My family has always celebrated the 4th of July with big meals, swimming and good times. But there have been moments that the older generation wanted to forget and that my generation will never forget.
During the late 1960s, my folks moved to a lake from our farm. This was during the so-called hippie days and I had reasonably long hair for a 16-year-old boy. Being a healthy boy meant that I had a girlfriend, a tall, willowy blonde with equally long hair that too subscribed to the hippie way of thinking.
The day of the 4th had progressed well and lunch was served. The women in our family prepared salads, hamburgers and hot dogs with a table entirely filled with deserts. Everybody had a plate and was sitting in lawn chairs outside. Suddenly, my girlfriend arrived.
She was dressed in a very skimpy ’60s bikini, sandals and a sunhat. The band aid swimsuit was light yellow, almost skin colored, looking like nothing at all.
My grandfather choked on a drink of iced tea and my great aunt slapped my great uncle across the back of his bald head for looking. My oldest cousin just back from the Army tripped and fell on the desert table, scattering pies and cakes every direction and my mother sat down, placing her face in upturned hands while shaking her head side to side. Another great uncle spit out his false teeth into the grass and we had to look for them, hoping someone else would find the hidden dentures.
My father, an ex-Marine and my uncle, ex-Army turned red from laughing while younger boy cousins studied my girlfriend like world travelers studying a map. My girlfriend was red face and almost in tears while informing me she never wanted to see me or my clan again. She meant it and we were finished, but the story never died and is told every 4th.
And then there was the time:
I have always loved fishing and never stopped, no matter how hot the weather. The cousins and I went swimming with neighbor kids every 4th and floated around on old truck and airplane innertubes. Life was good until one day until my 300-pound buddy from the lake sat on a fair-sized treble hook I had left on the dock.
Problem was, I had just explained to everyone that we had snakes in the lake. No one had ever been bitten, but it could happen, so be careful. My buddy was trying to reach where he thought the snake might be hanging on, mistaking the hook tips for fangs, and couldn’t reach the spot. So, he panicked.
My cousin and I were sitting on an aircraft innertube with two cuties from my neighborhood when our suffering buddy arrived, swimming some kind of Australian crawl and taking everything in his path on a fierce ride. He reached the innertube and flipped it up in an inhuman act of strength with a painful howl like you might hear from a really large hurt bear. The girls screamed while flying through the air and my cousin and I swam for shore, trying to escape the maniac.
He reached shore and three of us gang-tackled him. Not knowing what to do, I ripped the hook out, sending him into another frenzy of pain. He threw us off like sheets of paper and jumped up then took off running, destroying everything in his path while heading for home.
Later that evening my mother got a phone call from my buddy’s mother.
“What did your boy do?” she asked in a very unkind voice. “My son has lost a fair portion of his posterior and he said your boy did it.”
My mother gave the same look a rattlesnake portrays just before striking. I realized it was time to leave, walking past my father who was almost doubled over laughing – he loved my teenage years.
My stricken buddy eventually played college football, swearing he had already faced the worst pain of his life and nothing could ever hurt like my hook removal technique.
Have you ever noticed that when one thing goes bad, everything crumbles? This happened to my grandfather who was riding down the highway with my aunt and uncle and their kids on the way to our house for the 4th. One of the boys was acting up and my aunt turned to slap his face. Grandpa made the mistake of turning his face at the same time and took one across the kisser.
They drove a few more miles and the same boy starting acting badly again. Once again, my aunt took a healthy swing and missed the boy but caught my grandfather on the top of his leg with a hard, loud slap.
My grandfather finally made it to our house, stepped out of the car and was hit between the eyes with a well struck Wiffle ball off the bat of another cousin. He turned to my uncle and said, “Take me home.”
So, uncle and grandad loaded up in the car and drove 50 miles back to his house where peace, quiet and safety were restored in his elderly life.
Finally, the lake where I lived had a fishing contest every Independence Day. I won the bluegill competition every year with my trusty fly rod and popping bugs, but my buddy wanted to win the catfishing competition. So, I had a plan on how to draw every catfish in the lake.
We visited my family farm and scooped up a milk can full of hog manure. We carried it to the lake one dark night and dumped it not far from the swimming beach.
That night my buddy caught catfish after catfish and won the contest. Everything was going well until someone at the swimming beach was concerned how the wind had washed some green substance into their swimming area and what was it?
So, water samples were taken and quite a bit of money was spent to find out exactly what was polluting the lake. The finding came back stating that apparently a local feedlot was leaking into our lake, causing another panic, especially since there wasn’t a feedlot within 50 miles.
Finally, the water cleared and everything was forgotten. My buddy never won another catfishing tournament and the feedlot leakage is still a mystery – true story.
You may have raised your eyebrows at some of these stories, but it all really happened. You can’t make this stuff up!
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.