campfire tales Nanook's Campfire Tales
Mudbath on the Shuttle

The names and places in my story have been changed to protect the guilty.

One fine spring morning, a SUV full of young-at-heart men and boys was tooling along a gravel road, not too deep in the woods of New Brunswick. We had just left a couple of pickup trucks at the riverside take-out of the No-Name Stream, and were proceeding back to the put-in to launch our boats and begin our adventure. The road was wet, with muddy deep puddles gleaming in the lower stretches. There were few houses along the road, and no shoulder for pedestrians to walk on.

Dungarvon River

Somewhere in the back seat, Jay was regaling the passengers with his tale about a recent trip to his therapist, who was helping him recover from a neck sprain. Jay spoke in detail about the charming and tender care-giving approach of the young female professional, and the gentle way she cradled his head against her upper body as she massaged his neck and shoulder muscles. He described in detail the relief and relaxation she helped him achieve.

The driver, an upstanding gent named Joe, was keeping his eyes on the road, and proceeding at a stately pace. There was no rush, and everyone was in a good mood, sharing in the tale, including Joe. As our SUV rounded a turn, we came upon a vehicle parked on the left hand side, whose driver was speaking with a young female pedestrian across the road on the right hand side.

The Jaws of the Dungarvon
The Jaws of the Dungarvon

She was dressed in a fluffy snow-white sweater, and long blue slacks, and radiated an innocent beauty common in these parts of rural New Brunswick. There was no room to swing to the left to give her a wide berth, as the car was parked in our path. Joe did his best to slow down, but it was too late.

The SUV's big black tires hit the deep puddle just a tad too fast, and a wall of thick brown mud sprayed in a wide fan, completely showering the innocent maiden. Joe touched the brakes, almost coming to a stop, but the passengers urged him to keep on going. Don't stop, for goodness sakes! There was nothing we could do, the damage had been done.

A quick look back offered a glimpse of a distraught damsel, covered in mud, with a glowering rage on her face and a rigid middle digit displayed in our general direction. Then the road veered to the right again, and she disappeared from sight.

She was in our thoughts often during the trip, and the dreadful scene was retold again and again with relish around the campfire. We wondered whether someone from the community would mount an expedition, and discover our SUV parked by the side of the stream, and exact revenge for the crime. Would our tires be flat? Windows smashed? Seeing the livid rage on her face, anything was conceivably possible.

Somewhere up north, a young woman was traumatized, perhaps forever, and a dirty secret lives on in shame. Will she be waiting next spring, with a fist-sized rock in her hand, when our crew again drives through her community to run the river? Perhaps we'd do well to use a different shuttle vehicle next time. One thing's for sure, she'll live on forever in campfire tales in the deep woods of New Brunswick.

campfire tales    Here are some images of a master canoe-builder producing a birch-bark craft.
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