Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lake Superior catnip

Work recently took me to the twin cities of Hurley and Ironwood, in Wisconsin and upper Michigan, respectively. We finished the job in the allotted time (important because we depended on the others' equipment for a substantial part of the job), so to celebrate, we ate an enormous dinner and drove a few miles north to a beach on Lake Superior. One member of the team suggested it would be fun to build a fire on the beach, and thanks to the availability of driftwood and partially burned logs from previous visitors' fires - and my new Estwing Long-Handled Camper's Axe (best purchase ever) - we soon had a cheery blaze. It was that fire that led to our meeting Jay.

As the fire crackled under twilight skies, a young man approached us and said, "Hi there, mind if I utilize your fire?" as he produced a can of Bush's Baked Beans from his bag. I wasn't sure what he meant by "utilize" our fire, but we assented and invited him to sit. After all, anyone who carries baked beans with him couldn't be all bad.

The bean-bearer, who identified himself as Jay, announced that he had just pedaled ninety miles from Tomahawk, Wisconsin to the beach we now shared, and that he was on a journey around the Great Lakes with no destination in mind. His journey had begun somewhere in Tennessee, and he had been wandering northward, alternately working as a farmhand and traveling by bus, train, or bummed rides. The bicycle, he said, was a "recent acquisition."

As the beans warmed, Jay sat down and took out some smoking materials and rolling papers. Before I realized what he was doing, he preemptively assured me, "It's not what you think - I mean, it's not the herb that you think it is." He lit the rolled product from our fire and continued: "It's not weed. It's, um...catnip. Yeah. It gives you a real mild buzz."

That's right - catnip. I chucked and said, "Well, it seems to work on cats," but he quickly corrected me, pointing out that "cats take it in a different way." Indeed. He offered the catnip joint to anyone who wanted to experience it. He seemed slightly disappointed that there were no takers. One of our group asked if smoking-grade catnip tastes like cat-grade 'nip smells. The answer was a definitive "no," without any elaboration.

By this time, the sun had set and the beans were out of the fire and the can cool enough to hold. Jay grabbed his beans, thanked us for the use of the fire, and disappeared into the darkness with his catnip stogie.

Happy trails, Jay. May no one harsh your mellow.


Nancy Campbell said...

That may be the best story I have ever heard.

Paul's Grandpa Selby used to go to arm-wrestling competitions in Hurley. The man has big hands, so people knew he meant business.

dek said...

Thanks! I'm pleased to learn that I'm related (if only by marriage) to a badass Hurley arm-wrestler.