Membership was limited to six, so when Arn's dad resigned because of his poor health, I was offered the chance to buy his share in the camp. I jumped on the offer, since all of the guys who were members had been friends of mine from the time I moved up this way, and I wasn't keen on becoming the odd-man-out in a group of total strangers at another camp.
I was the youngest of the six, so the guys christened me with a little kid's nickname--"Scooter"--a name that's stuck to this day. They enjoyed picking on me, partly because I took the abuse well, partly because I always had a snappy comeback which put the one who started the picking back in his place.
Now, I'm also a practical joker par excellance, and I'm usually good at giving the guys a good belly laugh at someone else's expense. And that cold week last November, there was lots of laughing going on.
We agreed to meet Wednesday night at the Catamount to eat, play cards, get our equipment ready, and then stalk those elusive bucks first thing come morning light.
I pulled up in my old pickup about half past nine. Like a typical procrastinator, I hadn't started to pack until that afternoon, and I fell way behind schedule. When I got there, I saw four other pickups and a Blazer parked outside...everyone was already there. I knew these guys weren't even gonna wait until I got through the door to give me a hard time, since I was voted to be camp cook for the week, and was supposed to be there three hours earlier to make dinner.
Bastards! I had my hands full of food and gear, and they didn't even open the door for me! I threw my weight and my duffel bag against the door to open it.
As I looked in, I saw all five of them sitting around the table, with empty plates in front of them and knives and forks in their hands. They gave me their most stern, unblinking looks, and didn't say a damn word. They just kept staring!
"All right. All right, already! I get the message. Jeez...give a guy a break!"
They sat there, unmoving, unblinking. I was red from embarrassment.
"Okay, see? I'm makin' dinner, already!"
I pulled the food from the packages, fired up the stove, and started the preparations. Everyone suddenly lightened up, left the table, and went into the main room. Another joke...this time at Scooter's expense! I guess, when it comes to jokes, I can dish it out, but still have a few problems taking it.
About an hour later, the meal was ready. The guys were playing nickel and dime poker and drinking that rotgut whiskey I can't stand. They were already half drunk when I called them. I hoped they'd go light on the abuse tonight, which never seemed to end when they drank....
Having survived the dinner assault, I reminded Doug that he was voted to wash dishes. I took his place at the table, and proceeded to lose most of that week's paycheck. I was, to put it mildly, a BAD poker player. I can't keep a straight face to save my life.
We were still playing at midnight, and I still had a few dollars left. Wayne, my best friend, having shamelessly picked on me all night, had just run out of money. He got up, and staggered out to the porch, leaving the door wide open and giving us a full view of him pissing into the wind and spattering himself with his urine. We nearly rolled on the floor laughing! He staggered back in, and stumbled into the bunkroom, not even bothering to shut the door or turn out the light.
About fifteen minutes later, we heard this incredibly loud snore coming from the bunkroom. We laughed some more and went back to playing until we couldn't stand the noise.
"Somebody close the damn door."
Arn was nearest the bunkroom. He got up and slammed the door shut. We laughed again.
Wayne's snoring got so loud that, even with the bunkroom door shut, the sound was still annoying. I told them, "Let me take care of this." I got up, opened the door. There he was, passed out flat on his back, his mouth wide open.
"He's snoring because he's on his back. Anybody wanna help me roll him over?"
Everyone shook their head.
"Okay, then," I said, with a big shit-eating grin on my face, "I'll make him roll over by myself!"
They knew I was up to no good again, so they got up from the table and crowded around the bunkroom door. I had gone through my bag and had pulled out my can of shaving cream and my cowboy hat. They looked at me quizzically.
I moved to the head of the bed. Shaking the can, I sprayed a large glob of shaving cream into each of Wayne's hands. Then, I pulled the feather out of the brim of my hat, and began to slowly tickle the sleeping man's nose.
As I expected, he brushed his nose with his hand, smearing cream all over his face. I continued tickling various parts of his exposed skin, watching him cover his face and arms with the cream. I almost couldn't keep from laughing, it was so funny.
"You're a prick, Scooter. You better not try that on me when I'm sleeping!"
"Wait!", I said. "It gets better!"
