Location: Oregon, United States

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Story #17: Mr. Yuck

In response to some queries re: finding a dead man in the Boundary Waters, I will now tell "The Story of Finding the Dead Man in the Boundary Waters" or "Mr. Yuck" for short. For those who know me, this is story #17, and you've probably already heard it before, so you can skip it. I figure if I write it down and give it a number, when I get senile and start repeating myself, you can all say, "Yep, story 17, you printed it in your blog in 2007 and we don't need to hear it again." Or perhaps something that preserves my dignity a little more, like, "Oh! Isn't that the one where ...?" and I will remember on my own that I've already told you the story 10,000 times and then I will try to tell you story number 21, which I remember isn't printed in my blog and you've only heard 5,000 times so you will have to listen to it.

But for now, Story #17:

Finding the Dead Man in the Boundary Waters

When I was in about 10th grade, give or take a year, the youth group at our church took a trip up to the Boundary Waters. We canoed in to a base camp area and then took day trips out from there. We ate bacon and eggs fried on the overturned lid of a washing machine and nasty flavored instant oatmeal for breakfast. We tried to fish without much luck. We even tried catching our own leaches (successfully) to use for bait. Must have been the wrong kind of leach. It didn't help that one guy, Bruce, kept yelling, "Here, fishy fishy fishy!!!" Everyone knows you can't catch a fish if you're loud. At least he was funny.

None of the girls on this trip were really my type - they were the kind that bought butane curling irons so they could have their hair perfect for the whole trip, or they weren't my age, or they all preferred to sit around vs. fish, hike, explore, play cards, etc. - so I got permission to sleep on a tarp on a point near the girl's tent instead of having to be in the tent with them. This ended up being AWESOME, because I laid the tarp on a low-growing evergreen patch that turned out to be a great mattress and I was able to see the stars (sans smog and city lights - wow!). Then, one night there was an amazing display of the Northern Lights that arced from NNW to due East. And one night it snowed on me, too, but that just fed my tough-girl-I-can-make-it-through- anything attitude. Hear me roar!

On one of our day trips, we went to check out a smaller lake nearby. As we approached one of the portages, we noticed that someone else was already there. There was a canoe and several packs neatly placed along the entrance to the portage. We pulled up, grabbed our canoes, and started hiking. I was toward the end of the line, with the youth pastor and a few of the guys in front. As we got near the end of the portage, one of the guys came back and very loudly said, "There's a guy sleeping up there!!!" We were all telling him to shut up then, when he said he was being loud on purpose so the guy would wake up and we wouldn't startle him. So we all stomped and talked until we reached the end of the portage. There was more gear, neatly laid out, and an elderly man sleeping on hi side with his head on a rock. We had made so much noise that we figured he must be deaf, certainly not dead, so our pastor went up to him and tapped him on his side to wake him up. That's when we knew there was something absolutely not right here because when he tapped the guy, it sounded like a watermelon: Thump, thump. Regular people don't go thump, thump. Plus he didn't move. Another sure sign. We looked at one another in silence - "You mean, he's dead? Are you serious???" our eyes said.

It would be interesting to talk to the people on that trip now, as adults, and ask what they were thinking. No one screamed - it wasn't scary, just ... unreal, out of the ordinary, unexpected, unsettling. And sad. And solemn. We decided we'd check his wallet for identification, which we did. I still remember his name and address to this day. Then we went back to base camp - suddenly seeing another lake just didn't appeal to us any more. Plus, the youth pastor said we could place some distress signals out in the lake so the ranger-types in the float planes would land and then we could report what we had found.

Two days later, no float planes had landed yet. We decided to flag someone down on the road instead. The only down side to this choice was that the closest route to the road was to go past the dead fellow again. So a few of us went - maybe two canoes. Of course I was in one of them - after all, I'd slept under the stars and in the snow! Tough as nails! So off we went. Little did we know that two days plus a little rain would bloat the fellow a bit and turn him green. Now it was starting to get creepy. In retrospect, at least he hadn't been mauled by animals or anything - that surely would have traumatized us. Instead, we just got royally grossed out and, being teenagers, decided to call him "Mr. Yuck". You know, the little green face stickers that you were supposed to put on all the poisonous things in the house so your little kids wouldn't drink it? Well, that was his new name. Back at camp, we sang songs about him, told outrageous stories about him, and basically did what ever we could to laugh about it instead of puke or freak out.

On the way back to camp - Behold! There was a float plane! And it had seen our distress signal and was coming in for a landing. We told the two people in the plane about the man we'd found. When we told them his name, they were shocked - they knew him, an old trapper in the area - and he wasn't expected back for a few days yet so he hadn't been reported as missing. They assured us they would take care of everything and thanked us for alerting them.

I wish I could say there was a moral to the story, or a "take-away". If anything, it would be that finding a dead person isn't necessarily scary. Unsettling, yes. But, in this case not scary. We were fortunate that the worst thing that happened to him was that he turned a little green. Thank you, Mr. Yuck, for going easy on us.


Blogger ~kelemira of gondor said...

lol! nice story. kinda creepy. but cool. i can't beleive it snowed and you atayed out side!


2:27 PM  

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