Vacation almost went down the tubes

August 15, 1997

Writer's note: This is the last of three stories on "How I spent my summer vacation."

It was with amazement and delight that my family and I found ourselves safely at the lodge on the French River in Ontario. We knew we'd probably make it when our host, who had imbibed too much, managed to careen his boat past Dead Man's Island without hitting the rock shelf that lays submerged just under the surface of the water in the middle of the channel there.

When we finally got to the lodge, it took us about an hour to unload and settle into our three cabins. Then we packed our gear into our boats and headed out to fish. (For some reason, exhaustion has no effect on the desire to cast a line into the water).

Anyway, during the week we fished and played canasta and watched spiders eat bugs on the windows at night. We listened to loons, watched river otters play, and did stuff like row a lot when the boat motors quit working.


When the fishing was particularly lousy one day, Ralph decided to go tubing. This consisted of pulling victims behind the boat while they were lying prone on a large inflated tube with two little handles. The boat can go 45 mph.

"You going, Twiggy?" my brother asked.

"Who's going to be driving the boat?" I asked, ignoring the "Twiggy" bit.

"I am, of course. Who else," he responded with typical modesty.

I politely declined. "No, thanks. I mean, do you really think I'd get behind a boat you were driving after you tried to drown me in South Carolina that time?" I said.

"When did I try to drown you?" he said with mock horror.

"When I was learning to slalom, and I was dragged underwater and you never slowed the boat down and I ended up going 80 mph on the bottom of the reservoir, dredging freshwater clams with the tip of the ski that was still attached to my left foot," I said. "Remember now?"

"It was the same family vacation on which you and our cousin Wayne tried to blow up catfish underwater with firecrackers and almost gave Aunt Lyda a heart attack. NOW do you remember?" I said.

"It's the same trip on which you and Wayne convinced some poor guy to ski nude, and then dragged him through water-mocassin laden rushes and brush just inches from the shoreline. Did THAT jog your memory?" I added.

"Are you going or not, Twiggy," was all Ralph said. He was grinning maliciously.

"No, Ralph. I think I'm just going to sit on the end of the pier with the huge, hairy, highly-toxic dock spiders and watch you try to get your growing belly over the edge of the tube," I said. "That sounds like more fun to me."

Ralph made clucking sounds to me, after which he and the "guys" headed out to tube.

Everyone except my sister-in-law's dad Bill made it back alive. I mean to say that Bill came back alive, but that was probably because he never got to tube that day. The rope kept breaking every time Ralph started to pull him.

I figure it was the weight of Bill's titanium knees that did it. Whatever the reason, I told him he should be grateful. I had seen the glint in Ralph's crazed eyes when he was waiting for Bill to climb onto the tube.

Ralph was still clucking at me the next day when he stopped by our cabin and plopped down in a chair. He was tired, he said. Poor baby.

I offered to rub his feet. Why, I don't know. It must have been a weak moment.

Anyway, he closed his eyes and moaned gratefully. "You know, you treat me a lot better than I treat you," he said, in a weak moment of his own.

"You're right," I replied.

Then it happened.

I asked Ralph to put his left foot down and give me his right. About the same time, I shifted my chair forward.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHGGGHH!!!" he screamed. "AAAAAAHGH!!!" I sat forward, trying to get his attention. "What's wrong, did something sting you or what?" I asked. He just kept screaming.

Finally (unfortunately it took a few moments) I realized that the metal end on the right front leg of my chair was imbedded in the middle toe of Ralph's left foot. "Jeez, I'm sitting on your toe!" I said incredulously.

"AAAAAAAAAHGGHH!" he replied.

It was one of the high points of my vacation.

I'd never seen Ralph's molars before.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

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