I got up and moved to the side of the bed. I sprayed a thick line of shaving cream from his right hip down to his foot, then another line from his left hip to his left foot, then a third line in between his legs from his knees to his feet.
Two of the guys knew what was coming next, so they just groaned and left the room, warning me they'd kill me if I ever screwed with them.
I moved to the foot of the bed, and carefully untied Wayne's boots. Then I slowly unlaced them until they were completely undone. I then grabbed each boot by the heel and ankle and gently pulled them off. My senses were assaulted by the smell of a pair of bright orange, unwashed hunter's socks. I pulled my head back in mock disgust...I actually enjoyed the scent.
Very slowly, I pulled at the toes of one sock, gradually allowing it to slip down his leg and off his foot. I repeated this with the other sock, leaving him barefoot and very vulnerable.
I grabbed the feather. The other guys' eyes went wide.
"Shit! You little prick!"
I took the feather, and very slowly dragged it down the length of one of his bare, size 10 EE soles. He twitched his toes. I tickled him again, using just a little more pressure. He pulled his foot back, dragging his leg right through the trail of shaving cream. I nearly laughed out loud again!
I tickled his other foot, and within seconds, he pulled it away and through the cream. I sprayed some more, and tickled again. I repeated the torture, one foot at a time, over and over again. This was so much fun!
Then, I took my fingertips and stroked them up and down both his soles at the same time. With this, he let out a snort and rolled over on his side, completely covering one leg in the cream. The guys were looking at me in horror. I was snickering like a fiend!
I sprayed the rest of the can on the bed along the length of his backside, then moved back to his feet and gave one last tickle assault with my fingers. He let out a violent snort, pulled both his feet in, and then rolled over onto his other side. He was completely covered in the shaving cream!
At the sound of my own laughter, the guys who left returned to the room, and all four shook their heads in disbelief.
"He's gonna kill you when he wakes up, you know!"
"Yeah", I laughed wickedly, "but it was worth it!"
Come morning, everyone but me had a massive hangover. None of the guys would even crawl out of bed until after noon. I was cooking eggs and bacon for us, when I heard a loud "What the HELL?!?" emanate from the bunkroom. I knew Wayne had finally come back to consciousness.
With a big, phony smile on my face, I stuck my head in the bunkroom and yelled that breakfast was ready. I heard four curses about being so loud, and one "What the FUCK did you DO to me?!?".
I suspected we weren't going to get much hunting in today, considering how slowly everyone was moving. Actually, I was glad. A cold front had moved into the area overnight, dropping the temperature, raising the wind, and dumping several inches of new snow on top of the six or so already on the ground.
They say all that snow makes it easier for the hunters to track deer. I say all the bucks go into hiding when it snows that hard. Who the hell wants to be outside in a blizzard?
The decision was unanimous that we stayed in. We decided to play cards again, drink some more, and go to bed early enough to get a good start on the day's hunting.
Why did I say "deja vu"?
By nightfall, everyone was in a better mood. I suppose "the hair of the dog" actually works as a hangover cure. No one was moaning like they had been just hours ago.
After dinner, the loose change, the cards, and the rotgut whiskey came out again. I thought to myself, "Here we go again," wondering if I'd ever get a chance to hunt before the week was through.
Strangely enough, just before midnight, the guys decided to call the game off to get sleep. Coincidentally, all the beer and liquor also happened to run out.
I cleaned the table off, not wanting to get up any earlier to serve breakfast than I had to, slipping into the bunkroom a short time later.
I made it almost to the far side of that darkened room, when I tripped and almost fell on my face. That lazy jerk! Bob had carelessly tossed his boots aside when he undressed, and one of his size 8 Timberlands landed directly in the path to my bed. I twisted my ankle slightly, just enough to notice the pain.
This inconsideration was clearly grounds for another practical joke!
I limped back out into the main room, sitting down at the table, and scanning the camp for ideas. A steel wool pad lay on the floor by the sink...Doug must have dropped it after scrubbing the pots from dinner.
I smiled that evil grin I get whenever I dream up a stunt. I went to the cupboards and rummaged around...there it was...a large old pair of scissors. I picked up the steel wool pad and began to cut off tiny slivers, until I had a small handful.
