Friday, January 2, 2009

Flashback Friday: Tent Indignities, Part III: In chipmunk memoriam

It is time at last for the riveting conclusion of our three-part Tent Indignities series: Three experiences, all occuring within the same tent, which I find hilarious because they happened to my cousins, and not to me. I invite you to read Part I and Part II if you missed them.

Return with me, if you will, to Prineville Oregon, summertime during the early 1990's. Hot Sun, wild boat rides, lazy card games in the shade, s'mores around the campfire at night. Oh, and more scrounging little chipmunks than you can shake your fist at.

The central Oregon desert is infested with these adorable chipmunks. At Prineville, they will eat right out of your hand given a good enough incentive. Arrive armed with plenty of peanuts, preferably in-shell, and you'll be welcomed. These critters are constantly darting between trees and underground lairs and picnic tables. Sit still and you can't help feeling like a fixture in an erractically operating pinball machine, with brown fuzzy pinballs ricocheting in every direction. Don't blink, because the little suckers run fast.

During the sweltering day, the olive-colored surplus tent appointed as bedroom for the tween/teen age group lay primarily empty. We'd enter the canvas sauna occasionally for a quick change of clothes or retrieval of personal item(s). But generally, at Prineville you snap on your swimsuit when you wake up, and alternate it being soaked in the reservoir and dried in the sun over and over until bedtime. While the two previous Tent Indignities episodes took place after dark, this final incident occurred during one of these fleeting daytime tent infiltrations.

Because my uncle hooked us up with prime campsites overlooking the trail down to moorage (also the only ones with lush, green grass), it was easy for us kids to constantly run back and forth between the water and the picnic table all day long. Just as a few of us girls were making our way toward the trailhead in hopes of catching the next uncle's boat that might arrive back at the dock, one of my cousins--let's call her Juanita--realized she needed some important item which she had left inside our giant tent. Of course we promised to wait in the shade while she ran back to grab what she needed. I have no recollection of what it was, or maybe I never knew. After the following events transpired, I doubt if even Juanita remembers for what she originally returned.

I remained under some trees with the others while Juanita ran back to the tent. Suddenly the calm, desert air--normally disturbed only by the distant drone of speedboat engines--was pierced with the shrill shrieks of a tormented teenage girl.

We immediately ran to the tent, where we found Juanita in front of the flapping zippered door, shaking her hands in disgust and prancing around with knees bouncing as high as her chest. She continued whimpering and saying "ew ew ew" while we stood baffled and tried asking her what was wrong. By now several worried parents had assembled to see what all the ruckus was about. It would be logical to assume that a chipmunk had found a way into our tent, and upon entering, Juanita saw it and got grossed out. Nope. Maybe she opened her duffel bag and came face-to-face with a furry little critter eating her underpants. Not quite.

Have you ever had to squish an ant under a tissue? I hate killing bugs in general, but those big, black ants are one of the worst because you can hear--and feel--their little bodies snap, crackle, and pop under your lethal fingers. Well, imagine that ant is the size of a chipmunk. And has bones like a chipmunk, fur like a chipmunk, and for all intents and purposes IS a chipmunk.

Juanita had scampered back to our tent in a hurry shortly after a very unlucky chipmunk had scampered its way underneath the very same tent. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And you know, when purposefully running, your weight comes down with much greater force on impact than when gingerly making your way over sleeping bags and uneven tent flooring. So Mr. (or Ms?) Chipmunk never stood a chance. I wouldn't need Juanita's description to imagine the horrifying, repulsive feeling of tiny little bones crushing and squishy little organs bursting underfoot.

My family gave the chipmunk a name, which for the life of me I can't remember. But I recall it was somewhat toungue-in-cheek considering his destiny. We put the deceased rodent in a little box and buried it in the hillside, complete with a mini memorial service. Poor Juanita was mortified about the whole ordeal, but I think she has since realized that any one of us could have been the ill-fated killer had the "chips" only fallen differently.

This concludes Flashback Friday's Tent Indignities series. I hope you enjoyed it! I also hope that my cousins aren't plotting vicious revenge. I love you guys!


Bridget said...

Ha ha. I think this is your best one yet. Yeesh - I got the shivers just reading it.

Kristen said...

Saved the best for last, of course. :)

Anonymous said...

I cheated...waited until you had concluded your series before reading all three at once. loved it! :)


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