It was dark by then. We had a fire going and, yes, a Blues playoff game. The Cardinals had already played. So had the Royals. I was trying to get KMOX clear on my little yellow radio, with the aux cord all strewn out doing duty as the antenna.
Me and B and Helm went up to greet Eric and Michelle and just a minute after they had arrived another truck came barreling down Redbird and…it pulled up the driveway! None of us had any idea who it was. Eric said something about wishing he had brought a gun. With full confidence this truck whipped right into an open parking slot between our car and Helm’s…and we were all like, “Who the f*uck is this?!” But then, it was Ryan, and with him Doug! A Ryan and Doug Thursday surprise. We all relished the surprise and the relief of the moment and had ourselves a typically awesome Thursday evening at The Farm.
—[I wrote this in April 2015 but didn’t type it up until now, January 2, 2017. Obviously, there was more to the weekend but I never wrote it and I haven’t written anything since at or about The Farm.]