Sneaking back into the bunkroom, I found both of Bob's boots, and poured some of the steel wool slivers into each one, shaking them to distribute my homemade itching powder throughout the sleeping man's footwear. I snickered to myself as I crawled into my bed.
My alarm clock went off at six. I considered throwing it across the room, but got up and dressed instead. The guys also heard it, and a short time later began to drag their carcasses out of their beds. They suited up for our trek into the woods as I made our morning meal.
Hunting, I soon found out, is one of the more unexciting sports... especially when the deer refuse to cooperate with your plans.
What I did enjoy was watching Bob stop every dozen or so steps on our walk to the tree stands and kick one of his feet against a log or a stump. He really looked uncomfortable! And did he ever curse!
"Goddamn athlete's foot!"
I nearly busted a gut trying to hold back my laughter.
It was even funnier watching this poor guy trying to stand motionless in the tree stand, all the while with hundreds of strands of steel wool tickling the bottoms of his little feet. He kept shifting his weight, scraping the sides of his boots against the tree trunk, and stamping his feet again and again.
He must have hit his breaking point about an hour later. Suddenly we heard this loud "ARRRRGH!" and saw Bob rip off one his boots and start scratching the bottom of his socked foot like a madman. I was nearly hysterical, although the other guys didn't think it was all that funny.
At dinner, I was asked, "So, what was so damn funny about Bob?"
With my trademark grin, I replied, "I have NO idea what you're talking about."
"Little bastard! You probably had somethin' to do with it."
He had both boots and his socks off now, his tender feet propped up in front of the fire, and was still occasionally scratching his soles.
By now, all the guys were suspicious....
I decided not to try any jokes tonight. The guys were expecting me to pull another stunt...and three of them remained untouched.
We had an uneventful evening, a repeat of the previous two nights, except that I actually won a few hands at poker. Was my luck improving? Or had I just spooked everyone into thinking I might strike again, destroying their concentration?
Standing motionless eight feet in the air when it's about ten degrees above zero certainly was less exciting than it was yesterday. Bob was able to stand all morning with hardly a twitch...the steel wool shavings had probably all lodged themselves in the thick wool socks he wore the day before.
Our luck was no better than yesterday. I joked about the deer all staying home because it was too cold. Nobody laughed. It's amazing how little sense of humor buck-deprived hunters can have.
These guys were asking for another joke.
I came out of the stand early in the afternoon. I was too damn wet and too damn cold to just stand around, and I was hungry.
"I'm outta here."
I climbed down off the stand, and tromped towards "home".
I had a wicked headache by the time I made it back to the camp. All this outdoor nonsense had given me the beginnings of a cold.
"Why am I here, again?" I had to ask myself.
Why didn't we just BUY meat at the store? It would've been a helluva lot easier. This macho dinner-stalking stuff was for the birds.
I was miserable. I needed aspirin. I wanted to get even with these guys for talking me out of spending my hard-earned vacation time in Florida. I cursed the snow, then cleared it off my pickup and drove to the drugstore in town.
While searching the aisles for aspirin, I came across all those nasty digestive aids that tear your system up, in the guise of getting you "regular" again. Back in my fraternity days, I heard a story about how some of our alumni threw some of the chocolate-flavored stuff into the pudding at one of the dorm cafeterias. According to them, all the classes were canceled the next day...a sudden outbreak of "diarrhea" had virtually shut the school down.
Would that work for real? It was worth a try, I thought. Would serve my hunting buddies right for all the grief they'd caused me this week.
I bought a box of the stuff. I also went to the grocery store, and bought the rest of the items I needed to pull off this caper. This would be my best joke of all time!
Dinner was simple tonight, just burgers and fries. I knew it wouldn't be enough for them. So, I made a chocolate cake...with the chocolate-flavored digestive aid melted and mixed into the frosting!
The boys came back, empty-handed, and chowed down on the burgers, fries, and the cake. No one seemed to notice that I hadn't touched the cake. I knew that, by morning, the fun should begin.
Sometime after midnight, the stuff must have kicked in. One by one the guys got out of bed and ran to the bathroom, where they stayed for quite some time. I did everything I could to keep from laughing out loud!
