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Time for a Picnic

Spring is here. I don’t care what anyone else says, it’s here. I saw a couple of robins in my yard, playing. Spring is here.

So just to prove it’s here, Kathy, Bill and I decided to have our first cookout of the spring. I was so excited; we made lists of everything we needed, decided what we wanted to eat, and most importantly where to have our roast at. After much deliberation, we decided on the driftwood yard at the Denton Slough. We could pick up driftwood, collect rocks for the pathway to my trailer I needed, and after all, it’s probably the only road that doesn’t have snow still covering the ground.

We drove down the driftwood yard all the way to the end. There is a perfect spot there to walk down to the rocks to get to the driftwood and a large "beach" area where we could build our fire.

Kathy and I carefully pulled everything out of my car and took it down to the beach. That is not as easy as it sounds. Kathy Neumann is the Martha Stewart of camping and if you’ve heard the old cliché about everything but the kitchen sink - she means that. Not just paper plates, but each paper plate had a little basket to nestle in. Not just chips, but at least five flavors of chips. An antique salt and pepper shaker, a tablecloth for our non-existent table, toothpicks and naturally, a bag for trash. We were definitely prepared for anything.

Since there isn’t a fire pit there, Kathy and I collected the perfect rocks to build one. Armed with gloves, earmuffs and arctic jackets, we diligently lifted and put the rocks together to create the perfect fire pit. We were so proud. The next step was to gather up wood that would actually burn on the fire. We found it everywhere, small sticks for kindling, bigger sticks for burning. We were really good and careful. After all, I had already experienced practically burning down the national forest up Trestle Creek when I first arrived in Idaho. I certainly did not want a repeat of that.

Our little fire was burning nicely, and we were warming our hands, doing the whole communing-with-nature thing. Did I say we were prepared for anything? Well, we were prepared for anything except Bill Short.

He arrived late, of course. The fire was already going and we already had dinner set up, but Bill tends to arrive with a whirlwind and this was no exception. Literally. The wind had picked up. Kathy and I donned hats as Bill arrived.

Being a man, our fire just wasn’t good enough and he gathered up more wood. Big wood. Not just the little pieces like we had put to use. No, Bill gathered logs. Kathy verbally objected, but Bill wasn’t about to heed. He launched a root the size of a small island on top of our neat little fire pit. Our rocks came tumbling down. Kathy and I glared at Bill - not that he noticed. Or maybe he was just ignoring us.

The log wasn’t enough. He gathered more wood to crowd under the log, saying that it wouldn’t burn anyway because it was still wet. In this one instance, I have to say, he was dead wrong. The log caught fire and Kathy yelped nervously.

Now I realize that, while my mind says it’s spring, it’s still pretty damp outside. I was pretty sure that the black smoke billowing out of our fire pit was going get noticed a little bit. I reminded Bill that we were only cooking a couple of hot dogs and didn’t really need a raging inferno to do it. Then Bill did something ridiculously funny. He handed me a knife and told me to whittle some hotdog sticks. It was at that moment I knew Bill had lost his mind. Me and a knife? I will give myself credit, though, I did it without slicing any important extremities off of my body, and I made some pretty dang good hot dog sticks.

Kathy had been pacing around the fire, grumbling to Bill that she didn’t like the fire that high and it just wasn’t safe. Actually, I am pretty sure no fire is safe at that height. Bill is the stubborn sort, though. I think he gets it from his mom. Kathy, however, is persistent, and since she was the one who started the fire in the first place, we decided it was only fair that she get to say whether or not we needed 12-foot flames to roast the wieners. She won.

Bill was griping none too softly as he stuck his hands in the fire and pulled the log off and rolled it into the water. The water sizzled around the log like a hot spring. Silently, I was really glad Kathy won that argument. I mean, we were in a driftwood yard, with miles of wood surrounding us; the very idea of accidently setting fire to it was terrifying.

The wind blew hard, but we roasted the hot dogs anyway. The chips blew off our plates as if they were making a mad dash for safety. We had relish, mustard, ketchup and mayo on our dogs, most of it landing on my shirt. It was the first cookout of the spring though, so I just didn’t care. I think the sun may have peaked through the clouds once for about ten seconds. The wind never died down and it was freezing out there by the water. But is was spring and I was enjoying every second of it. Until I got cold. Then it was definitely time to go.

We gathered up our trash and put Martha Stewart’s belongings back into the car. Then it was time to put out the fire. We were right on the water, but Kathy and I were nervous about not getting the blazing driftwood out completely. Kathy drowned the fire in about eight gallons of water and I was pretty comfortable about it not starting back up. Bill just laughed at her and told her she was silly, stating his old standby that we were just women and not really expected to know how to do things. I think he’s pretty lucky that Kathy didn’t drown him in eight gallons of water. We all left full of hot dogs and laughing. It had really been fun, even though my hands were practically frozen to the steering wheel.

We followed Bill out of the driftwood yard. We passed a man with a gun on his hip; he stared at us as we went by. Maybe he was a fellow driftwood collector, but I have never felt the need to go out there packing a gun. Maybe it was the sight of the ferocious ducks and geese that were quacking in the water that made him leery.

Homeward bound, our hunger sated, our adventurous spirits were quenched for the moment. The next morning, however, I remembered that we had left my carefully whittled hotdog sticks back at the fire! I was determined to retrieve them and Kathy and I frantically drove back to the slough. The gate was locked. They had locked us out for the season! My sticks would be covered in water soon with no way to recover them. I was a bit sad, knowing that no one else in their right mind would hand me a knife again.

Kathy and I stared at the gate, read the sign on it. The loons were nesting in there until June. Suddenly I was grateful. Grateful they hadn’t mistaken us for the loons and locked us inside. Spring is here... I don’t care what anyone else says!

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Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

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