By morning, there was a line at the bathroom, some of them crossing their legs and pacing wildly. Very amusing. For me, at least.
"You fuckin' poison us last night?" one of them growled.
"What's the matter now?" I asked, innocently.
"We all the got the shits. And you don't. How come?"
"Uh...maybe it has something to do with all that booze you guys have been drinkin'?", I suggested.
"Nobody got drunk last night, in case you didn't notice."
"Oh, yeah." I was getting nervous. I was running out of excuses.
The guys were silent at breakfast, occasionally shooting glances to one another, as if speaking in a secret sign language that was made to exclude me. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife.
"I need to leave today." I stammered. "Sorry that I can't stick around long enough to see you guys get your buck."
"You're not goin' anywhere," Arn commanded. "'cause you got some explainin' to do about the dinner you made last night."
"Yeah, and I found THIS in the burn barrel last night, after I did the dishes." Doug added. "Looks pretty suspicious, if ya ask me."
He presented the damning flattened box with its tell-tale logo emblazoned in bright capital letters. I was sunk. They knew. I started to feel like a trapped rat.
"Ya know, your jokes are really startin' to get outta hand", Wayne protested, then looked at the others. "You guys think it's time we teach the little shit a lesson?"
He started to approach me, with an angry look on his face. My eyes went wide. I was a dead man. Wayne's a nice guy, but goes ballistic when he's pushed too far. And I had apparently pushed him to that point.
I backed towards the door, only to find my arms grabbed from behind by Arn and Bob. They had these angry looks on their faces, too. I nearly panicked, struggling for escape.
Did I just notice the beginnings of a smirk through the angry stares?
Something's not quite right here, I thought.
Wayne continued. He was always the ringleader of our little group, getting the other guys in on whatever schemes he planned.
"Drag him into the bunkroom. I think it's time for some payback for what he did to me the other night."
My captors smiled. These bastards must have had this planned before I got up this morning!
"C'mon, guys! PLEASE let me go. I'm sorry. Honest!"
I fought good and hard, but was outsized and outnumbered. It took the three of them almost five minutes to drag me to the bunkroom, and it finally took Doug joining in and grabbing me by my legs for them to completely overpower me. They finally succeeded in throwing me onto one of the beds and pinning me flat on my back. I now had almost eight hundred pounds of angry hunter flesh straddling me and crushing my chest, my arms, and my legs.
"I can't breathe, you jerks!" I panted. "Get the hell off me! This ain't very funny!"
"No?" Wayne responded. "Well, how 'bout I show you something that's REALLY funny?"
Wayne's angry look had softened somewhat, and he got a wicked grin on his face as he poked me once in the ribs. I wanted to grab his very large hands, but my arms were helplessly pinned over my head and under the weight of one of my hunting buddies. I nearly bucked the four of them off me, I laughed so hard.
The man dug his fingers into my ribs again. And again. I went wild with laughter, screaming. Wayne was exploiting the one weakness he knew I had.
"How's it feel to have the shoe on the other foot?" he quipped. "Pretty funny, huh?...Now, how 'bout when the shoe's OFF the other foot? Bob...you wanna take care of him, since he fucked with you, too?"
"Sure," Bob chuckled. "Little fucker screws with my feet...more than happy to give him payback."
Since my legs were still pinned down by one of the guys, I could do little to fight him off. He yanked on my socks until they pulled off.
I panicked. My feet are easily the most ticklish part of my entire body. I would die from their double tickle assault. I screamed. "NO!
DON'T!! NO MORE!! I GIVE UP!!"
My pleas drew no mercy from Bob as he started dragging his finger lightly up and down my now bare soles. Wayne's continued his torture of my ribs and armpits. My screams doubled in intensity. I was in agony, and they were loving it.
Within seconds, I was crying from laughter. Although I cursed, begged, and pleaded, they kept tickling me for a good ten more minutes. By this time, I had sported a monster erection, which did not go unnoticed by my tormentors.
"Lay off, Bob. The little faggot LIKES it."
They dismounted, leaving me in a sweating, limp heap. Fifteen minutes later, I was able to get out of the bed and stumble to the main room.
"Okay...I give up...no more jokes. Truce?"
"Truce. Now lay off the jokes, or we'll REALLY get mad at you."
It's a good thing these guys were such great friends. I shudder to think what might have happened, had they not been.
I later caught Wayne aside from the rest of the group and muttered to him, "You WILL get yours, someday, for that. I PROMISE, mister."
He chuckled. "And who's gonna help you do that? You don't look big enough to do the job yourself."
Honestly, I thought we were never going to see a living creature out in the middle of nowhere, much less shoot a buck. But Kevin, who was the only serious hunter amongst us, not getting involved with all our nonsense, got a six-pointer.
Since I was cook, I didn't have to go through the nasty job of cleaning and dressing the buck. The boys even cut me up some nice tenderloin, which we greedily ate as we celebrated our victory over the local deer population.
Everybody, myself included, got good and drunk that night. We laughed and joked and bragged how we'd all get a buck before the week was over.
My Jack Daniels tolerance had always been awfully low, so it was no surprise when I excused myself from the festivities and headed to the bathroom to do my imitation of a baby seal being beaten to death. I got so sick I thought I'd vomit up my boots.
Morning came, way too soon, way too loud. I didn't have to work, and I was in no condition to cook. We were supposed to go back home by afternoon, anyways. Through my alcohol-induced fog, I heard my mighty hunter friends leave, one by one. Suppose they understood why I didn't see 'em off. Still feeling a little queasy, I drifted back to sleep.
Locking the camp up is the penalty for being the last one to leave. As it was almost one in the afternoon when I finally crawled out of bed, I figured I got stuck with the job. I thought so, until...
The sound of a familiar snore reached my ears. Guess who was still dead to the world? Yeah, it looked like mister ringleader and party animal had one too many himself. Wayne was flat on his back, fully clothed and still reeking of liquor.
I went over to the bed, and shook him gently.
"Dude...get up. We gotta go."
Nothing. Not even a grunt outta the ol' bastard. I shook a little harder. Still nothing. Good, I thought. Time to get even.
I chuckled to myself, as I went off in search of the necessary supplies.
Out in the shed, I found two hundred-foot lengths of rope, still in the packages. We never did construct that clothesline we had planned to make with it.
"Overkill," I thought, "but it'll get the job done."
Spent the next forty-five minutes securing Wayne to his bed. Started by winding one of the ropes around his ankles, loop after loop, until I tied the other end to itself somewhere above his knees. I used the remaining hundred feet to tie his wrists together, weave an elaborate network of restraints over, under, and around the bed frame, and finish by fastening the rope around his legs to the legs of the bed.
Didn't think he'd be able to move an inch. When he woke up, I found I was right. Boy, that man could holler!
Had my cowboy hat and boots on by this time, since it was the attire I normally wore that time of year. I sauntered into the room, kinda bowlegged, and walked right up to the foot of the bed. Greeted him with my thickest Texas accent.
"Howdy, pardn'r. Seems ya got yerself purty drunk last night and fell inna the hands o' Sheriff Scooter McGraw. Looks like we're gonna have to execute some justice on ya, ya ol' horse thief!"
"Cut the shit and let me go, please...I gotta take a piss!"
I continued with the cowboy talk. "Ya know, hangin' ain't good enough fer ya. Gonna have t' kill ya...real slow."
"Will you LET ME GO?!?" Wayne was clearly not happy with the situation.
"You win, you little fucker! Now please untie me."
I just stood there with an evil grin on my face as I once again pulled the feather from the brim of my hat and twirled it with my fingers.
"Payback time, tenderfoot!" I crooned, as I untied his boots.
I yanked his boots off and threw them to the side. Pulled the socks off real slow, so he'd feel his last vestige of protection slip away, inch by inch. He was nearly a basket case by the time I got him barefoot.
"What's the matter, cowboy? Thought a big ol' construction worker like you was tuff enough t' take just 'bout anythin'. But then, you never have taken a step without yer boots on, have ya?"
If anyone was hunting within a mile of the camp that day, they heard this man's tortured screams of laughter. I took the feather to him relentlessly, until tears fell from his eyes, his laughter went hoarse, and finally, tickled beyond his limits, lost control of his bladder.
I'd say it was a successful week.